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Status Quo for Albirex in S.League as they spread their Cambodian wings

Albirex Singapore Pte Ltd, the operating company of S.League club Albirex Niigata (Singapore), announced the establishment of Albirex Niigata Phnom Penh FC (ANPPFC).

The logo of the new club (via Albirex Niigata-S's FB)
The newly setup is a wholly owned subsidiary of Albirex Singapore in Cambodia and will be based in the country capital Phnom Penh where they are due for their debut in the “Metfone Cambodian League” (C-League) next year.

"Albirex Niigata Phnom Penh FC will also hope to raise the value of sports in Cambodia by operating a football club in Japanese style and contributing Cambodian society. Through these activities, we will try to be a role model as a leading company in the Japanese sports business." said the club in the statement on the motive behind their foray into the Cambodian football scene.

Scheduled to kick-off in January 2014, ANPPFC will fill up their roster using mainly Cambodian players with up to five import players allowed under the said league regulations that will be taken up by Japanese players.

That model is in contrast to its S.League concept which field an all Japanese lineup since making their debut in the Singapore professional football league in 2004.

Albirex Niigata (S) GM Koh Mui Tee (right)
When asked if the S.League club will implement the similar concept like its Cambodian venture, Mr Koh Mui Tee, the club's general manager, replied things will remain status-quo for the Singapore operations.

Responding to query from this blogger, Koh said:"Things will remain the same for Albirex Niigata (Singapore) in season 2014 using all Japanese lineup, whereas in C-League, we are allowed to sign up to five foreigners but only three can be fielded at one time during a match."

Koh added at this stage no specific target has set for ANPPFC to achieve in the new Cambodian season.

The news of new team came as a surprise to many in the Cambodian football fraternity, especially when one of the newly-promoted sides to the country's top flight is also a Japanese-linked team called Phnom Penh TriAsia FC headed by their chairman Tomoyuki Yokoi and supported by team manager-cum-coach Daisuke Yoshioka.

"It came as a shock when the news broke in the local media. There was much confusion initially as it wasn't clear how this new club (ANPPFC) would operate."said Mr Andy Brouwer, press officer for top Cambodian club Phnom Penh Crown of the inclusion of ANPPFC in an email interview.

Andy Brouwer (left) with the blogger back in 2011
It is believed the success of Abirex Niigata (Singapore) in the S.League convinced the Cambodian League to replicate a similar outcome in their own backyard with the admission of ANPPFC.

Nonetheless, the Englishman who blogs actively on the Cambodian scene via his blog, "Kingdom of Football", felt it would be more "challenging" for some C-League's big boys if ANPPFC are to adopt its parent's model in Singapore.

Explained Brouwer: "A new club with a full squad of Japanese players and management would've been a far more interesting development and a challenge to the bigger C-League clubs too than the watered-down version we appear to have on its way."

Kunihiro Yamashita (left) is one of many Albirex's alumni
On whether the influx of Japanese flavour would help to uplift the game's standard in the kingdom, like the White Swans done for the Singapore scene in recent years for one being a "nursery of imports" for the rest of the S.League clubs (eg: Tampines Rovers' Kunihiro Yamashita), Brouwer maintains a cautious stance.

He said:"There have been a couple of Japanese players in the C-League over the past two seasons, with varying success, so there's no guarantee that a new Japanese team will make a success of the venture.

Having said that, the Yorkshire native, however, believes Cambodian players playing for any Japanese-run club will be a good option.

"There will be a bonus for local players of course, able to join a club run in a Japanese style, which we assume will be professional in its outlook." said Brouwer.

In preparation for next year, a players selection trial for both Albirex Niigata FC Singapore and ANPPFC will be held in Japan in December 2013.


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