Sunday, January 31, 2010

The footy madness returns

Hero or villain? Ex-Phouchung Neak striker Heng Sokly came off the bench to sink his former club, in the colours of his new side, Phnom Penh Crown.
Before I launch into the two Hun Sen Cup matches played on Saturday at Olympic, a word on Kuoch Sokumpheak. The Cambodian international striker is back in Phnom Penh after an unsuccessful trial with Indonesian Super League club Persipura last week. Their transfer window opens next week so they were looking at Sokumpheak and a Korean defender but didn't take up the option to sign either after having a look. There's a suggestion they felt he was too small. Disappointing for Sokumpheak, obviously, as it would've been a chance to pitch himself in the hottest league in Asia right now, not to mention the cash windfall he would've got, but at least we'll have the pleasure of his company again in this season's Cambodian Premier League.
The last 16 of the Hun Sen Cup kicked off Saturday without any foreigners, giving the all-Khmer teams the chance to shine. Phnom Penh Crown were made to work for their 1-0 success against Phouchung Neak and it was the Navy old boy, Heng Sokly, who has just joined Crown, who came off the bench to net the winning goal, 5 minutes from time. Crown dominated but couldn't put their opponents to the sword, though Keo Sokngorn, with his head bandaged after a clash of heads left him with a cut eyebrow, was the pick of both sides and it was his pin-point cross that left Sokly with the tap-in as extra time loomed. P'Neak had the ball in the net in injury time but the linesman's flag ruled it offside, sparking a free-for-all that had the Military Police itching to get involved. By the time they'd reached the touchline, the handbags had been put away.
In the 2nd game, it was one-way traffic for the whole match, and Wat Phnom managed to net as many as I predicted, a round 10 against Mekong University's 1. A mismatch from the start, Wat Phnom were known as Spark in the CPL last term, and proved way too strong for the students. Two players got hat-tricks. Srei Vandeth came off the bench in the 2nd half and within 11 minutes he'd netted his 3 goals. Ry Phearoeun was the other ball-claimer after he scored two late goals to add to his 1st half rocket. Other goals came courtesy of Tes Vatanak, Put Savuth, Leang Sok Samnang and Phlong Chanthou for Wat Phnom, with Em Thun scoring for the hapless Mekong side. Two more games will be played Sunday afternoon.
Footnote: For the first time I saw football jerseys being sold before the game. It had to be PPCrown of course and their merchandize was selling for $10 apiece. They also employed a band to liven up proceedings too. You've got to admire their enthusiasm. Read my Phnom Penh Post match reports here.
Crown's national wizard Keo Sokngorn was the pick of the players in Saturday's 1-0 win for Crown. Sokngorn picked up a cut eyebrow from a clash of heads.
The all-Khmer Phnom Penh Crown side, 1-0 winners over the Navy team
Plucky Phouchung Neak put in a determined performance, only to lose to a goal 5 mins from time
The hat-trick heroes for Wat Phnom: Srei Vandeth (11) and Ry Phearoeun (9)
Wat Phnom getting themselves in a tangle before the game begins, or are they just camera shy?
Mekong Kampuchea University were put to the sword by Wat Phnom
Wat Phnom finally got themselves organized and hammered the Mekong students 10-1

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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sweaty palms

In the courtyard of Tuol Sleng with Chum Mey
I'm reading through the final manuscript of To Cambodia With Love and my palms are sweating. Kim, the series editor, has just sent it to me and told me I have a day to read it through as the final deadline has arrived like a runaway train and my desire for perfection is just about to pass its sell-by date. I've procrastinated long enough, now it's time to face the music and produce what I promised to ThingsAsian, the publishers, what seems like a lifetime ago. Kim has done a fabulous job in picking up the pieces I sent her and I'm very proud of everyone's combined efforts. Nothing is certain in publishing though it looks like TCWL might be out in a few months - but keep it under your hat for the moment.

