Phnom Penh Crown seem to be Cambodia’s football flag-bearers. Not only are they the most decorated club side in terms of domestic championships – winning the Cambodian League title on 4 occasions – and cups won, they came so close to lifting the AFC Presidents Cup a couple of years ago, a feat that put Cambodia firmly on the Asean football map.
But it’s not just at senior level that the club seem to lead from the front. In the past three years, Crown’s youth Academy have been making waves of their own, winning tournaments at home and abroad and joining the inaugural Asean U-15s youth championships that has just been concluded.
The club’s desire to engage the community, with youth teams at varying age groups, a girls team, the only supporters fan club in the country and links with the successful Salt Academy in Battambang have sown the seeds of a blueprint for the future development of Cambodian football.
Their plans to develop their Tuol Kork training headquarters into a multi-use stadium in the next twelve months will undoubtedly take the club onto the next stage of their development.
Under the leadership of business entrepreneur Rithy Samnang, Phnom Penh Crown are not afraid of challenging the status quo in Cambodian football circles. He installed Swiss-born head coach Sam Schweingruber in October 2012, and the club are determined to drag the rest of Cambodian football along with them, kicking and screaming if necessary.
Schweingruber, a FIFA instructor and educator and seen as a grassroots hero to many, is unwavering in his desire to bring a new culture and mindset to football at the highest level in Cambodia. He wants to build a club where everyone is welcome and where life skills, integrity and personal development go hand-in-hand with results on the field. In charge for less than a year, he’s already overseen festival days for hundreds of children of all ages, the introduction of competitive youth leagues initiated by his club, hosted a national girls festival as well as taking charge of the Cambodian national teams at youth level as well as the women’s team.
In his recently-concluded first season with the club’s senior team, they finished third in both the Cambodian League and the domestic Hun Sen Cup and his next target is to return the club to the top of the tree.
As a club, Phnom Penh Crown need to be challenging themselves on the international stage but with only one place available in the AFC President’s Cup, that means winning the championship is the only route back to a competition they so nearly won in 2011.
Crown have embraced an international flavor to their club in recent times. Coaches like Bojan Hodak and David Booth preceded Schweingruber’s arrival and the playing personnel too has seen a variety of nationalities.
Last season, the flowing locks of Dutch striker Elroy van der Hooft wowved the crowds with14 goals in 9 games, ably supported by South Korean Lee Ha-Neul and rock solid defender Tony Obadin. They supplemented some of the best known names in domestic football, such as Khim Borey, Kouch Sokumpheak and Samrith Seiha with the addition of two Franco-Khmer imports in Bin Thierry and Kok Boris, who were warmly welcomed into the fold.
The make-up of their 2014 squad is yet to be decided but expect some interesting individuals and keep an eye out for one or two young faces being promoted from the Academy set-up. These Academy players have gained valuable game-time with the country’s youth teams and in Asean-wide competitions in the past couple of years. Crown seem to be firmly set on a course to develop the some of the most talented young footballers in the country which could promote them onto the biggest stage when they are ready.
So what are your thoughts? Are Phnom Penh Crown Football Club leading from the front or not? Let us know in the comments below.
Special Thank you to CAM Photography and Sovanna Kem for such awesome photos.