On the 7th and 8th of November, Kampuchea Balopp gave the opportunity to 12 girls from our NGO partner Pour un Sourire d’Enfant (PSE) to participate in the 2015 edition of The Bangkok International Rugby Sevens. It was the first time that a women’s Cambodian rugby team has ever participated in such a big tournament outside of Cambodia, and those two days of intensive rugby are something that the girls will remember for the rest of their lives.
On the first day, after 1 hour of travelling on the BTS (Bangkok Transit System), we arrived at the Pattana School Fields, where three rugby fields were set up to organise this huge tournament of rugby. We did not have that much time to look around because we had only 30 minutes to warm up before our first game against Singapore, and we could see a mix of excitement and fear on the faces of our 12 players.
The objectives that our coaches, Ra and Khemara, gave to the players were simple:
Objective Number 1: Represent Cambodia Rugby well by giving everything on the field, and by being thankful and happy all the time out the field
Objective Number 2: Try to score at least 1 try
And if the two first objective were done: Try to win a game!
This first game against Singapore was a very good test to evaluate our level in this pool, and it started pretty well because after only one minute, Hong Sara, scored the first try of the game, which was a very big surprise for everybody!! Even if the Singaporean players were much more organised and played with a better technique than our Khmer players, our aggressiveness in defense and our determination managed to compensate for our physical deficit. At the end of the first half, the score was 7-7 and the players were really tired. In the second half, this tiredness made our players make too many hand mistakes which gave a lot of opportunities to our opponent to score tries, and the final score was 24-7.
This first opposition gave us a lot of hope for the rest of the tournament because we knew that with better organisation, we would be able to win a game.
We knew the second game against the Australian Navy was the most difficult one of the pool, most of the Australian players were over 25 years old (the age average of our team was 19 years old) and the difference of size and power was so big that we already knew before the beginning of the game that it would be a very tough game.
The final score was 39-5, and a positive was that we scored the last try of the game, and all the public gave us a big standing ovation because we were the first team of the tournament managing to score a try against the Australian Navy. The braveness and the determination that our players showed during the game really impressed the spectators, and from this game, we were maybe the most popular team of the tournament, everybody wanted to see a victory from the Cambodian team!
Unfortunately, we also lost our third and last game of the day against Bangkok University 17-0, but with two tries scored and all the support we received during the day, our girls were confident enough and as determined as ever to win the first game of the second day against The Banger Belles!
On Sunday morning, even if the players’ bodies were very sore, we could feel that the girls were really focused on their principal objective of the day: to win a game.
We had an advantage as the Bangers belles had played one game before us, so it was a good opportunity for everybody, the coaches and player, to observe and analyse the way the Belles were playing. The analysis of this game was quite simple: they were very strong physically but not that fast, so if we wanted to win the game, we had to make them run and avoid contact.
Just before the kick-off, the motivation of the girls was incredible, and our first half was just amazing: two tries scored, 1 conversion, very good defense, and the Bangers Belles never had any good opportunity to score. The second half was more difficult, and after 5 minutes of controlling the ball, the team from Bangkok managed to score a try. It was 12-5 with 2 minutes to go for the girls to try to hold on. Better than any defensive play, Sreyline and Soknov, our captain, did a fantastic action to score a third and last try below the post to assure our victory! When the referee ended the game, our happiness was so big that spectators could believe that we won the tournament! The players received a lot of congratulations from everybody, referees, organizers, and the other teams, everybody was fantastically happy for us!
Now that our three objectives were complete, the rest of the tournament was just a bonus; and the loss of our last game against another university of Bangkok did not affect our happiness and enthusiasm.
Kampuchea Balopp would like to thank:
– Dave Adamson, the tournament Director who manage to find a sponsor to support the cost of the bus ticket, accommodation and food for our team
– Pour un Sourire d’Enfant for working together with Kampuchea Balopp on this project. Special mention to Sun Malen and Pablo Zarauza for having helped and supported the team during the entire week-end
– WIG, for having sponsored Kampuchea Balopp to help us to buy rugby shoes and mouthguards for our players
– All the team and spectators who were present at the Bangkok 7s and supported the Cambodian team during each of their games.
This two day rugby tournament will stay for a very long time in our players’ minds, and we hope that it will mark the first step in a long history of Cambodian Womens rugby.