This morning I took my friend Ting, she's visiting Cambodia for the first time from her home in Taiwan, to Tuol Sleng. She's already seen the city's other major tourist sights on her own but wanted me to explain about Tuol Sleng, the Khmer Rouge, et al. During our visit we met with Chum Mey, one of the three remaining survivors of Tuol Sleng, and who has been in the international press a lot in recent months due to the trial of Comrade Duch, the former director of the detention center where Chum Mey was incarcerated in the final months of the Khmer Rouge control over Phnon Penh. He talked to a small group of British visitors, who were overawed to meet him, completely unexpectedly, with translations provided by their guide, explaining briefly about his detention and torture and thanked them for coming to Cambodia. By the look on their faces, I think he made their Tuol Sleng visit one they'll never forget.
This afternoon I inflicted two games of Cambodian football onto Ting. I don't think she will ever forgive me. She doesn't even like football. They were the opening pair of Hun Sen Cup last 16 games and whilst Phnom Penh Crown just scraped a 1-nil win over Phuchung Neak, Wat Phnom (formerly Spark) went goal-crazy with a 10-1 win over Mekong University. I get the feeling Ting can't wait to get out of town and up to Siem Reap. Little does she know there's two more games for her to endure tomorrow afternoon, before she gets the bus! More on the footy results later.

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Friday, January 29, 2010

More dance for your delectation

Belle in the 2009 Dansez Roam! performance at Chenla Theatre
Dansez Roam! will hit the stage again next month. This is an on-going series of events produced by the French Cultural Center and Amrita that provides a platform for young contemporary Khmer dancers to express themselves, often in collaboration with foreign artists. It was last April that Belle took the Chenla Theatre audience by storm with her Hope of Tomorrow show and she'll be part of the forthcoming Suites (original music and choreographic piece based on the Bach Suites 1, 2, and 3) and La rue danse (small choreographic) performances, that are scheduled for Chenla and Wat Botum on 12/13th and 28 February respectively. It's not a one-woman performance though as the cream of Cambodia's artists will be joining her including Phon Sopheap, Chey Chankethya, Mom, Yon Davy, Vuth Chanmoly and many more. In March, Belle and the cast of Khmeropedies take their show to Hong Kong and Singapore and to the United States in June.

Tomorrow at Olympic Stadium will see the first matches in the Hun Sen Cup last 16 knockout stage with Phnom Penh Crown and Wat Phnom looking likely to succeed against lesser opponents. Games are at 2pm and 4pm and there are two more matches on Sunday, when BBU and Naga will progress. However, cup football has a way of bringing the big boys to their knees on occasions (just ask Man Utd), so fingers crossed we'll see some giant-killing. Though if PPCrown are losing, they'll probably walk off the pitch, as they did in last season's CPL third place play-off!

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

On show

Part of the John McDermott exhibition at the National Museum tonight
In a brief break from my To Cambodia With Love word slog, I went along to John McDermott's book launch at the National Museum this evening with Ting, my visitor from Taiwan. It was well attended, with drinks and finger food inside and outside one wing of the museum. There was an exhibition of around 15 of the photos from McDermott's book, Elegy, in the room next to the famous bronze Reclining Vishnu. If you haven't seen the Great Vishnu, it was found underground in 1936 in a deep well in the temple precincts of the West Mebon island in the huge reservoir, the Western Baray. On show in the museum today is the head, torso and two right arms (this manifestation of Vishnu has four arms), plus several fragments. Its original size would've been more than six metres. After an hour, we popped over to the Rising Sun for Ting's first taste of British pub grub.
The Great Reclining bronze Vishnu at the National Museum
Ting taking a photo of the Rising Sun's resident giant gecko

