Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Enduring symbol

The facade of the main Post Office at Place de la Poste
Whilst I'm talking about the Post Office area, how about some photos of the Post Office itself. Built in at the very end of the 19th century I believe under the supervision of Daniel Fabre, on some old postcards its shown as the Hotel des Postes though I haven't been able to find out if it was a hotel before becoming a Post Office or vice versa. I'm hoping the Heritage Mission can help me on that one. Over the years its been renovated, wings added and much of the original building altered though it's still a great example of colonial architecture in the former administrative center of the city and an enduring symbol. And you can still use it to send your postcards. I get some items sent to me via my company's PO Box number which comes via the post office though I reckon about half of my incoming post goes missing. The area in front of the post office would be a great place for a pedestrian zone and I'm kicking off a campaign to beautify the capital with its first real 'no cars' zone.
The post office seen from the 1st floor of the old Manolis Hotel
The post office in all its glory, including its wings which were added after its original construction
From the top floor of the old Manolis Hotel, a birds-eye view of the post office
The post office clock and facade
The post office has been renovated on a few occasions, the last time in 2004

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Future pedestrian zone?

The former Central Police Station, now fallen into sad neglect
Tonight was the presentation of 150 Years of Urban Architecture at the French Cultural Centre and I stupidly thought it might be in English. How wrong was I. It was in Khmer and French, so I had to make do with the photos and maps on the big screen to get the gist of the hour-plus slideshow and talk. That'll teach me for thinking the CCF might've at last got the message that English is the second language of choice these days. The folks from The Heritage Mission, who took me on an architecture tour of the old French quarter a couple of weekends ago, were the presenters. Which reminds me, I still have many photos to post from that tour. So let's start now with a few views of the Central Police Station, which sits alongside the Post Office but these days, it's empty and surrounded by a green corrugated fence and large trees. I recall on my first few visits to Phnom Penh that the station was still functioning, or so it seemed. Today it appears to be waiting for the wrecking crew though it would be nice if the building itself could be saved and utilized. In fact how about making the whole Post Office area a pedestrian only zone and put some real effort into renovating the collection of old colonial buildings that line both sides of the street. It works in many other cities around the world, why can't it work here. Anyway, back to the police station. I'm told it was constructed in its colonial-art deco style in 1925 though an older building stood in its place beforehand. It has three levels and a terrace running alongside its roof. The current owner doesn't like visitors these days, so we had to view it from afar, well the top of the old Manolis Hotel across the street to be precise.
The door is open to the old station house but no one is at home
A ground floor view of the old police station on Streets 13 and 98, next to the post office
A side view of the old police station
The Heritage Mission presentation warned against the loss of colonial architecture like this building that has since disappeared from Norodom Boulevard in the past year

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Football shorts

The existing National Football Centre (above) will be replaced by new facilities in Takeo province
I did warn you that there would be a few football-related posts over the last few days. And there will be a couple more before they eventually dry up and we can revert to normal, everyday stuff like cultural events, architecture pictures, temples of course and anything else that takes my fancy.
  • I was interested to see that the weekend's football got the thumbs up from the Prime Minister, Hun Sen, who reportedly said: "I watched the final between Naga Corp and Khemara Keila on TV. They played well. They showed their great performance. U-23 lost 6-nil to Singapore, but nothing to blame. Most players especially 4 from Naga and Khemara played already 120 minutes just one day before this friendly match." This man has his finger on the pulse. On Sunday evening he then banned an advert for condoms that appeared on tv when he was watching the kick-boxing. Forget matters of state, its wall-to-wall sport for our PM.
  • The Cambodian Premier league will fall into line next season, with a name change. In line with the V-League in Vietnam and the S-League in Singapore, the country's professional league will hence be known as the C-League under the new sponsorship agreement with MetFone.
  • Work has already started on the new National Football Centre on 15 hectares of land sandwiched between Phnom Tamao Zoo and Tonle Bati in Takeo province. The old football headquarters outside Phnom Penh is too small and often flooded, whilst the new HQ will boast four pitches - one for competition, three for training - dormitories and ample car parking space, at a cost of $1.2 million.

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International press talk

Today's Phnom Penh Post carries my report on the international football friendly between Cambodia and Singapore, played on Sunday. It's online here.

