Tuesday, August 2, 2016

It's a bust

Briefly...football is a bust this season with Phnom Penh Crown's campaign getting off to the worst possible start and never really recovering. We are in 6th place right now, five games to go and only pride to salvage. Our hopes of a third consecutive championship are long gone. I will write a book one day about the ups and downs in Cambodian football but suffice to say, we haven't reached the heights that we did over the past two years. Club football in Cambodia is still languishing far behind the interest being shown in the national team. We have our own stadium and the best pitch in the country and are the reigning champions but we still find it hard to get a good crowd at our RSN Stadium (by which I mean more than 2,000+). We've done it 3 or 4 times this season but when we play one of the lesser teams the attendance numbers drop to the late hundreds or hovering around 1,000. We have continued to build our support online (facebook, youtube, etc) but its not materializing into bums on seats yet, while the national team get around 50K+ for home matches, come rain or shine. So the interest in football is definitely out there amongst the Khmer public but converting that into people coming to watch league matches is a tough ask right now. It doesn't help that nearly every game is televised live either. This apathy for club sides applies to all teams, not just us. There is talk of taking clubs out to the provinces to drum up support but so far only Svay Rieng have ventured outside of the capital. Until teams get serious with developing their own identity, helped by regional backing from the fans who take ownership for their teams, then we will likely continue to struggle. Neighbouring countries, especially Thailand, have been successful with this approach, but I think it will be a while before Cambodia takes the bull by the horns and does the same thing. Also missing at league matches is passion. A real heartfelt passion for football is not something that comes easily to the Khmers. The national team generates a mexican wave or two, some local-flavour dancing and obviously lots of selfies, but organised chanting/singing, etc is absent. If you shout loudly at a game, heads turn in your direction, its something out of the ordinary, not the norm; which is weird in the extreme for someone brought up on a diet of British football. Just a few thoughts as I get back into the swing of writing again.

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