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The spirit world

If you are in Siem Reap this weekend, catch the opening of the new Jerry Redfern photo exhibition at 4Faces Gallery, a block away from Pub Street. It begins at 7pm on Saturday 30th, just a pity I won't be there. Here's what Jerry has to say about his Be Unscared: A Glimpse of the Cambodian Spirit World in the Everyday exhibition.
This project is a first glimpse into the Cambodian spirit world – as it can be no more than that for an outsider. I have been a photojournalist for years and have worked in Cambodia regularly since 1998. I like to think this gives me a fairly good insight into daily life here. But I also understand that I will never be able to view the Cambodian cosmos as the Khmer do.
That cosmos is a blend of ancient Hinduism (as seen at the temples of Angkor); spirit worship that comes in part from the people who for centuries have hacked lives from capricious jungles; and Buddhism, with its prayers, chants, scriptures, arcane writing and its stories of religious men reborn into worlds beyond this one. We as foreigners know this spirit world exists in Cambodia, but we often miss the common gestures – a twist of the head, a bit of graffiti, a monk's breath, the flames of a candle.
The title “Be Unscared” comes from a sign at the Temple of the Floating Tree outside Phnom Penh, home to a monk with an elephant tusk that people believe can cure mental illness. And while the sign echoes one of the teachings of the Buddha, it also sums up what Cambodians have been hoping for centuries. It's a call for calm in the face of a dangerous world, whether the danger comes from the beasts of the jungle or those in Phnom Penh. On a technical note, the project is done on 35mm color negative film (which itself has become an arcane medium). The film is past-dated, which made it cheap (important for photographers these days) but that also led to a couple of unintended consequences. There are random color shifts in the old film, which are apparent in the inconsistent color of the prints. The old film also left some photos un-useably under-exposed. And then I had to get re-acquainted with taking photos and not being able to see them immediately on the back of the camera. I had to be unscared and trust that I had the images I thought I had seen. Sometimes I did – sometimes I didn't. And sometimes I had better. This exhibit is really just the start of a project I intend to work on for the foreseeable future. In most of these encounters with the Cambodian spirit world, people tell me about other sites, other people, other magic. I really don't imagine I will see all of the Khmer spirit world any time soon.

A new website is up and running for the documentary, Brother Number One, which documents the murder of New Zealand yatchsman Kerry Hamill by the Khmer Rouge in 1978. It follows his brother Rob, an Olympic champion rower, as he retraces his brother's steps and speaks to eyewitnesses and survivors. They are two thirds through filming including Rob's testimony at the ECCC last August and will return to Cambodia for the verdict in the Comrade Duch trial, expected sometime next month. Visit the website here.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Snowed in

I'm snowed under. Not literally, obviously, as I live in Cambodia, but metaphorically speaking. An email pal of a few years, Ting, arrives from Taiwan today for her first visit to Cambodia and our first face to face meeting to boot. I know she is dying to see Cambodia at long last. Another email friend, Cat from France, will be arriving in a couple of weeks as well. In addition, I am under severe pressure to finish the manuscript for To Cambodia With Love by the weekend so its all hands on deck if I want to see my book finally published, in the not too distant future. Not enough hours in the day? - tell me about it! Sorry, can't hang around, I've got stuff to do.


Monday, January 25, 2010

Elegy on Angkor

The National Museum in Phnom Penh provides the backdrop for the launch of John McDermott's book, Elegy: Reflections on Angkor, which will take place this Wednesday, 27 January at 6.30pm. Open to all, the museum will soon exhibit a selection of the photographer's images in large format prints as part of a permanent installation. The coffee-table sized book, 256 pages and retailing at $75, is also on sale at Monument Books and at his own gallery in Siem Reap. McDermott's book is a definitive collection of 100 of his unique black and white Angkor photos over the last 14 years and is a must for the collector. Find out more here.

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Press talk

My match report from Saturday's international friendly in today's Phnom Penh Post. It's online here.

