A new women’s football league kicks off this weekend with 10 teams set to face off, an effort by the national football federation to recruit top female players to compete at the 2023 Southeast Asian Games to be hosted by Cambodia.
The Cambodian Women’s League, which includes four existing women’s teams from professional football clubs, will hold its first matches on Sunday with the debut season running through December, said Puth Thyda, vice president of the Football Federation of Cambodia’s women’s football committee.
“The creation of the women’s league is to develop women as well as to be ready to host the 2023 SEA Games,” Thyda said on Tuesday.
About 25 of the best female players will be selected to train in China for three years in the run-up to the SEA Games, she added.
Next year, the Cambodian national women’s team will also participate in the SEA Games in Vietnam, Thyda said.
Phnom Penh Crown Football Club women’s team coach Mao Savin welcomed the creation of the new league to support female players — something she said she has been waiting on for years.
“I have been waiting for a [women’s] football league that was developed by the Football Federation for a long time, but I did not get the chance as a player,” said 27-year-old Savin. She started playing football at 15 and began coaching the Phnom Penh Crown women’s team in late 2018.
“But I am happy that the Football Federation created this league … to give women a chance to develop themselves,” she said.
Cambodia’s female footballers are still in short supply, in part because of interference from family members who think football is just a man’s game, according to Savin.
But the new league would attract more women to play football, and if Cambodia had a strong league, the national team would have a better chance against neighboring countries like Thailand and Vietnam.
The coach asked parents of daughters who love to play football to allow them to play, which would grow the pool of footballers in the country, and increase the likelihood of Cambodian women being recruited by foreign football teams.
“If we have better resources, and I think that when we have a [stronger] national team, neighboring countries could be interested in the ability of our players,” she said.
Vath Chamroeun, secretary-general of the National Olympic Committee, said the first women’s league was also meant to encourage clubs to develop women’s teams and measure the abilities of players at the highest level by having them participate in more games.
“This is a new turn and it is [moving] in the direction and strategy to be ready for SEA Games 2023,” Chamroeun said.
The footballers selected for long-term training in China would be among 110 Cambodian athletes from 12 different sports that would begin training later this year or earlier next year, he said.
The women’s football team would have an edge at the SEA Games since only five or six nations compete in the female football division, while other sports have a greater number of teams competing, according to Chamroeun.
“It is an advantage and the female team can have a chance at more success than the male team,” Chamroeun said.
The Cambodian Women’s League’s first season will include 45 matches played on Sunday afternoons, with the first games to be played this Sunday, and playoff matches set for December.
Savin from Phnom Penh Crown said her team has been practicing for two months in advance of their first match on Sunday and is well prepared to play home team Preah Khan Reach Svay Rieng.
“We will do whatever it takes to make sure our players play better,” the coach said. “We cannot guess our odds [of winning] but the important thing is their hard work.”