A Cambodian squad will participate in the qualifying group tournament for the Asian Football Confederation’s under-17 championship in Seoul. Cambodia will play its first match Thursday against the Philippines.
The 44 teams participating in the qualifying round have been divided into 11 groups. The top team from each group will join the host team at the championships to be held in the United Arab Emirates. Besides the Philippines, Cambodia is grouped with Laos and South Korea.
“Only 18 boys in the country have this opportunity to see a big country like Korea,” said May Tola, director of Cambodia’s youth football programs. “Laos and the Philippines are familiar teams and I think our boys will play with confidence. Korea is a very big team in Asia and we hope our team will play very well against them.”
Cambodia’s under-17 footballers beat Laos in the Asean tournament in Indonesia last month and lost a close match to the Philippines. “We are very happy with how we played in Indonesia,” May Tola said.
He likes his squad’s chances in part because they have spent more time on the field than the older Cambodian teams.
“The under-17 team plays a lot of matches at their schools, plus some have played in the national school championship and also in the national club system,” he said.
The qualifying round began in Burma on March 13. The Burmese squad easily beat Hong Kong and Singapore to advance to the finals. Their group is the first to have played any matches.
The championship field will be decided by July 30 and play will begin in September. The top three teams will be invited to participate in the 2003 under-17 world championships.