Cambodia should start winning now, or it would be hard to revive the popularity of fencing.
In an interview last week, both Sok Ang, secretary general of the Fencing Federation of Cambodia (FFC) and French trainer Bruno Gaby acknowledged that it would be hard for fencing to become popular if the Kingdom continues to fare poorly in international competitions, particularly in the upcoming Southeast Asian Games.
Cambodia is sending a team of six fencers for the 30th SEA Games which is scheduled to be held in Manila, Philippines from November 30 to December 11. To prepare for the regional competition, the team is currently undergoing an extensive three-month training that started in August.
Fencing used to be one of the more popular sports in the Kingdom in the 1960s. It disappeared during the upheavals of the 1970s, and was only revived in the early 2000s by old fencers and sports officials, who teamed up to form the FFC.
“If we want many people to play or follow the sports, we need results. It is very important, especially this year,” said Mr Ang, referring to the SEA Games.
Mr Ang noted that Cambodia did perform well in several international fencing competitions, but these were not considered as prestigious as the SEA Games.
Cambodia won two bronze medals in fencing in the Asian University Championships held in Malaysia in 2017. That same year, the Kingdom also bagged a silver medal in the Asian Varsity Championships in Singapore.
To improve Cambodia’s chances in international competitions, Mr Ang said they need more support from the Government and private sector.
“There is support from the Government, but it is not enough,” he pointed. According to him, the Government pays for the food and salaries of National Team players and coaches, but little else after that.
He said that if they secure more support, they can send their players to train outside the country, with Korea as their first choice. “They are one of the best, if not the best, in the world,” he pointed out.
Mr Ang also disclosed that they went to many private companies to seek sponsorships, but were rebuffed most of the time. “They told us that fencing is not popular,” he noted.
Echoing Mr Ang, Mr Gaby said more people will start to join fencing clubs or play the sport if Cambodia does well internationally, especially in the SEA Games.
“If there is result, people will come,” he stressed.
The native of France noted that when his country started to win in international swimming competitions, many people started going to swimming practice. “The same thing could happen here,” he mused.
Cambodia’s entry for the Saberwoman (Women) team event is said to have the best chance of earning a medal in the SEA Games.