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Positively speaking

Wide right midfielder Prak Mony Udom was 17 less than 2 months ago
Let's take a look at some of the positives from the Cambodian Under-23 squad that faced Singapore on Sunday and who were on the wrong end of a 6-nil drubbing. It was their first game together after just six training sessions as a 25-man squad, which was selected by national coach Scott O'Donell after trials a couple of months ago. He's already indicated that this team will form the backbone of the full national team in the future, as he regards this squad as the cream of the homegrown talent in the Cambodian Premier League. The age limit is 23, as that same limit will apply in the SEA Games in December, and the squad has four baby-faced players aged just 17, namely Peng Bunchhay, Prak Mony Udom - he was 17 in August and is the squad's youngest player - Oum Kumpheak and Keo Sokngorn, the Cambodian U-19 captain. All four appeared for the U-19 team in recent internationals, alongwith Lorn Sotheara. Four of the squad are 18 years old - Lorn Sotheara, Nov Soseila, Sok Rithy and Nhuon Chansothea, and four are 19 years old - Samreth Seiha, Lay Raksmey, Chhim Sambo and Phuong Narong. The twenty year olds number three in total, Khim Borey, Sou Yaty and Pheak Rady, whilst 21 is the age of the captain for the Singapore game, Sun Sovannarith and Khuon Laboravy. Four players are aged 22 - Kuoch Sokumpheak, Chan Chhaya, Chhun Sothearath and Peng Pancharong. The older members of the squad, at 23, are Tieng Tiny, San Narith, Keo Kosal and the squad's oldest player, Chan Dara. The five squad players who didn't get to see action against Singapore were Peng Bunchhay, Peng Pancharong, Chhim Sambo and the two injured players, Khim Borey and San Narith.
Defender Chan Dara is the oldest player in the Cambodia U23 squad at 23
17 of the players were involved with their club sides in the Super 4 championships the day before, and only 2 players stayed on the field for 90 minutes aginst Singapore, Sun Sovannarith and Tieng Tiny. It's a very young squad with lots of room for the players to grow into international football with the right coaching and support, which has been sadly lacking until recently. The players will be disappointed with the Singapore result but put into perspective, they were up against a well-drilled team, many of whom play for the Young Lions nursery club side, and who've had a series of friendly games in their long lead-in preparation time to the SEA Games. This was Cambodia's first game and they have a way to go to match their opponents, but that's exactly why matches against good calibre teams will identify areas of required improvement well ahead of the tournament.
Left back Sun Sovannarith started the Singapore game as captain and played throughout the match

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Press talk

Today's Phnom Penh Post carries my match reports from the Cambodian Premier League Super 4 deciders on Saturday. Read them online here.

A closet Naga fan?

Naga celebrate reaching the CPL Super 4 final and I'm merely trying to get a good photo. Rumours that moments before I was sitting on the bench are untrue.
There is a nasty rumour circulating that I am not the neutral media person I pretend to be and that I am in fact a dyed-in-the-wool Naga Corp man, who was seen jumping for joy when both of their goals went in on Saturday. I refute that allegation. Yes I did stand up and for some unknown reasons my arms were raised but it was more out of relief that the deadlock had been broken, than for any bias towards one or other team. There are also some photos in the public domain that add weight to the suggestion that I favour Naga Corp. I've posted them here for your perusal but to suggest that I spend part of my time on said bench is a matter of pure coincidence. I will however concede that Naga skipper Om Thavrak is my favourite player in the CPL for his blood and guts performances and desire to win at all costs. My kinda player.
Okay, so I'm sitting on the bench but it was momentary whilst I congratulate Naga skipper Om Thavrak on another blood and guts performance by the CPL's hardman

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Seconds out...

A look at the ring and last night's boxing match at Olympic Stadium
Last night I joined a healthy crowd in the Olympic Stadium indoor arena for the first of the new TV3 televised boxing promotions. Sophoin had a couple of free tickets so we thought we'd pop along and suss out the action. We had a seat high in the stalls with a good view of proceedings though it was breezeless and humid and the wooden benches uncomfortable to sit on for too long - next time I'll take a cushion. As for the action below, it was a combination of kick-boxing and regular boxing on the bill, together with a couple of appearances in the ring of two of the country's favourite pop stars, Meas Soksophea and Khemarak Sereymun, though singing not fighting! The first three matches were kick-boxing fights, two of which pitched Khmer fighters against foreigners. There was no match really as the Khmers were much better in their ring-craft and dominated from start to finish. One of the fighters was Nuon Soriya, one of the crowd favourites though Sophoin has a different take on it. It was Soriya who crashed his moto into hers over a year ago and escaped quickly, leaving a paltry sum of money to cover the damage, which it didn't and left Sophoin off work for a month. He won his fight easily but we didn't clap out of principle. The main bout was a real boxing match between Vy Savuth and Filipino Pol Apolinario, which Savuth won with style. Did I enjoy it? Some air-con would've helped keep me awake but I've never been a boxing fan and this didn't convert me either. One person who did stay awake was the PM Hun Sen, who banned an advert by the OK condom sponsors after seeing it between rounds.
Meas Soksophea entered the ring a couple of times to sing two songs. She really does have a lovely voice. More Soksophea, less boxing please!

