Established in 1992, the Federation of Boules and Petanque of Cambodia (FBPC) – under the leadership of then-Minister in charge of the Council of Ministers Sok An – transformed the sport from an activity focusing on physical well-being into a competitive discipline.

The change was evident after the team’s first participation in the 2001 SEA Games in Malaysia, marking the beginning of its journey towards international achievements.

From 1992 to the present, the federation has emerged as the foremost group in securing the highest number of medals for the country in global competitions. By December 31, 2023, the federation had amassed an impressive total of 413 medals, including 117 gold, 145 silver and 151 bronze.

The Cambodian petanque team has set numerous records, enhancing its global standing. The team achieved five consecutive gold medals at the Petanque World Championships. 

Petanque legend Ke Leng, who retired in 2020, secured four consecutive titles and Ouk Sreymom added another victory at the event in Spain in November 2021.

However, the 32nd SEA Games in 2023, hosted by Cambodia, was a setback for the federation as it failed to win any gold medals, securing only six silver and four bronze, falling short of the goals set by the Cambodian SEA Games Organising Committee (CAMSOC) for gold medal achievements. 

To address this, the federation’s leaders met to discuss and devise plans to improve in various aspects.

During a recent meeting at the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia’s (NOCC) headquarters to review the outcomes of 2023 and set goals for 2024, it was announced that the group intends to increase its budget, focusing on advanced technical training.

“In 2024, we are committed to reinforcing and strengthening our federation, with 1.145 billion riel [$280,000] earmarked for reform. We have increased our new technical training, rising from five per cent last year to 20 per cent this year. Approximately 34 per cent [of the budget] is for domestic competitions and 32 per cent for overseas competitions. Currently, we have just 145 million riel [$35,550] left from last year, so we need to inject an additional 1 billion riel [$245,169],” said FBPC president Sok Sokan, the son of the late Sok An. 

Ouk Sreymom with Team Cambodia (right) at the 2020 World Games in Alabama, the US. The World Games

Sokan, who is also secretary of state at the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, said the federation will focus on enhancing the capabilities of institutions, associations and clubs across Cambodia in 2024, and on reinforcing training programmes related to techniques and strategies during matches, in response to the growing capabilities observed in the region.

“The 2023 SEA Games clearly showed that our regional opponents’ techniques have significantly improved. Therefore, our federation has determined that this year we must enhance our advanced techniques. We need to focus on promoting technical training, conducting monthly tests, introducing new disciplines alongside existing ones and aiming for high scores in these disciplines,” he explained.

Three coaching categories to advance sport

As part of the initiative, the federation will issue certificates for three coaching levels: Level C for coaches who can organise competitions; Level B for those able to coordinate tournaments and present on playing Boules; and Level A, the highest level, requiring proficiency in organising games, delivering presentations and analysing Boules to develop effective playing strategies. 

These qualifications must be acknowledged and approved by the executive committee of the FBPC.

Through this advanced coaching and technical training plan, the federation has trained seven A-level and three B-level coaches, all of whom were awarded certificates at a recent convention. 

Additionally, the group has appointed six new advisers, recognised for their commitment and contributions to Petanque in Cambodia.

“Starting in February, the federation will launch coach training programmes in the provinces, beginning with C-level coaching certificates. We will then conduct training for B and A level coaches in the provinces, aiding the development of Petanque and encouraging collective growth,” said Sokan.

The group is focusing on three key areas: strengthening collaboration between the federation, alliances and clubs in both the capital and provinces; consistently participating in international competitions and promoting local competitions, especially at the provincial level; and expanding the reach of Cambodian Boules and Petanque.

Minister of Interior Sar Sokha, honorary president of the federation, supported the introduction of A, B and C level coaching courses, viewing it as a positive step to develop human resources at the sub-national level.

“I believe this investment will bring results in the next five or six years. Although our Boules and Petanque sector hasn’t performed as well as expected recently, it remains a sport that showcases Cambodia’s stability internationally. However, we must focus on reform, aiming to enhance and strengthen the spirit by improving both the quality and quantity of all associations and clubs,” he said.

Sokha also congratulated Sokan for the group’s 2023 annual report, which highlighted many accomplishments in line with the federation’s action plan and direction, including successfully hosting the 32nd SEA Games and 12th ASEAN Para Games. 

Nevertheless, he noted that some outcomes hadn’t fully met expectations, urging all stakeholders to review and improve the federation’s operations, emulating the renowned success of previous generations of athletes.

“We must recognise that in recent years, our neighbouring countries have advanced, while our progress has been comparatively slower. Therefore, we should address this shortfall and encourage all athletes to adhere to the rules and guidelines established by the federation, associations and clubs,” Sokha said.

Petanque legend Ke Leng (right), now a coach, receives a certificate from FBPC president Sok Sokan. fbpc

“The federation acts as a coordinator, with associations and clubs playing a crucial role as primary actors in training and resource management. Therefore, reinforcing discipline in training is essential and national team coaches must be stringent with the athletes,” he added. 

Recommendations for the FBPC

Sokha offered seven recommendations for the FBPC to facilitate further progress. 

First, he urged the federation to identify and improve weaknesses, aiming to elevate athletes’ capabilities to national and international standards. Second, he stressed the importance of continuous training of human resources, including athletes, coaches, referees and technical officers, to stay abreast of global trends and evolving technologies.

Third, he advised the group to persist in boosting competitiveness at the club and association level in the capital, provinces and national teams, in line with public support and financial backing from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport.

Fourth, Sokha recommended studying and assessing the potential for growth among clubs and associations in the provinces, alongside improving and building competition infrastructure.

Fifth, he said the federation should encourage athlete competitions, involve volunteer youth and partners and mobilise resources for organising national and international competitions. 

Sixth, he suggested continuing to build close relations within the ASEAN region and globally, through agreements and initiatives to enhance the country’s international standing. 

Sokha’s seventh point emphasised the importance of participating in more international events to earn medals and awards for the national pride.

“The principle of success in sports, akin to success in our lives, cannot be achieved through shortcuts. Therefore, I urge the federation and the Boules and Petanque family to persist in their efforts to enforce rules and regulations for both athletes and management. Setting an example is crucial for success and it should begin with us. Considering our human resources and population size, we are not inferior to others,” he added.