FIFA rejects govt intervention into Cambodian FF

The world football body, FIFA, reportedly will not recognise the recent presidential election held by the Cambodian Football Federation, may suspend it's US$250,000 annual funding to the Kingdom's football administration and may ban Cambodian teams from international play, according to a document obtained by the Phnom Penh Post. The independent English-language newspaper quoted a letter addressed to the CFF and signed by FIFA president Joseph S Blatter stating that "all the documents received by FIFA conclude that Article 17 of the FIFA statute has been flagrantly violated on the grounds of political interference ... FIFA is not in a position to recognize the so-called election."

The letter further directed that if the incumbent CFF leadership is not reinstated by 5 May "it would force the FIFA president to propose the suspension of the CFF with its consequences in terms of prohibition of all football contests at world, continental and regional events."

According to the newspaper, FIFA's action follows accusations by officials that Khek Ravy had held the CFF presidency unlawfully since 2003. The charges led to a snap election on 25 April in which Ravy was replaced unanimously by Sao Sokha, head of the military police and formerly a chef for Prime Minister Hun Sen. Sokha also runs a military police club team ranked fourth in the Cambodian Premier League standings.

"I became president of the CFF because I wanted to help develop football in Cambodia," Sokha told Charles McDermid of the Phnom Penh Post. "We can see that football in Cambodia has remained poor and lacks technical skill. I have just started work and to understand the situation in the CFF. I am not sure whether FIFA will suspend its funding." However Bon Sok, Secretary of State for the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, has admitted receiving the FIFA letter.

The newspaper further claimed that the status of the CFF headquarters outside Phnom Penh is now in question. "The facility, which has a training center and a football field, was built with a $400,000 FIFA grant under the auspices of the Goal Program. Also in doubt is the status of the Cambodian national team. Before the 2005 SEA Games, Prince Norodom Ranariddh (pictured with Revy on left) abruptly replaced the CFF-sponsored national side with his private team Khemara which has represented the country ever since," it commented.

"Right now there is no national team," Ravy confirmed. But Australian Scott O'Donell, the current CFF technical director and former national team coach, said he had met with Sokha recently and was optimistic that CFF management would soon be able to concentrate on football. "I think we should be able to compete with the Philippines, Brunei and Laos. All it comes down to is the right preparation and training. There are some really good players here," said O'Donell, who also serves as a football analyst for ESPN/Star Sport. His contract with the CFF expires in 2007.