Vietnam will replace Cambodia as host of this year’s Tiger Cup after football officials deemed the newly renovated Olympic Stadium unfit for crowds.
Cambodia, which has never hosted the biennial tournament, was originally selected to host the games by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Football Federation.
Instead, Vietnam and Malaysia will host the round of match play games, to be played in December, according to the Web site of the Asean Football Federation.
The event was expected to draw thousands of tourists and millions of dollars in revenue, and the announcement dashed visions of money-spending crowds and positive international publicity the event might have won for Cambodia. “We need these kinds of events,” said Tourism Minister Veng Sereyvuth. “It is very unfortunate.”
Citing major plumbing and electrical problems at Olympic Stadium, the Cambodian Football Federation in January forfeited its right to host the games, with federation president Khek Ravy saying that a capacity crowd would result in sewage flowing onto the field.
Stadium renovations have been mired in controversy since the government awarded the contract to Taiwan-based Yuanta Group in 2000, in exchange for some
$3.6 million and the right to develop the surrounding areas.
“It seems that we will not gain any profit. Unfortunately, Cambodia has missed out on another chance,” said Vath Bora, 34, a shoe vendor near Olympic Stadium.
“I am sorry, because the government has not been able to fix the stadium. They don’t understand how to do business,” said neighboring vendor Sin Dy, 39.
But as it let slip its Tiger Cup host bid, Cambodia was invited to participate in a tournament of Asia’s most hapless football programs, alongside such countries as Sri Lanka, East Timor, Afghanistan, Mongolia, Laos and Tajikistan. The tournament aims to promote football in small or war-ravaged countries with ailing programs, and will also be held biannually starting in 2006.
The national football program is a perennial loser in regional tournaments, and it went winless in last year’s Southeast Asian Games in Vietnam.
(Additional reporting by Kuch Naren and The Associated Press)