With its basketball history in bits and pieces, Cambodia are creating a new chapter for the future
PHNOM PENH (Cambodia) - The tragic period of the late 1970s in Cambodia dealt a huge blow to each and every aspect in the country. Basketball was obviously no exception as the history of Cambodia basketball was nearly wiped out from that time.
Bits of nostalgia concerning basketball survived the brutal moments, though it has been tough for the Cambodia Basketball Federation (CBF) to piece everything together. Whether it is pockets of interviews revealing the thriving basketball community around the country and invitational tournaments that Cambodia participated in, CBF has gone through an ongoing process to recover photos concerning these events. It is therefore a sad situation in which the young Cambodia ballers of today have not had many local inspirations or role models to look up to.
"We hope that this write up will reach surviving members of the past era to provide more information," said CBF Secretary-General, Koledoye Abayomi.
Cambodia had no choice but to move forward, leaving that all in that past for the time being.
"The new era of Cambodia basketball started growing from the late 90s with participation in regional tournaments mostly the Southeast Asian Games," Abayomi added. They have been gradually and consistently improving ever since.
The Southeast Asian nation has been consistently sending national teams to play in the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games ever since 1997 until most recently the 2019 edition in Manila. The men's team has made significant progress over the years, highlighted by a 5th-place finish at SEA Games 2015 in Singapore - their best performance ever.
Other than the SEA Games, Cambodia has been quite active as well, especially in recent years. In the early 2010s, they played in several international exhibition tournaments and games. In 2018, they were specifically busy whether it was hosting a U23 regional tournament participated by Vietnam, Laos, and Brunei or playing at the Asia Cup 2021 SEABA Pre-Qualifiers in Thailand.
CBF knows that there is great potential for basketball to grow in the country. They are determined to take Cambodia basketball as far as it can. Their main objective, as of this moment, is to make basketball visible in all 25 provinces, focused on each of the 5 regions: Phnom Penh, Battambang, Siem Reap, Steong Treng, and Sihanoukville.
To meet that objective and to increase the popularity of the sport, CBF has pushed to feature many basketball competitions for players to compete at every level. From Primary school games, Secondary school games, University games, the biennial National games, and the Cambodia Basketball League (CBL), CBF is determined to give as many opportunities for the next wave of ballers as they can to enjoy and fall in love with the game.
Also in the plans of developing basketball in Cambodia is CBF's efforts to promote 3x3 basketball. Because of the practicality of 3x3 basketball which makes it easier to expose top players to international competitions using limited funds and to attract sponsors, the federation is highly committed to make this project work for the future of basketball in the country.
The push to develop a new generation by the federation is also clearly evident by the grassroots development program.
"The Federation started a grassroots program four years ago at the U15 level with 12 players. At the moment, there are a total of 24 players in the program," said Abayomi.
"[These players] have been exposed to various international competitions like the Asia Cup 2021 SEABA Pre-Qualifiers in Thailand and SEA Games 2019 in the Philippines," said Abayomi. "These players are undergoing year-long training."
All of this falls in line with the strong commitments of recently re-elected CBF President Sean Borath to continue pushing Cambodia basketball forward. Borath laid out several plans to make this happen such as setting long-term strategies, coaching development, technical official development, media department development, among other important topics.
The focus on performing at the SEA Games is still in place, as stated in a commitment to prepare strong national teams for SEA Games 2021. However, it was also mentioned that the CBF push to participate in all SEABA events especially at the youth level as a qualifying step to participate in events at the regional level. Most importantly were the commitments to develop women's basketball as well as basketball at the youth level in order to create a mass basketball growth that will have multiplying effects in the next decade.
The history of Cambodia basketball might have been torn apart, difficult to piece back for the current generation to learn and take inspiration from. The CBF is making sure to put their efforts into writing a new history - their history - for the current generation and beyond to grow, develop, and enjoy the sport of basketball together.