Petanque is one sport in which Cambodia can hold its own in the region, so organizers want to make the fifth annual Asia Petanque Championships a showcase.
That’s why they’re seeking last-minute corporate sponsorship for the competition, which begins today in Takhmau, Kandal province. Petanque is the French version of lawn bowling.
“Events like these need a combination of government and private support,” said Meas Sarin, secretary-general of the National Petanque Association, the event organizer. “We still need help from the private sector.”
The government has agreed to pay 52 million riel (about $13,300) for the event, but Meas Sarin says it will cost more like 80 million riel ($20,000) to do it right.
Thai sporting-goods manufacturer ABT has agreed to provide shirts, balls and a scoreboard, Meas Sarin said.
The association may also get some fund-raising help from its influential top officials: Minister of Cabinet Sok An is the association president and Minister of Interior Sar Kheng is honorary president.
The games—the first to be held in Cambodia—begin with a demonstration at 3 pm and a meeting of the Petanque Confederation. On Saturday, Sok An will preside at the opening ceremony, which will include traditional Cambodian dances and a flag parade. Men’s and ladies’ singles competition begins at 9 am and continues through the day. Men’s triples and ladies’ doubles will be held on Sunday.
Nearly 100 competitors from six countries are expected to compete.
Laos won last year’s competition and is bringing the most players (32). Thailand, with 20 players, is the traditional regional powerhouse. Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and an Asean team are also competing.
One nation that won’t be competing as expected is Vietnam. Vietnamese sports officials said competitors could not get passports in time, Meas Sarin said.
Ean Heng, Cambodia assistant coach, said his players will benefit from having their countrymen cheer them on.
“We are ready to play,” he said. “We have enough practice and have good technique. But we have faced some problems, especially related to strength. Some of our players are motodops. They have to feed their families and their strength is not good enough,” he said.
Cambodia earned one gold, one silver and one bronze medal in petanque at the SEA Games in Malaysia in September.
Meas Sarin said Cambodia is competitive because petanque requires only a small budget. Cambodians are also familiar with petanque because it is similar to angkunh, a traditional game played during Khmer New Year.
Cambodian petanque enthusiasts are lobbying for petanque to become an event in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
To qualify as an event, a sport must have men’s associations in at least 75 countries and women’s associations in 45 countries, Meas Sarin said. There are now 55 men’s associations, he said.
(Additional reporting by Van Roeun)