Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Soccer-Cambodia to beef-up national team to stem goals tide

Tue Apr 22, 2008
By Ek Madra

PHNOM PENH, April 22 (Reuters) - Cambodia is on a drive to recruit bigger players for its struggling soccer side after years of being hammered by more physical teams, the country's soccer chief said on Tuesday.

Soccer federation president Sao Sokha said the impoverished country's diminutive players had little chance against bigger, stronger opponents so it was time for a complete overhaul.

"We need to have bigger and taller players to play against tough foreign players," he told Reuters.

"The new recruits must meet the requirement of (being) at least 1.7 metres tall, young, strong and able to run fast."

Cambodia's team of labourers, security guards and policemen have conceded 21 goals in their last four matches. The team has never qualified for a tournament outside of Southeast Asia.

Introduced to soccer in the 1960s by French colonialists, Cambodia were fast improvers before a brutal civil war, which included genocide under the Khmer Rouge regime, curtailed their progress and led to a 23-year absence from the game.

Sao Sokha said 30 players had so far been recruited and would be paid up to $250 a month -- eight times the salary of a civil servant.

"Lots of people like to watch the game, but it is difficult to find qualified people to play it," he said.

"I urge all parents to let their children play soccer so that it will help us to find good players -- players who can attract spectators like rock bands do." (Editing by Martin Petty and Greg Stutchbury)

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