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Round up from yesterday

The two teams and VIPs line-up before yesterday's game
Here are a few photos to round off yesterday's friendly international match at Olympic Stadium, which Cambodia lost 1-nil to Ulsan University from South Korea. Crowd favourite Nov Soseila was subbed after just six minutes of yesterday's game when he suffered an ankle injury, and was replaced by PPC's Chan Rithy, who has been training in Thailand in recent weeks. Soseila had an ice pack on the injury for the rest of the game and will do well to recover for next week's Hun Sen Cup matches. Om Thavrak partnered Tieng Tiny at the center of defence after Sok Rithy and Prak Mony Udom failed to turn up for training on Thursday and were dropped from the squad. The two subs not used yesterday were keeper Samreth Seiha and Chan Dara. Oh, and Sun Sovannarith, the U23 skipper, has changed the spelling of his name. His new passport shows his name as Sun Sovannrithy.
Kuoch Sokumpheak
will fly out to Indonesia on Monday, accompanied by national assistant coach Bouy Dary, and will spend the next four or five days undergoing a trial for an unnamed Super League club side. The Super League is approaching its half-way break and they have a transfer window opening in February, so they are inviting players for trials around about now. They are allowed 3 foreigners plus 2 non-Indo Asian players in the team. If Sokumpheak, 22, who has remained fiercely loyal to his Khemara Keila team in recent years, is successful, his wages could be up to ten times his current salary. He is without doubt the best homegrown player in Cambodia at the moment and has the type of character that would make him a perfect ambassador for Cambodian football if given the chance. The ISL's growing reputation is attracting some of the best talent across Asia right now and is 'the' league to be in.
Keo Sokngorn, with ball, faced by Pheak Rady in the warm-up
High kicking for the Cambodian starting line-up before the match
The world's press (joke) watch the VIP intro's prior to the game. I counted half a dozen tv cameras.
The Ulsan University team all visited the same hairdresser before kick-off
The Cambodian bench moments before the game starts
Game over, time for a mini inquest with the Cambodian team listening to the coaching staff

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Back to basics

Referee Sreng Hao Dy at least kept his eyes open for the pre-match toss-up. Also keeping a close watch is the 4th official, who switched off later in the game.
I'm on a rant. And yes it's referees again. This time the man in the middle of yesterday's international friendly between Cambodia and Ulsan University. Mr Sreng Hao Dy was the man charged with officiating the game and on the whole he did okay-ish. At least he got the toss-up right. He was a bit petty, handing out two yellow cards for time-wasting in the 1st half and for getting in the way of a keeper's throw out, but when some juicy tackles were flying in from both sides in the second half, he kept his cards in his pocket. However, he fell flat on his arse on the 62nd minute when he booked Ulsan's You Joo Hun for a crap tackle on Sun Sovannrithy. What he failed to realize was that he had booked the same player after 14 minutes for a similar tackle on Chan Rithy. Now I know that all the Korean team sported the same bowl-shaped haircut so individual identification was hard at close quarters but surely he could hear me shouting from the stand that it was the player's 2nd booking. Everyone else did. But no, he obviously can't read his own scribble and blew his whistle to restart the game. It was 3 minutes later that a linesman finally grabbed his attention, pointed out his error and Sreng Hao Dy brandished the red card with a flourish. Incredibly embarrassing for the referee and in my view the 4th official (Thong Chankethya), who is supposed to be the back-up for the match officials, but he too failed to notice the error. In fact he was too busy sorting out a substitution for Ulsan, who had noticed the referee's mistake and wanted to get You Joo Hun off the pitch pronto. They sneakily recalled their sub once the referee had woken up. To be frank it's simply not good enough. This was an international match, and whilst the Cambodian match officials can get away with an error like that in the CPL, getting the basics so wrong in an international game is horribly embarrassing for all concerned. If they want to be taken seriously, they really have got to step up to the mark and act professionally. I'm still scratching my head that match referee Khoun Vireak allowed Phnom Penh Crown to walk off the pitch in the Super 4 play-offs last year and then restarted the match thirty minutes later. Refereeing standards in Cambodia must improve.


