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Coach regrets loss of key player before SEA Games

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Cambodia’s Tes Sambath (left) prepares to play the ball during the AFF U23 Championship match between Cambodian and the Philippines. FFC

Coach regrets loss of key player before SEA Games

Cambodia's outstanding centre back Tes Sambath expressed regret, after injury ruled him out of the chance to compete at the upcoming Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) in Hanoi. The national football coach also shared his disappointment for the big loss to his team, saying the Kouprey will face serious challenges in the regional event.

Sambath picked up an ankle injury while playing for Visakha in the Cambodian Premier League against Kirivong Sok Sen Chey on March 19, and the club’s doctors say that the player will be out for at least three weeks. The 2022 SEA Games begin in two weeks.

Cambodian national coach Phea Sopheaktra told The Post yesterday: “Regarding Sambath’s injury, we know about it, of course, we just wanted to clarify how long recovery from this injury will take. According to the doctors at Visakha and the player himself, it will take another 3 to 4 weeks to recover. Thus, the prospect of this vital player joining the national team for the SEA Games seems very slight.”

“We will assess his injury in a few days. If he is unable to participate, it will be very unfortunate because this tournament is a big challenge for us. One of the reasons for our concerns at our prospects is that we do not have a lot of quality players. As the SEA Games restricts the age of players, Sambath was doubly valuable as a key player in the team,” he added.

The Kompong Speu born player also voiced his regrets after being ruled out of the important event.

“It will be my last SEA Games, so I feel really bad for missing it. It has long been my dream to play one more SEA Games,” said the centre-back.

The football competition at the SEA Games is for the Under-23 category and Sambath will be overage when the next edition takes place, at home in Phnom Penh.

“I was hopeful I would be able to play at the games and help my country. I wanted to show everyone what I could do for Cambodia. Sadly, my ankle injury has ruined my SEA Games dreams. I hope the team do well, and wish them the best of luck,” he said.

The 22 year old defender – who developed through Bati Youth Football Academy – was called up to join the national team at the age of 15, before continuing to make appearances with the Under-19 and Under-23 teams.

For the AFF U23 Championship 2022 which Cambodia hosted, he assumed the captaincy. He was bitterly disappointed when Cambodia was eliminated in the group qualifying after beating Brunei 6-0 and the Philippines 1-0 before losing just 1-0 to East Timor in their final group match.

“I really wanted to play in this tournament after the home loss to East Timor. I felt hurt by those who looked down on my country – and those who hated me personally – and I was determined to let them know what I have and change their minds. Unfortunately, injuries won’t let me,” Sambath said.

Drawn in Group B, the national men’s football team will face Laos in their opening match on May 9 before taking on Singapore two days later. They will play Thailand and Malaysia on May 14 and 16 to conclude the group stage campaign, with the group winners and runners-up going through to the semi-finals of the tournament.


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