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A last look at the U23s

The Cambodian U23 starting line-up for the Singapore friendly. LtoR (back row): Sovannarith, Tiny, Yaty, Narong, Rady, Rithy. (front row): Kumpheak, Sokngorn, Soseila, Sokumpheak, Sothearath.
Sun Sovannarith (blue) captains the national team against Singapore (red). The referee was Thong Chankethya.
The Cambodian bench with with substitutes and coaches before the game begins
A view from the main grandstand as the game unfolds
The respective national managers after the game, Scott O'Donell (left) and Raddy Avramovic
Goalkeeper Sou Yaty made his Cambodian international debut from the start
The Singapore squad celebrate their 6-0 success

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The build-up

A downpour greeted the teams arrival on the pitch before the national anthems and presentation to the VIP guests
The friendly international at the Olympic Stadium yesterday was the first real test for the new Cambodian Under-23 squad and they now know the standard they must achieve to be able to challenge teams like Singapore and the better teams in the Asian region, especially with the SEA Games coming up in a couple of months. But they always knew it was a tough game to open with, and so it proved. Singapore were clinical in disposing of Cambodia, once their heads dropped after a bright opening 35 minutes. Lots of valuable lessons to be learnt from such games and lots of areas to work on in their training camp in Vietnam next month. Here are some photos from the build up to yesterday's match.
The rest of the Cambodian U23 starting line-up enter the playing arena
Sun Sovannarith leads out the Cambodian U23 team against Singapore
Some of the Cambodia substitutes take their place on the bench
Ngoun Chansothea leads out the Cambodian U23 substitutes
The Cambodian team warm up before their opening game
Singapore's experienced national team manager Raddy Avramovic, in charge since 2003

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Encouraging drubbing

The Cambodia U23 starting line-up on Sunday
Let's kick off with the Cambodia U23 result against Singapore Sunday afternoon. 6-0 looks bad and yes the second half was poor but there were encouraging signs as well as extenuating circumstances. For much of the 1st half Cambodia more than held their own and looked the team most likely until Singapore scored on 35 minutes and never looked back. Give international teams too much space and they will punish you. The Cambodian youngsters will learn this the hard way and once Singapore got their noses in front they made sure they coasted to victory. Two goals down at half-time was unfair, with skipper for the day Sun Sovannarith just failing to stop Khairul Nizam from tapping in the opener and then a lack of concentration at a quickly-taken free-kick allowed Gabriel Quak acres of space to score. After the break, the flow of the game was ruined with 16 substitutions but it didn't deter Singapore with Fadhil Noh getting a hat-trick in sixteen minutes and Fairoz Hasan netting a late sixth. It was a disappointing result for all concerned, especially the big crowd who'd hoped for a better showing by the home side.
It was Scott O'Donell's first game in charge of his second spell as national coach. He was understandably unhappy but also realistic. "We didn't deserve the half-time scoreline, but we certainly deserved to lose by six in the 2nd half. We knew it wasn't going to be easy, but we stopped doing in the second half what we did so well in the first. Its very early days, but we've got to show more character and I've told the players that the game is 90 minutes long not 35. I take responsibility for the result, I pick the team. Though we lost badly, its beneficial to play teams like Singapore as it shows how far we have to go. I hate losing and so do the players. They're all disappointed back there in the dressing room. But we'll get better," he said immediately after the game. Over half of the Cambodian squad played in Saturday's Super 4 play-off finals and with few training sessions together the result shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. Meanwhile, Singapore's squad contained a dozen players from Young Lions, the club side in the S-League who act as a nursery team for the national squad.
O'Donell sprung a mini-surpise by putting Sou Yaty in goal from the start though the rest of his line-up was pretty predictable. Nov Soseila caused Singapore a few problems on the right and Sok Rithy and Tieng Tiny looked comfortable on the ball for much of the 1st half. Kuoch Sokumpheak had a couple of half chances but Cambodia did look toothless in front of goal and that area will need working on. The 25-man squad now travel to Vietnam for nearly a month to hone their team work and play some games against V-League opposition.
The Cambodian U23 team against Singapore (with subs in brackets):
Yaty (Seiha), Rady (Raksmey), Sovannarith, Tiny, Rithy (Dara), Narong (Kosal), Sothearath (Sotheara), Kumpheak (Laboravy), Soseila (Mony Udom), Sokngorn (Chansothea), Sokumpheak (Chhaya).