Positive in defeat

Cambodia's starting XI: (back row, LtoR): Tiny, Rady, Yaty, Sokngorn, Sovannrithy, Thavrak, (front row): Narith, Sokumpheak, Soseila, Borey, Chhaya.
South Korea have a worthy reputation when it comes to football and World Cup qualification and as we saw in yesterday's friendly match at Olympic Stadium between the Cambodian national team and Korean collegiate side Ulsan University, their strength in depth is pretty impressive. The team that faced Cambodia yesterday don't even play in the top two professional leagues in South Korea and yet they gave an assured performance to beat Cambodia's best 1-0. Okay, a draw would've been a fair result, both sides created a few chances and the only goal came from a wicked deflection, but it's a reminder that Cambodia has some way to go before they can match the best that Asia can offer. For national coach Scott O'Donell, it's all part of the learning process. "I like to win, I wasn't happy that we lost but there were some positive performances. We've still got a lot of work to do in our attacking third - selecting the right options and having the confidence to shoot - but I was happy with the 2nd half performance, the effort was outstanding and the attitude was good. We used the man advantage until the final third, but they defended well, they were well organized like most Korean teams are. I would've liked a result but you never get what you deserve in football. It was a great experience for the players to be up against bigger, stronger boys. Hopefully we'll learn from that."
It could've been a very different story if Kuoch Sokumpheak hadn't rolled his shot wide of the post from 12 yards in the 2nd minute. Five minutes later, the impressive Lee Dong Kun struck a drive which took a looping deflection off the shoulder of Tieng Tiny, leaving Sou Yaty in the Cambodian goal completely flat-footed for the opening goal. The college outfit looked dangerous going forward with incisive passing and Kun struck the foot of the post on 15 minutes. Yaty came out well to block a shot from the Ulsan skipper Lee Sang Gi on 26 minutes after Kun had carved open the opportunity as Cambodia found it hard to get into the game. They did up their effort just before half-time but Keo Sokngorn and Sokumpheak couldn't find a way past Yang Jin Ung in the Ulsan goal.
A more determined Cambodia came out for the second half and Chan Rithy struck the crossbar with a thumping drive within a minute of the restart. Their bright start received a boost when Yoo Joo Hun was dismissed for a 2nd bookable offense even though the referee failed to notice he'd booked the same player twice, until his linesman pointed it out to him. Very embarrassing for the man in the middle, Sreng Hao Dy. Cambodia pressed with Khim Borey shooting just over and Sokumpheak sending a header skidding wide when he found himself unmarked ten yards out. The game got a bit juicy as both teams gave no quarter and the tackles came flying in thick and fast. On 82 minutes Cambodia's best chance went begging. Sokumpheak fed Sokngorn who drove the ball goalwards where keeper Ung got a touch, the ball struck Tieng Tiny a yard out and agonisingly looped over the bar. Despite their pressing, Cambodia couldn't find an equalizer and the collegiate team recorded their hard-earned success. The match attendance was 5,000.
Although this one-off game didn't bring Cambodia the win they'd hoped for, it was a rare opportunity for the team to get together, train together, and play together and with World Cup and Suzuki Cup qualification on the horizon in October, this is exactly the type of international experience that Scott O'Donell wants his team to have on a much more regular basis. The forthcoming Hun Sen Cup matches and the start of the CPL season will be upon us in no time, so it's vital that the powers that be produce a constructive program of international matches with October at the forefront of their thinking, and quickly.
The Cambodian line-up: Yaty, Rady, Sovannrithy (Chanbunrith 81), Tiny, Thavrak, Narith (Chanthan 76), Borey (Sothearith 87), Sokngorn, Soseila (Rithy 6, (Kumpheak 75)), Chhaya, Sokumpheak (capt).
Kuoch Sokumpheak (10) leads out the Cambodia national team in red
Before the kick-off. LtoR: Nov Soseila, Sou Yaty and Kuoch Sokumpheak
LtoR: San Narith, Keo Sokngorn, Khim Borey and Chan Chhaya
LtoR: Om Thavrak, Sun Sovannrithy, Tieng Tiny, Pheak Rady
Cambodia capt Kuoch Sokumpheak with Ulsan's Lee Sang Gi and the match officials
Cambodia's coach Scott O'Donell (right) and his assistant Bouy Dary face the tv cameras after the match

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Cambodia go down

Cambodia's captain Kuoch Sokumpheak, who will fly to Indonesia on Monday
Two big stories came out from Saturday's international friendly at Olympic Stadium. Cambodia began slowly, conceded a wickedly deflected goal and despite upping their game after the interval, couldn't pull it back and went down 1-0 against the Ulsan University touring team from South Korea, who were no slouches. After the game, Cambodia's national coach Scott O'Donell confirmed that his skipper for the day, Kuoch Sokumpheak will spend the next week on trial at an unnamed professional club in Indonesia, with a view to impressing enough to earn a contract for the 2nd half of the Indonesian Super League season. Sokumpheak is widely regarded as the best of the homegrown talent in Cambodia and if successful, the Khemara Keila striker would be a great ambassador for his country. More on the international game later today.

