With Cambodia set Sunday to host their first World Cup qualifier match in four years, laborers are toiling around the clock to finish repairing Old Olympic Stadium, authorities said this week.
“The workers have been at work both night and day to finish on time,” said Sok Sitha, a foreman at the stadium, as dozens of workers re-patched some sod that had been torn up by a steamroller trying to level the turf.
All around the stadium grounds were signs of rehabilitation this week. The grandstands were coated in a golden-yellow, the railings forest green and the nagas bright white. Dozens of workers were painting walls, sanding doors, nailing down floorboards, and even scrubbing the toilets—which have not worked in decades, but will by Sunday, said Keo Sareth, general director of the Cambodian Football Federation.
Even the Marlboro signs were getting a fresh coat of cherry red paint at the stadium.
The project, overseen by the Ministry of Youth, Education and Sports, began late last month after officials were left scrambling for a place to host Cambodia’s matches because of ongoing, long-term renovations at Olympic Stadium. The work, being financed by businessman Teng Bunma, is expected to wrap up April 11. The price of the renovations has not been disclosed.
Workers planned to cut the grass and add a little more fertilizer to get the field into game-shape, Sok Sitha said.
Altogether, the project required a major effort, he said.
“There were 200 workers planting grass on the football field, and right now there are 10 workers keeping the stadium clean,” he said.
Cambodia is scheduled to host Maldives in a rematch from their April 1 game, which Cambodia’s footballers lost 6-0. Cambodia has not played since that match. Maldives lost a 5-0 decision to Indonesia last Sunday in Jakarta. Maldives gave up two goals in the first 15 minutes and never threatened thereafter.
The renovations met with approval from the one of referees of Sunday’s match, Mon Ry.
“The Old Stadium was never renovated. It was abandoned for many years. I hope this shows the government is focused on Cambodian sportsmen,” Mon Ry said, keying into his office, the outer door of which had a sticky coat of maroon paint clinging to it. “I am very happy the World Cup will be coming to Cambodia. It is a good time for our referees to exchange their experiences and skill.”