Cambodia’s First Field Hockey Team Prepares to Take the Field

Although Madeleine Albright does­n’t play hockey, Uy Nou Sereimony cited the former US secretary of state as an inspiration for him to start the sport because she “looks tough.”

Uy Nou Sereimony and 31 oth­er Leadership Culture and Dev­el­op­ment Institute students, whose studies include learning about Albright, will be on Cambodia’s first field hockey team. Men’s and women’s teams begin practice next month at the institute’s campus near Poch­entong Airport.

Coach Asif Masqood Rana says hockey will come naturally to the players. “I think Cam­bodians are hard working and have stamina, something required of good hockey players,” he said.

Originally from Pakistan, Rana is a renaissance sportsman. He rode horses as a child, ran track in high school and dabbled in gymnastics. He was taking a break from athletics in college when the field hockey coach approached him about playing for the team. Rana fell in love with the sport and went on to play for professional teams in Pakistan.

Rana said in Cambo­dia he hopes to do something for the country. “Sports is not just for competition. It keeps kids away from drugs,” he said.

He said he chose these students as his proteges because the school’s emphasis on English eased communication.

“Giant forces achieve goals easily. All 500 students are very interested in hockey,” the coach said.

Rana said he believes Cambo­dia will be able to send a national team to participate in the 2003 Southeast Asian Games, a goal Uy Nou Sereimony, 21, said he seconded with enthusiasm.

“I am sure we will play in the SEA Games. I already play football and practice tae kwan do, so hockey shouldn’t be a problem,” the student said.

Sem Chanpheorn, 21, is ready to join the women’s team. “It’s important to play sports for your health,” she said. “Before, I only liked to watch games on TV. Not many girls play sports in Cambo­dia.”

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