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Old friends

Vun Em, left, is the co-ordinator and singer with the Messenger Band
Last night I caught up with a few friendly faces when I met Sokhom, my long-time pal from Kompong Thom at the restaurant that sits under the Dara Reang Sey Hotel on Street 130, and also chatted with Dara, one of the sisters that run the hotel, who I hadn't seen for a few months. Sokhom was in town for 1 night alongwith a customer-friend in the shape of Thierry from Belgium. They had just arrived after spending an enjoyable night in a floating village near the southern mouth of the Tonle Sap Lake as part of their adventures in the north. Thierry is a regular visitor to Cambodia and always hooks up with Sokhom during part of his travels. After a bite to eat at the hotel, the three of us headed to Meta House to listen to the Messenger Band doing their bit to spread the word about workers rights, their hopes and fears, and highlighting the plight of female workers in Cambodia. All of the band's members were or are still garment factory workers and they take their message around the country to educate and entertain their audience. Some of their acappella songs are sad, some are less serious, all of them inform. They dare to talk and sing about topics that are often taboo and deserve great credit for their brave and courageous stance. They sang five songs and chatted to the audience before we watched a film made by the Meta House team called I Am Precious, which followed a fashion competition aimed at exposing the talents of garment factory workers in designing their own dresses and t-shirts.
The Messenger Band members enjoy a lighter moment during last night's performance

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Sarah's dream stays alive

Amara Chhin-Lawrence and Jean-Baptiste Phou star in the video excerpts of Winds of Angkor
Last year I made mention of a new musical based on Cambodia. It's called Winds of Angkor and has been written by British composer Sarah O'Brien who visited Cambodia in 1999 and 2006. She says; "The piece evolved musically from the initial concept of an intimate love duet to a full-scale theatrical production involving soloists, orchestra, Cambodian musicians and dancers, rhythm section and a state-of-the-art set that features spectacular 3D projections and video content. The challenge was to balance the tenderness of the original letters with the enormity of one of the worst human catastrophes of the 20th Century. Angkor Wat and the surviving temples that rise from the jungle stand witness to the resilience of the Cambodian people and their culture, which ultimately prevailed. Although the story is inspired by tragedy, the musical celebrates the unique, exotic beauty of Cambodia and carries a message of hope to those affected by genocide today." The composer is a classically-trained cellist who has worked with artists such as Andrea Bocelli, Russell Watson, Celine Dion and is a regular member of Yanni's touring company as well as recording a host of TV and movie soundtracks.
The composer's dream is to stage the world premiere in Cambodia. She's already completed extensive pre-production work, which you can see here on video and for which she employed two of the cast, Amara Chhin-Lawrence and Jean-Baptiste Phou, of the incredibly successful Where Elephants Weep, another musical-opera that took Phnom Penh by storm at the end of 2008. It would be another massive leap forwards for Cambodia's artistic development if Sarah O'Brien's vision can come to life here in Cambodia, I'm keeping my fingers firmly crossed. Visit the musical's website.

