Team Switch May Violate Int’l Rules

Since the National Olympic Com­mittee’s last-minute decision to drop the Cambodian national foot­­ball team from the 2005 South­east Asian Games, uncertainty hov­ers over the role of the Cam­bodian Football Federation, the fu­ture of the team’s Australian coach and most of its players, officials and players said Sunday.

Tola May, technical director of the Cambodian Football Federa­tion, said that procedures for international football championships would be violated if the Olympic Com­mittee continued to handpick its own players.

“Nobody has the authority to send a football team without the recognition of the [Cambodian] Football Federation,” he said.

The national team was told Nov 8 that it would not be representing Cambodia at the SEA Games in the Philippines and was being re­placed by national league winners Khe­mara, a team supported by Na­tional Assembly and Olym­pic Com­mittee President Prince Nor­odom Ranariddh.

Only four players from the na­tional side were offered positions on the new national lineup, which departs for the games on Thurs­day.

Tola May said he was not sure whether the SEA Games used the regulations of the Federation Internationale de Football Associ­a­tion or the Asian Football Confed­er­a­tion.

However, if the Olympic Com­mittee selects players without the ap­proval of the Cambodian Foot­ball Federation prior to the 2006 Tiger Cup, FIFA and AFC could take action against the team, Tola May said.

“We never ask anything from the government—only their cooperation,” he said.

Australian Scott O’Donell, who has been the national team’s coach since early August, is still the official coach and on contract with the football federation, Tola May added.

However, players and representatives of the new national side said that a Korean national who has taken over daily coaching of the team will be head coach at the SEA Games when the team plays its first match against Malaysia on Nov 22.

O’Donell was on holiday in Singapore Sunday and could not be reached for comment.

Prince Norodom Chakrapong, a half-brother and adviser to Prince Ranariddh as Olympic Committee president, blasted the national team’s performance and said there was nothing unusual about choosing the best team as the “backbone” for the national side.

“This [national] team, when you look at the result, they always lose. They lose every time. They lose everywhere,” he said in an interview.

“As representatives for Cambo­dia, we cannot send them to lose 0-8 and 0-7. We cannot lose face,” he added.

Prince Chakrapong said that he had met several times with Cam­bodian Football Federation Presi­dent Khek Ravy and O’Don­ell, and had made the committee’s viewpoint clear.

In a statement on Sunday, Prince Chakrapong wrote: “Consi­der­ing the string of catastrophic re­sults achieved by the Cambodi­an national team during the last few years, the National Olympic Com­mittee had initially decided not to send this team to the SEA Games 2005. However, after careful consideration, the President of the NOC, HRH Prince Norodom Ranariddh, eventually ac­cepted to allow a reshaped national selection to go to the Philip­pines.”

Khek Ravy, a relative of Prince Ranariddh by marriage, could not be reached for comment on Sun­day; he was reportedly in Thai­land for a meeting.

National team player Meas Cha­na, who will not be playing in the Phil­ippines, said he did not know what would happen to the national team.

“I don’t have trust anymore. I quit my job and joined the national team,” he said. “As for the others, I don’t know if they will regroup and con­tinue or not. But some have gone back to their provinces.”

Sam El Nasa, one of the four players chosen for the SEA Games and former captain of the na­tional team, said he felt sorry for his former teammates and for O’Donell in particular.

“They have trained for months with me. It is very unfortunate for them,” Sam El Nasa said, adding that he was now focused on training and playing well for the nation.

As captain for Khemara, 23-year-old Chea Virath said the team go­ing to the Philippines would have better luck than the former na­tional team. “I hope that, for the game, we are better prepared than previous times. We will perform bet­ter because Prince Ranariddh pays much attention to both food and equipment,” he said.

According to the official Na­tional Assembly Web site, Prince Ranariddh presented the Khema­ra team with 30 brand new motorcycles following their victory in the national league on Oct 9 against Hello United.

At the ceremony held at Fun­cin­pec Headquarters in Phnom Penh, the prince also told the players to “try harder for their success” in the SEA Games in 2011, ac­cording to a Web site entry dated Oct 11.

Co-Interior Minister Prince Norodom Sirivudh also presented the team with approximately $500, and Suong Theng, secretary of state at the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation, presented 30 license plates for each of their motorcycles, according to the Web site.

“This national team has been training for months and months, and then changing it in the last month is unfortunate,” Sam Rain­sy Party Senator Ung Bun-Ang said on Sunday.

“The public might be suspicious of the change and the motives behind, and they have the right to be,” he said. However, anyone living in Cambodia will not be surprised to see such changes made at the eleventh hour by the powerful, he added.



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