Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday took on the role of an inspirational midfield player, figuratively at least, as he used the inauguration of a new football academy in Takeo province to draw a light-hearted analogy likening the CPP to a football team preparing to beat the opposition in the upcoming national election.
Speaking to football players, trainers and villagers at the new National Training Center in Takeo province’s Bati district, Mr. Hun Sen said that his political role was akin to the midfield general in a 3-4-3 setup, a free-wheeling, attacking formation employed only when a team must throw caution to the wind—or when its skill and superiority over the opposition is in little doubt.
“To prepare for the next election, I have arranged the team in a 3-4-3 formation, which means that those who would be defenders can also increase the attacking forces, which reveals something of our game plan,” he said, adding that National Assembly President Heng Samrin is like a goalkeeper, while Senate President Chea Sim is the team coach.
“And Hun Sen is the captain, playing as I do in politics as a midfielder, who can either attack or defend, or pass the football to other players to attack,” he added.
Continuing the metaphor, Mr. Hun Sen said that one unnamed opposition politician plays like an individual and not a team player, making it easy for the CPP to counter his attacks.
“Some people play alone—I am not saying who, but someone who is not CPP. He plays alone, so when he attacks, we single him out for attack too, because he comes out on everything, every issue,” he said.
It is well known that the prime minister is a football fan. In June 2010, he said he was keeping up to date with the Euro 2010 tournament and professed his admiration for England star Wayne Rooney.
But on Tuesday, he fondly recalled one notable outing as a real-life football player. In September 2011, Mr. Hun Sen was cheered on by about 50,000 spectators in Olympic Stadium when a team of Cambodian government officials, military leaders and businessmen recorded a 10-7 victory over Thailand’s ruling Pheu Thai Party. During the match, Mr. Hun Sen scored a hattrick and led his team to victory in the No. 9 shirt.
“During training for [that] game, one of our officials had a heart attack,” he said, referring to Sok Chenda, secretary-general of the Council for the Development of Cambodia.
“But I was lucky, I was fine, though the other players did pass the ball to me a lot to shoot,” he said, adding that he was fit and young enough to continue as prime minister again in the 2018 elections. “It is not that old, I will only be 66 years old.”
The new training center, which covers 15 hectares of land and consists of four playing fields and eight buildings, is intended to provide training and accommodation for the national football team’s players and coaches.
“The center will be the heart and brain of football development here,” said May Tola, deputy secretary-general of the Football Federation of Cambodia (FFC), adding that the center will select 20 to 25 young trainees annually and provide them with accommodation, education and football training.
However, he said that the facilities are available for anyone to use—even the prime minister.
“The fields are for Cambodian people to use. But personally, if Samdech [Hun Sen] uses the center, it will be a great honor for the FCC and set an example to our football players,” Mr. Tola said.
(Additional reporting by Chin Chan)
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