Monday, September 20, 2010

Grass roots

Some of the current PPC youngsters who will be eligible for the new academy intake, at today's press conference
Today was my first official engagement as media officer for Phnom Penh Crown football club. Having recently stopped penning my football match reports for the Phnom Penh Post on domestic football, my new role will be to promote the activities of the best club side in the country, Phnom Penh Crown, the recently enthroned C-League champions. There's a real sense of determination at Crown to take the club to a higher level than ever before and whilst being C-League champions is their initial goal, they also want to create a stir in regional Asean football as well and are starting with the basics. Today's press conference at the Phnom Penh Hotel was to announce the formation of the PPCFC Elite Football Academy for the most talented young footballers in the country. Cambodia's first-ever residential football academy is a major step forward in the development of football in the Kingdom. You have to start early and equip youngsters correctly if you want to see major improvements in standards when they reach adulthood. Crown are the first club to recognise that and to put their money where their mouth is, so to speak. The press conference hosted all the local television channels (so my ugly mug was on the sports news programmes again tonight) and sports media in order to get the message out to the provinces, that trials will be taking place across the country, in 17 locations to be precise, throughout October. The best 12 and 13 year olds will be invited to final trials in Phnom Penh and from them, 22 of the very best will make it into the first intake of the new academy. The aim is to uncover the best of the talent out there and then bring them under the club's wing on a full-time basis for two years, undergoing a tailored regime that will maximize their football potential and provide them with a private education as well. We are talking naturally-gifted players being coached every day to improve their technique and understanding of the game, at the club's own training ground in Tuol Kork. The programme they will follow is closely linked to Everton FC, renowned for their production line of talented youngsters who've gone onto play first-team football, through Crown's regional partners, Asia Pacific Football Academy in New Zealand. House parents will look after the youngster's welfare whilst they are away from home and the goal is to identify and nurture the cream of the country's youngsters, who will continue for another two years after their initial 2-year stint, with progress to the Crown first-team, and beyond, the eventual outcome. Ambitious for sure, but the model has been adopted across the globe and it works. That's why Crown are keen to fund this programme and produce their own homegrown talent of the future. And this is just the beginning. The club are looking to announce a new management structure and a host of new players in the next month or two, in preparation for next season, which should begin early in 2011 when the Hun Sen Cup precedes the start of the league competition. You can keep up to speed with developments over on my football blog here.

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