Official Says Footballers ‘Shamed’ Cambodia

Cambodia’s national football team brought shame on the country in the recent Southeast Asia Games and will not compete internationally until it proves itself competent, the head of the Na­tional Olympic Committee said Monday.

“I very much regret that the football team has shamed Cam­bodia in front of the world,” said Prum Bunyi, the committee’s Cab­inet chief. “It was not only the football team that was embarrassed, but the Cambodian people.”

The football team failed to win a game in the biannual tournament, losing decisively to Ma­lay­sia, Burma and Singapore. Thai­land won the gold medal in football on Friday with an overtime victory over Vietnam, which hosted the games.

Prum Bunyi placed blame for the dismal performance squarely on the team. The country’s Foot­ball Federation gives the team $250,000 a year from the Fed­eration Internationale de Football Association, he said.

But players said they never benefited from FIFA funds and instead suffer from a chronic lack of equipment and training.

“I never got any money,” said player Chan Rithy. “And I never see any Football Federation officers come visit us. Sometimes when I finish practice, I have to use my own money to buy water and food.”

The team trained for two weeks before the games, which began in late November, Chan Rithy said. Most teams train at least five months in advance and are housed and fed together, he said.

According to Keo Sareth, the Football Federation’s general director, much of the funding went to administrative costs, including salaries for more than 20 federation officers.

Keo Sareth declined to specify salary amounts within the federation, and said FIFA monitors its expenditures. But, he said, “If we spent the money only on the national team, the football sector would be better.”

Nong Kimson, who was named the team’s coach about a month before the games, said he became pessimistic after supervising a few practices and tried to pull the team out of the Games.

“I received this burden from the previous coach,” he said. “We didn’t have long training before the competition.”

The Philippines and Brunei, which also have famously bad football squads, declined invitations to compete in this year’s games.

Despite the football team’s showing, however, Cambodia won seven more medals this year than in 2002. In all, 17 medals were awarded to Cambodia, including a gold and five silver medals. Athletes who competed in the games will march through the capital today after a ceremony at Olympic Stadium.

 

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