Football is the most popular sport in Cambodia. In recent years, the team has seen an influx of young players, which has inspired many to try their hand at the sport and learn how to play it well. Today it is played by people of all walks of life and ages in the 25 provinces of the tropical country of Cambodia.
Let’s learn about the history of football in Cambodia, how the sport gained such popularity in the country and its current status.
History of football in Cambodia
Early 20sth century, French settlers in Cambodia first introduced football to the country. In the years that followed, the sport became very popular throughout the country. This led to the creation of the Football Federation of Cambodia (FFC) in 1933 as the sport’s official governing body.
The FFC became a member of FIFA in 1953 and four years later the federation became a member of the Asian Football Confederation. The team played their first international match against Malaysia in 1956.
Cambodia mostly played friendly matches between 1956 and 1972 while football was taking root in the country and the quality of the sport was improving. However, a civil war was brewing in the home front, and during this time Cambodia did not participate in any of the AFC qualifiers or the World Cup.
In the 1970s, the country’s prime minister, Sihanouk’s regime, was overthrown and the Khmer Republic was formed. This event had significant political repercussions, but also ushered in a golden period in the history of football in Cambodia.
In 1972, the national football team qualified for the AFC and finished fourth in the tournament after losing to Thailand. In the midst of political upheaval in the country in 1982, a national football championship was formed. The event was attended by various government agencies, including the talented team of the Ministry of Communications.
However, at that time, football clubs were not allowed to participate in regional events and the national team did not play internationally except for one or two odd matches against teams from Laos or Vietnam. The team returned to international football in 1993, but failed to achieve notable success in any tournament. However, football has seen a resurgence in the country in recent years and there has been a renewed interest in the sport among residents.
Cambodia national football team
The Cambodia national football team was formed in 1933 and has been playing internationally since 1956. To date, the team’s most notable achievement is its fourth place finish in the 1972 Asian Cup while playing for the Khmer Republic national team. The team was not internationally active during the Khmer Rouge era in the 1970s and the Vietnamese invasion.
The team returned to international football in 1993 and took part in the Tiger Cup, where they were defeated in all matches. The team played in World Cup qualifiers in 1998 but were unsuccessful. The team also withdrew from the 2006 World Cup qualifying rounds.
At the regional level, the national team competed in the AFC Asian Cup qualification in 2000 but withdrew in subsequent years, in 2004 and 2007. The team competed in the AFF Championship 8 times in 1996 and qualified for the group stage in all championships. rounds since its first appearance. The national team did not qualify for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. She reached the second round of 2022 World Cup qualification but failed to advance.
Football in Cambodia in recent years
In recent years, Cambodia has experienced a resurgence in football in the country after receiving investment from China to develop the sport. Over the years, great talent has emerged in the country in the form of young players, including Keo Seokfeng and Chan Watahanaka, two of the most respected footballers in contemporary Cambodia. Under the direction and leadership of Keisuke Honda, who opened a football academy in the country, the team is improving in terms of the quality of the game.
Domestic football competitions in Cambodia
The Cambodian Professional League, also known as the C-League, is Cambodia’s top professional football league. The league was formed in 1982 when Cambodia was the People’s Republic of Kampuchea.
The Cambodian Professional League currently consists of eight teams run by the Cambodian Football League Company. It follows the promotion and demotion system of the Cambodian League 2 which was formed in 2016 and is the second largest professional football division in the country.
Phnom Penh Crown is the most successful football club in Cambodia. He has won the domestic championship eight times and is also the reigning series winner. The club has played twice in the AFC Cup.