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Just through the door

I'm just back through the door after spending most of the day at the Olympic Stadium. First there was the friendly international between Cambodia Under-23 and their counterparts from Singapore. Eagerly anticipated, it all unraveled in spectacular fashion as Singapore netted six times without reply and you could literally see the steam coming out of coach Scott O'Donell's ears, he was that hopping mad. More on the game later. I then stayed at the stadium to watch a card of three kick-boxing bouts and one regular boxing match in the indoor volleyball area. It attracted a good crowd, as did the afternoon's football and we even had an appearance by Meas Soksophea, my favourite Khmer singer, who sang a couple of songs. Again more later.

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Crown are sore losers

Phnom Penh Crown (red) have already left the pitch and Preah Khan (blue) are not allowed to play on by the referee
The Preah Khan management and players argue with the match officials that the 3rd goal should've stood
There was another game on Saturday and thankfully Preah Khan Reach won and took the 3rd place spot away from Phnom Penh Crown, who really are the spoilt brats of the CPL. After their loss to Naga in the semi-final, they were vocal with their displeasure in the Super 4 format even though they were well aware of it from the season's start. They'd finished top during the regular season by a clear 6 points from PKR, represented the league in the cup competitions abroad and wanted everyone to know it. However their antics during the game on Saturday were a disgrace. In my view they should've forfeited the game at half-time after they had walked off the pitch before the end of the 1st half. The referee, Khoun Vireak and the FFC officials bottled it in my opinion and let Crown get away with it. I hope the FFC review the circumstances and censure the Crown managment team after the event.
Crown began well and when Chan Rithy's inswinging corner was pushed into his own net by PKR keeper Ouk Mic, they took a deserved lead. PKR recovered and Sam El Nasa slotted home just after half an hour before sub Khuon Laboravy headed a spectacular effort to turn the game around. With 1 minute extra to be played, Crown reacted to the referee's decision to book Keo Sokngorn by walking off the pitch, encouraged by their manager Makara Be. In the ensuing confusion, PKR took the free kick but the referee blew for half-time before they rolled the ball into an empty net. Tempers flared in the grandstand and the inept security did little to quell the disturbances. It was a complete shambles.
After half an hour, the referee returned after his safety was guaranteed. Crown also agreed to play on, "for their fans" was the suggestion. What a joke. Crown had left the field before the end of the allotted time. I don't see how they were allowed to start the 2nd half. They had forfeited the right to continue, in my opinion and the referee, instead of thinking about himself, should've concentrated more on the laws of the game. Once underway, the second half was one-way traffic with Laboravy guilty of missing at least three guilt-edged chances. And he knew it. Nevertheless, PKR ran out 2-1 winners and collected the 3rd place prize, whilst Crown trooped off in a strop and sent two backroom staff to collect their 4th place cheque during the presentations. Sore losers doesn't begin to cover it. No wonder they are the team everyone loves to hate.
The referee and his assistants with their security detail as they come out for the 2nd half, at last
Preah Khan Reach before the game, which they won 2-1
Phnom Penh Crown - all round sore losers
Preah Khan's no 11, Khuon Laboravy knows he could've scored a hat-trick at least

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More from the final

The plucky Khemara Keila line-up before the final against Naga, led by Kuoch Sokumpheak
Here's a few more photos from Saturday's CPL Super 4 final between Naga Corp and Khemara Keila. It wasn't a classic but it was hard-fought and the two evenly-matched teams put on a good show for their noisy fans. Most weekends the CPL games are deathly quiet affairs, so it was great to hear the fans get behind their teams with chanting, drums and a trumpet player who brought the house down every time he played. More of the same each week please, and especially for the international game against Singapore later today.
I did have a gripe about the final on Saturday. All seats in the VIP area were allocated to sponsors, or johnny-come-latelys as I call them, so I had to sit on the concrete steps with the Khemara fans to watch the game. I didn't even bother with the 'press steps' as the view was at the back of the stand and restricted. Effectively, the press were brushed aside and ignored in favour of the VIP guests, who turn up once a year and oust the people who turn up week in, week out. Why am I not surprised. In addition, the heavy-handed security, or heavy-footed in my case, kicked my drink under the step and stood directly in my line of sight for part of the game, despite my plea for him to move. A word to the FFC, if you want good press, look after your press corps better.
The Naga Corp bench just before the final kicks off
The golden boot winner with 21 goals, Uche Prince Justine from Spark FC, winner of a 2 million riel reward
This is the Naga version of the victory slide, which wasn't too successful
A look behind the scenes as Khemara receive their runners-up medals
The bright, shiny CPL Championship Cup ready and waiting
The top VIP was the Minister of Tourism HE Thong Khon (in white), who's also head of the Cambodian Olympic Committee
The Naga supporters in the main stand certainly made themselves heard

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