Shots Fired as Football Rioters Cry Match Fixing

Angry football fans rioted following the junior Cambodian team’s 2-0 victory against Brunei in Phnom Penh on Saturday eve­ning, prompting military police to fire shots in the air in an attempt to stop the violence.

In an apparent protest over perceived match fixing, about 200 spectators smashed windows on four vehicles with wooden sticks and threw rocks at Military Police guarding Olympic Stadium, officials said. There were no reported injuries or arrests.

In the sixth day of competition of the Asean Football Federation’s nine-nation, under-17 youth championship, Cambodia scored twice in the first half but appeared to re­frain from attacking during the rest of the match, which was played be­fore nearly 40,000 fans.

Military Police Commander and Football Federation of Cambodia President Sao Sokha said following the disturbance that the rioters may have lost bets that Cambodia would win by more than two goals.

“There were groups accusing the Cambodian team of selling the number of goals,” he said, adding that security would be tighter for to­day’s 4 pm match against Malaysia.

“These were not the ones who played football but who gambled,” he said of the rioters.

Sao Sokha said he did not be­lieve the violence, which lasted about 10 minutes, would damage relations with the AFF, of which FFC Vice President Khek Ravy is a senior executive.

The Cambodian side did not ag­gressively pursue scoring chances as they were saving strength for to­day’s match, which will decide whether they advance to Thurs­day’s semifinals, Sao Sokha said, calling on Cambodia supporters to refrain from violence.

“We ask them not to use the game for violence,” he said. “It is not good for our country.”

“This is because of the public’s believing in us too much,” Sao Sok­ha said. “They wanted us to score more than two goals.”

At about 6 pm, a handful of Mil­itary Police officers irrupted into a post-match press conference, shouting that a crowd was throwing rocks at them.

About 20 officers then charged into the crowd, which had formed inside the stadium grounds, and some could be seen kicking and beating the rioters while one officer fired at least five shots in an effort to disperse the throng.

The crowd smashed the windows of one bus transporting the Bruneian team and another used by Military Police, as well as a Toy­ota Camry belonging to Cambodia manager Prak Sovannara and a Daewoo Tico belonging to an Apsa­ra TV reporter.

About 20 anti-riot police armed with AK-47s and shields arrived at the scene five minutes after the disturbance began but were not deployed.

At the press conference, Prak Sovannara appeared hesitant to comment on the violence but de­nied that his team had been bribed not to score, adding that he told his players to not attack in order to save their strength.

“Brunei played defensively so it was difficult,” he said. “We have to beat Malaysia to reach the semifinal: This is our big objective.”

After first-half goals Saturday from forward Oum Kumpheak, 15, and defender Soun Makara, also 15, the Cambodian team continued to dominate possession of the ball after the break but rarely moved it into the offensive third.

In 360 minutes of group-stage play, the last-place Bruneians had conceded 15 goals but scored none.

Shouts of “Change the coach. He sold it,” “Go home,” and “The Khmers have sold it” rose up from the crowd, and fans threw garbage toward the field as the Cambodian side appeared to struggle against a far weaker adversary.

Responding to an announcer, who thanked the crowd for their at­tendance after the final whistle, members of the crowd shouted, “You sell the nation. We will stop coming to watch.”

Betting agents at the Cambo Six football bookmaking agency said their company did not accept wag­ers on Cambodian but only Euro­pean matches. Staff at Sporting Live Group said they had accepted bets on Saturday’s match against Bru­nei. Representatives for neither company could be contacted Sunday.

Earlier Saturday, Thailand defeated Malaysia 3-1. In Group B play Sunday, Burma defeated Laos 2-0.

         (Additional reporting by Lor Chandara and Douglas Gillison)


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