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Cambodia: Reactions to the 2010 World Cup Season

Cambodians are also celebrating the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Moto-taxi drivers, students, businesspeople, netizens, and even the Prime Minister are cheering for the Asian teams which are playing in the World Cup.

To attract more customers, bars have set-up big TV screens so that guests can enjoy watching the World Cup games. This is similar to how local business establishments often organize boxing matches to generate profit from sports fans.

“We have five screens and we hope to show every game. For every Tiger beer purchased we give a coupon, and five coupons gets you a commemorative World Cup shirt,” said Walkabout bar owner reported by the Phnom Penh Post.

At the same time, the World Cup also influenced much online coverage among Cambodian football fans. With the 2010 World Cup logo on his facebook profile picture, Sokhom Chheang keeps posting the match results and is happily cheering for winning Asian teams like South Korea and Japan.

Piseth Mao provided a subtitle to the video of the World Cup song for the benefit of his readers and other football fans. He also uploaded a picture of himself holding the World Cup ball. He has been following all match sessions regardless of his busy schedule and in one of his facebook status updates, he wrote:

“After the second Match:Argentina vs Nigeria, tonight, I have to finish my assignment then watch another match: USA VS England at 1:30am. Hope it won't be too much sleepy in class tomorrow.”

Female facebookers in Cambodia are also big fans of the World Cup. Aside from following up match results, Sophary Noy posted the world cup song, “Waving Flag”, in both English and Spanish versions and also the song by Akon and Keri titled “Oh Africa.” Similarly, Ramana Sorn, another female facebooker, became a fan of the Mexico team.

At the International University of Japan, Cambodian students also joined the celebration with Japanese friends who organized a gathering where students wore blue shirt dress representing the Japan national team to cheer together for the match between Japan vs Cameroon.

Acknowledging this frenzy event that previously attracted much betting activities, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen earlier warned people against betting on the World Cup. The Prime Minister said that he did not want to see “other countries win the football, but Cambodian people lose money.” Those who violate this order would face legal consequences. A few days ago, nine people were arrested for illegal gambling on the World Cup.

This order is similar to what Hun Sen issued during the 2009 crackdown on all football bookmakers whose gambling activities caused family disputes, domestic violence and robbery incidences. This was recalled by the Son of Khmer Empire who wrote that the Prime Minister also warned people during the 2006 World Cup that betting would make people lose their properties including cows, land and homes. The Son of Khmer Empire is impressed by the Prime Minister's order but also suggested that the government should also oversee the mushrooming of casinos around the country.

This anti-gambling ban has also alerted Cambodia's neighboring country, Thailand, where gambling is illegal. Thai Police are on high alert by setting up special 24-centers to crack down on betting ahead of the World Cup 2010. During this world cup season, crackdown on illegal football gambling reportedly has netted police over Bt500,000 and resulted in over 200 arrests.

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