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Press talk

Today's Phnom Penh Post carries my preview of tomorrow's Cambodian national football team's friendly match against Ulsan University. Read the article online here.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

O'Donell's view

Scott O'Donell, Cambodia's national football coach
I talked to Cambodia's national football coach Scott O'Donell at lunchtime today to get his thoughts on Saturday's international friendly encounter between his Cambodian national squad and a visiting unknown quantity, in the form of South Korean collegiate team Ulsan University. The game will be played at the Olympic Stadium from 3pm, is being televised live and has been arranged through the national team's links with Korean-owned telecommunications partner, KTC. For the life of me I can't find out anything at all about Ulsan University, though the industrial city of Ulsan has two other professional clubs that play in the K-League and National Leagues, whilst University football appears to be a feeder into these competitions. Scott admitted he knew as little as me. "I know nothing at all about the opposition. They arrived Wednesday, trained that afternoon, have a squad of 22 players and faced Preah Khan Reach on Thursday [whom they beat 3-1]. But it's a good opportunity to get the national team together and will be a good experience to play against a South Korean team, as they are normally well organized and bigger players than our own. I will play the same formation, 4-4-2, as I have before."

In selecting his squad for this one-off international friendly, Scott has kept faith with the core of the Under-23 team that performed in the recent SEA Games and bolstered it with some familiar and experienced faces. Returning to the international fold are the Naga Corp trio of Om Thavrak, Kim Bunchanrith and Pok Chanthan, as well as Phnom Penh Crown's tricky left winger Chan Rithy. The 20-man squad have been training at the national football center just outside the capital for the past four days and will train on the Olympic pitch on Friday. "I wanted to retain the core of the Under-23 team from the SEA Games as in my opinion they performed well for me over the last 3-4 months, both in training and in the games. I've added a few senior players who've played with me before and who are players I believe can add valuable experience, on and off the field. However, this is by no means the final squad for the national team." 2010 will be a key year for Cambodian football in the international calendar. "The focus this year will be on the full national team with World Cup and Suzuki Cup qualifiers in October, so I've put a proposal to the Federation to get the players together more regularly for training and more regular international matches as well." Whether his blueprint for the national team comes to fruition remains to be seen, but whatever happens, Scott's preparation for this friendly match won't change from the norm. "I will approach this game as I do every other game. I'm treating the training sessions in exactly the same way. There's no such thing as friendly games. We go out there to win, win everything, try to be competitive and I want the players to go out there and perform. This is a good chance for them to show the Cambodian public what they are capable of. We want to do well and we want to win the game."

All of the Cambodian players have been involved in their club sides' Hun Sen Cup qualifying matches in recent weeks, with Kuoch Sokumpheak on fire for his team, Khemara Keila. Sokumpheak netted 18 goals in their three matches recently, including a 10-goal haul against Arizon, in a match which also saw his sent off. He was the golden boot winner in last season's cup competition. Scott views the Hun Sen Cup as a real positive for his future plans. "My coaching staff will be at all the future Hun Sen Cup games to identify new talent. That's one of the beauties of the competition. There are some teams we've never seen before and we hope there are some good, young, raw players, and if they show the right ability, we can bring them into the national set-up for training. I've already seen some games in the provinces, at Svay Rieng and Kep. Whilst I'm very supportive of having foreign players in the CPL, I think it's a good idea for the Hun Sen Cup to give locals only a chance against provincial teams and let the teams show what they're capable of, without the foreign players involved."

This is the national team's first game of a very important year. October is the pinnacle of the year with a raft of important qualifying games yet there is no schedule or build-up of international friendlies and as yet, we are still in the dark regarding the fixtures for the Cambodian Premier League season and the Super 4 competition, and how that schedule will impact on the national team. Added to that, Scott's one-year contract will expire in May and in my opinion to ensure continuity it would be in everyone's best interests to secure his future for at least the rest of the year. I await developments with a tinge of apprehension.

