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It’s a half a world away, but many Cam­bodian fans say they are rooting for South American teams in this year’s World Cup action.

“I am optimistic that the Argentinean team will win this year’s World Cup,” said Prum Phally, 27, who works for a lottery company. He has watched live telecasts on Cambodian television every night since the tournament kicked off last week. He said he has given up watching Thai and Hong Kong films for the time being.

Although there are no Southeast Asian teams vying for this year’s cup, he said he does have a special place in his heart for the South Koreans since they are Asian. “I’m proud that some Asian team is good at football,” he said.

Kong Villa, a 27-year-old NGO worker, is also rooting for Argentina.

“They will win the cup because their players have good techniques and a strong defense,” he said.

Tor Vicheth, a 30-year-old computer re­pairman, said he likes Brazil because “they can both attack and defend their goal.”

At least one man interviewed hasn’t caught the World Cup fever. Nao Bun­thorn, a 30-year-old traffic policeman, says his wife and children will not relinquish control of the television set.

“My kids are crazy over cartoons. Then my wife watches Thai TV shows. By the time she finishes, it’s bedtime for me,” he said, although he said he will watch the final game.

Meanwhile, Prum Bunyi, Cabinet director of the Na­tional Olympic Committee, says he expects the focus on the World Cup to fuel a boom among youngsters.

“Now, we are focusing on school children to take part more in football. We have to start at the grassroots level,” he said.

This year, schools have added soccer to their physical education curriculum, and balls and coaches will be sent to help them learn the sport, he said.

Schools will be given $1.4 million for the years 1999-2002 to help improve all their sports programs, he said. The private sector is also expected to kick in money as well, he added.


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