Football Team Passes on World Cup Attempt

Cambodia will not compete in the qualifying rounds for the 2006 World Cup, the president of the Cam­bodia Football Federation said Monday.

Federation President Khek Ravy, who also serves as a Minis­try of Com­merce secretary of state, said that he and the executive committee of the federation made the decision nearly two months ago. He said the reasons were primarily financial, while keeping a realistic eye on the team’s current level of ability.

“We end up spending between $100,000 to $120,000 competing in the World Cup qualifying, and we lose,” he said. “We prefer to wait four years and, in the meantime, spend the money on training and development.”

FIFA, the world football authority, grants Cambodia’s football program $250,000 a year for four years—in between every World Cup. Khek Ravy said that for smaller football-playing countries, FIFA recommends the money be used for development and not for high-level competition.

“FIFA will continue to give us money because we don’t disobey in any way the rules for using FIFA’s grant money,” he said, adding that Cambodia wants to improve to the level that FIFA competitions demand.

FIFA/Coca-Cola’s world rankings system currently ranks Cam­bodia at 171 out of 192 teams, just ahead of Belize.

The level of play is not the only problem the team is facing. Last year, the multimillion-dollar renovation of Phnom Penh’s Olympic Stadium was an­nounced to be complete, but when Cambodian football officials in­spected the pitch, they found it lacked proper drainage systems and was topped with sand and stones. They pronounced it “unplayable.” It has not been repaired, said Khek Ravy.

Cambodia needs better equipment, better fields and better training—both physically and psychologically—for its football players, he said.

“We find that Cambodian players are very weak physically. They need to be stronger,” Khek Ravy said. “And the Cambodian players are very shy. You cannot win when your players are shy on the field.”

The Cambodian players will be disappointed not to be contending for a spot in Germany in 2006, but not devastated, he said. “Now we will not lose 16-0 like Mongolia lost to South Korea.”

The five Cambodian junior teams—with players at or under ages 14, 16, 18, 21 and 23—and the national team will continue to compete in regional competitions,  such as the biennial Tiger Cup, Khek Ravy said.

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