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20-man squad named

The Cambodian national team face touring side Ulsan University from South Korea is a one-off friendly match at Olympic Stadium this coming Saturday, kick-off at 3pm. Ulsan are playing Preah Khan Reach this afternoon and both matches are being televised on local channel TVK. This is a good opportunity for the national team to re-assemble after their SEA Games exploits and coach Scott O'Donell has included a few experienced faces in his 20-man squad, to supplement the core of the U23 team that lined up in Laos. The squad have been training at the national football center just outside the capital for the last four days in preparation for the match. Incoming faces include left-winger Chan Rithy of PPCrown and the Naga trio of Om Thavrak, Kim Chanbunrith and Pok Chanthan. Just a quick word on one player who is already in red-hot form during the qualifying matches of the Hun Sen Cup - Kuoch Sokumpheak netted 18 goals in three games, including 10 in a match against Arizon. Here's the 20-man squad:
Sou Yaty, Samreth Seiha (Ministry of National Defence)
Lay Raksmey, Sok Rithy (Preah Khan Reach)
Pheak Rady (MND)
Tieng Tiny (Phnom Penh Crown)
Om Thavrak, Kim Chanbunrith, Sun Sovannarith (Naga Corp)
Prak Mony Udom, San Narith
Nov Sokseila, Oum Kumpheak (MND)
Chhun Sothearath (Build Bright United)
Pok Chanthan (Naga Corp)
Chan Chhaya, Keo Sokngorn, Chan Rithy (PP Crown)
Kuoch Sokumpheak
(Khemara Keila)
Khim Borey (MND)

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Lundy on song

One of my favourite singer-songwriters Jimi Lundy has already been hard at work on his next album, as yet untitled, with recording due to start anytime soon and a target date of June this year for completion. Jimi is Cambodian born and now lives in Melbourne, Australia. He has a real talent for catchy, melodic songs and you can see his latest music video for the song Forever Yours below. He's also just about to complete another video, When Tomorrow Comes, which will feature Cambodian movie star Jan Jariya, who is currently touring downunder.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sam's jaunt

Samantha Brown (above) has been globetrotting with her Travel Channel television show for the last decade. Last week she completed filming of her first visit to Cambodia for her Passport to Asia series having spent time in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and the Angkor temples and on the south coast at Ream. Local fixers were Hanuman Films. In October last year she was in Vietnam. The Travel Channel is available in more than 95 million US cable homes, so she's pretty well known. Talking of Vietnam, Adam Bray, one of the contributors to my To Cambodia With Love guidebook, which is nearing completion, has been involved in the latest Insight Guides Laos and Cambodia guidebook, which should be out sometime next month. He also chipped in with updating the DK Eyewitness Vietnam & Angkor Wat publication that came out last month. A DK book dedicated solely to Cambodia is in the works as well after the two writers were spotted in town recently. Adam was also a contributor to the To Vietnam With Love guidebook by ThingsAsian, which came out last year.
It's raining outside as I type this which is really unusual for January here in Cambodia. It rained yesterday afternoon as well. Parts of the country have also been experiencing fog. Crikey me, we'll have snow next. This Friday night at Meta House (7pm) will see the Messenger Band performing acapella while presenting a film by the Meta House crew of the I Am Precious! fashion contest, held in November. Garment factory workers designed dresses and t-shirts to raise their profile and demonstrate their skills and of course, the all-girl band are all former garment workers themselves.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

1,000 lingas

This massive piece of sandstone has numerous lingas and carvings of the gods in evidence
Kbal Spean is renowned for its rockbed carvings and its myriad lingas, hence one of its names, River of A Thousand Lingas. The idea behind these lingas, or erect phallus, is that they are symbolically meant to fertilize the sacred waters that flow down off Phnom Kulen, the holiest mountain in Cambodia and birthplace of the ancient Khmer Empire, as the water makes its way down to the Angkor plain below. Often the lingas are within a rectangular frame in the form of a yoni (or female form). An inscription found at the site shows that the carvings were begun in 1054 and as well as the lingas there are numerous representations of the reclining Vishnu, Shiva on Nandi, Brahma and other gods, some of which have been defaced in an attempt to remove them.
The top surface, covered in circular lingas, of the same large block of sandstone rock
There are nine lingas represented here, inside the square yoni
Dotted around the riverbed are numerous lingam and yoni carvings
A giant linga at Kbal Spean, within a square yoni
This underwater yoni has five lingas inside and another eight outside
More underwater lingas carved onto a giant slab of sandstone
These lingas are carved into the sloping riverbed at Kbal Spean
More lingas in a dry part of the river just before the head of the waterfall at Kbal Spean
The peaceful Kbal Spean river as it passes over myriad lingas just below the surface

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