Opening of the Barclays Capital League for 2011/2012

Sunday 27 November 2011, it’s the start of the Barclays Capital League. What a glorious day!

I had the opportunity to be in Phnom Penh the week leading up to the League; what an amazing job Samedy, Vattana and the coaches did in organising the event, gear, teams, transport and weather!

The opening day is designed to be a fun day. It is a round robin so teams can clean the cobwebs out of their systems after a long wet season lay off as well as catch up socially with players from other teams. It also gives new teams a taste of what is to come.

This season we have added a second girls division and an U10’s division made up of mostly boys, however several teams have entered mixed squads. For the first time we’ve successfully integrated a boys team made up entirely of deaf players into the U14’s boy Premier Division and a girls deaf team in the U18’s division. Both teams were new to playing in a football competition, however, they showed great spirit and talent and will enjoy the season.

All the hard work that ISF coaches and referees have put into learning sign language has paid off; it was special to see them communicate so easily with the deaf players. The level of interest in sign language raised dramatically throughout the day. It was great to see so many people signing “Good Luck” by the end of the day.

Hagar’s House of Smiles for intellectually and physically disabled children came for the morning. Little steps were taken as the morning progressed. By the time House of Smiles departed, they had taken over the commanding position at the centre of the 4 fields and to their delight had seen one of their own girls, Pagua, play for the ISF girls team. As Kate has been heard to say, “watch this space”!

On-field performances have whet spectators appetites for the League, with some very impressive games in the U14 Boys Championship. The final of that division was between the PP Crown team (the U13 elite academy) and ISF. Two well matched teams, played a very skilful and attacking game; nil all at full time with IFS going down 4-3 in a penalty shoot out.

Days like these are long, the heat tires you out as you sit there at the end of the day and try to take it all in. You still see 25-30 children running up and down the pitch, kicking a football, laughing, just having fun like I did as a child.

To Scott O’Donnell and Phnom Penh Crown Football Club, thank you for allowing us to use one of the best football pitches in Cambodia for our League.