Friday, December 4, 2009

Sweaty palms

It is just six hours to go until kick-off and I am like a cat on a hot tin roof. If I'm like this, what the hell must the Cambodian youngsters who will take on the bigger, stronger and more experienced Thai team, be like. I just spoke to coach Scott O'Donell and the team is in good shape, they have a team meeting to discuss their final preparations at 11am, they'll eat a light lunch at noon and then leave the Games Village for Vientiane at 12.45pm. The game will be played right around the corner from my guesthouse at the Chao Anouvong Stadium in central Vientiane. As the stadium only seats 5,000 spectators, tickets for the match will be at a premium because of the intense support for Vietnam, who will play in the second game, against Timor Leste at 5.45pm. I know that a handful of Cambodian supporters who live in Vientiane will be there, but I'm expecting the crowd to be overwhelmingly Thai and Vietnamese. The game will be screened live in Laos and Thailand but only highlights will be available in Cambodia on TV5 and Apsara.
The current political turmoil between Cambodia and Thailand, which is at an all-time low, and the furore over the ownership of Preah Vihear adds to the spice of this encounter but it's the two football teams who will do the talking on the pitch. The last time they met was in Khorat in 2007 when Thailand thumped Cambodia 8-0 but that was a different team, different players and Cambodia have gained a lot of confidence over the past few months. Today will give us an indication as to whether they are ready to step up to the next level and share the platform with the big boys of Asian football, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam.
The rivalry isn't just on the pitch either. The two coaches, Scott O'Donell for Cambodia and Steve Darby for Thailand, have a history too. They have both worked in Southeast Asia for a while, Scott as a player and coach, Darby concentrating on the coaching side. Both of them have been pundits on the ESPN sports channel. They came face to face in the Singapore League in 2003 when Scott coached Geylang United and Darby was in charge of Home United. Though Darby's team carried off the S-League and cup double, Scott was made Coach of the Year, after taking his unfancied team to a close second place, beaten cup finalists and the following season, the semis of the AFC Cup. Known for his tough discipline and almost brutal physical fitness drills, his former Geylang goalkeeping coach Dez Corkhill says; ''Scott has a very uncomplicated philosophy. You're either with him or against him. If you're with him, he'll back you in any situation.'' And that's what the young Cambodian players can expect from their Australian-born coach, he'll back them to the hilt if they are prepared to give 100% in return.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi Andy, do you know where I could go to watch the game live online? It'll be 3am for me here and its final's week but I'll stay up if I know where to watch the game. I really wanna see it. Thanks.

December 4, 2009 at 11:00 AM  

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