Opinion – Cambodia Needs More Football Not Less

Cambodia Needs More Footbal

With the questions about the viability of the second-tier CPL 2 recently being brought up how can the Cambodian Premier League ensure that players are given enough scope to develop? In our mind at least Cambodia needs more football, not les if it to keep improving.

What is the current Cambodian Football Pyramid?

As things currently stand the Cambodian pyramid consists of the top tier CPL 1 with 8 clubs, as well as the CPL 2 which had 12 clubs last year. Whether it will have 12 clubs in the coming season, or take place at all is yet to be seen.

Below CPL 2 there is no officially arranged tournament save the regional rounds of the Hun Sen Cup, which to an extent acts as the third tier of Cambodian football.

To read about the Cambodian Premier League click here.

The Hun Sen Cup is not enough

Current rules state that foreign players are not allowed to compete in the national cup of Cambodia, a rule that despite being nought in to give young players a chance to shine in actuality means that players are hoarded to be run out in the Hun Sen Cup. If a club goes out early the players then get limited match time, meaning lack of chances and development until they are eventually released.

Quite simply the Hun Sen Cup is not a substitute for a reserve or developmental league in Cambodia.

To read about the Hun Sen Cup click here

What is the current setup?

As things stand clubs have academies where players train, as well as arrange friendly matches against other teams. The regularity and quality of this depends greatly on the club in question though, with outfits such as PKR Svay Rieng, PP Crown and Visakha having excellent programs, while others  simply do not.

Players not linked to clubs play for an array of academies, amateur clubs, or regional outfits, but again are largely restricted to friendly games, or regional Hun Sen Cup matches, without much recourse for improvement.

More football and how a reserve league would work

Essentially leagues would be organized regionally, with most clubs already being based in Phnom Penh, and at least four currently in Siem Reap. These developmental leagues would be kept regional to keep down costs, but could also include expat teams such as Real Phnom Penh, who would thus not be restricted by the foreign player rule.

The benefit of this would be quite clear, it would allow fringe and young players a place to develop and play competitively without the costs of traveling huge distances in a football landscaped that already lacks money.

Let reserve teams compete in CPL 2, or the Hun Sen Cup

If for whatever reason a developmental league cannot be arranged then another option would be to go down the Spanish route of allowing reserve teams to take part in the football pyramid.

Under this model the reserve teams of Visakha, Phnom Penh Crown, and PKR Svay Rieng  among others could be allowed to take part in the second tier, but would be unable to gain promotion to the league of their “host team”. This option would not only potentially save CPL 2, but might even help improve its competitive level.

To read about why CPL 2 should not be scrapped click here

The “Spanish” model is also something CPL Chairman Satoshi Saito should be quite adept at bearing in mind his time at FC Barcelona.

And while this route might not be popular among football purists, it not only arguably already exists, but puts practicality development and finances above tribalism. Regardless of what model is used though, Cambodia needs more football, not less if it wishes to develop.

This article is adapted from BPVE SPORT Cambodia, reported and edited from the great team – Cambodia Sports Review.


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