Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Living the dream

The Crown Academy boys and their two full-time coaches
If you give a young boy a football, a piece of grass and some friends to play with, he will play football 24 hours a day. Mark my words. So at the Phnom Penh Crown FC Elite Academy, the full-time coaches have a job on their hands restricting the boys in their care from doing exactly that. As it is, they receive good quality football coaching every morning, six days a week, as well as getting private schooling in the afternoons. The rest of the time is their own, and of course they spend it kicking a ball around, or play-fighting as they are boys afterall, at the club's training headquarters in Tuol Kork, which doubles up as the home of the Elite Academy. They are living the dream of most boys, spending their days at a professional football club, learning the art of becoming a proficient player, technically, tactically and physically, as well as receiving a good standard of private education that they almost certainly wouldn't have received in their home village. The boys hail from all around the country, some from Phnom Penh but most from the provinces as far flung as Koh Kong and Stung Treng. They live at the training ground in specially-built accommodation, are fed three healthy meals a day by two live-in house mothers, they get video sessions with the coaches, both of whom are former Cambodian internationals Bouy Dary and Kao Kiry, as well as the inevitable sessions on the training ground. They also have access to a doctor and sports physio whenever they need it and last Saturday morning, they came under the spotlight of the local television stations, TVK, TV5 and CTN, who all sent cameramen and reporters to the ground to record their progress, as well as report on the visit by one of the club's Academy Ambassadors, former Chelsea manager Ken Shellito. Now a technical analyst for the Asian Football Confederation, there's nothing Shellito enjoys more than getting onto the training ground and passing on tips and tricks of the trade he's learned in over fifty years involved in professional football. He was also involved in the final trials to select the 22 players who are now with the Academy, so he's more than happy to come over from his home in Malaysia from time to time to help out the regular coaches. And Crown hope to introduce other well-known footballing faces from around Asia in the future as a way of freshening up the input the boys receive. The boys ended their training session with an 11-a-side game where they were able to show-off their considerable talents - these boys were selected after extensive trials around the country and are amongst the best-equipped at their under-13 age level - giving each other no quarter and already demonstrating a desire to win, whilst finding time to smile and whoop loudly when a goal is scored. It was a pleasure to watch these youngsters in action, just four weeks into their life as a full-time Elite Academy student and potential professional footballer of the future.
Give a boy a ball and he'll want to play football 24 hours a day

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