5 most popular sports in Cambodia

The popularity of sports has increased considerably in Cambodia during the last thirty years. The country has a relatively tumultuous past, with unrest prevalent throughout the region due to hostile relations and altercations with other countries and among themselves.

While the unrest in the past left little room for recreational activities like sports, the country has come a long way since then. However, the traces of the troubled past are still evident in various aspects, and it is not unusual to see a majority of individuals indulging in traditional sports that are variants of martial arts and kickboxing.

However, in recent years, we see a considerable influence of the west in Cambodia, with the locals taking more interest in various international; sports like volleyball and soccer, etc.

So what are the most popular sports in Cambodia? Let’s find out.

Football In Cambodia

Football has a significant presence in Cambodia, deeply influenced by Western culture, notably from the period of French colonialism. The sport’s governing body in Cambodia, the Football Federation of Cambodia (FFC), was established in 1933. This organisation oversees the development of football in the country, including the national football teams for men, women, and youth, as well as the national championship and various competitions.

Cambodia’s affiliation with international football organisations is well-documented. The country became a member of FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) in 1954, affirming its participation in global football. Later, in 1996, Cambodia also joined the ASEAN Football Federation, further integrating into regional football dynamics.

The FFC is headquartered in Phnom Penh and has been instrumental in promoting football across all levels within Cambodia. Their efforts are supported by investments in infrastructure to facilitate the sport’s growth, including significant venues like the Phnom Penh Olympic Stadium and the Morodok Techo National Sports Complex. These facilities not only serve as stages for domestic football activities but also as a testament to the government’s commitment to sports development.

The Southeast Asian Games, hosted by Phnom Penh in 2023, highlighted Cambodia’s capabilities in organising major sports events and marked a milestone in the country’s sports history, showcasing its modern sports infrastructure to a regional audience.

These developments reflect Cambodia’s ongoing commitment to football, from grassroots initiatives to international competitions, under the guidance of the FFC. The federation’s role in managing the sport’s development, coupled with the government’s infrastructure investments, points to a bright future for football in Cambodia.

Sepak Tekraw In Cambodia

Sepak Tekraw, also called kick volleyball is commonly known as si or chinlon in Cambodia. The sport is quite popular in Southeast Asia and is also a part of the Southeast Asian Games.

The game is played between two teams having 2 to 4 players. It is played on a court that is similar to a badminton field and has a net. The ball used in the game is made of rattan or synthetic plastic.

Instead of their arms, players use their heads, chest, shoulder, knees, and feet to touch the ball. Sepak Tekraw is called a mix of volleyball and football as it entails the use of a net like a volleyball, while the players use their feet which make it similar to football.

Bokator and Pradal Serey In Cambodia

Bokator is a traditional sport that is also very popular in Cambodia. It is similar in some ways to Muay Thia but is unique to Cambodia and holds historical significance.

Bokator is an ancient martial art form that originated in the era of the Khmer Empire and was developed in the capital city of Angkor. Bokator continued to thrive in the country between the 9th and 15th century as it was promoted as a need to train the warriors.

The warriors invented the martial art form to use for combat and self-defence. Even today, you can find numerous carved illustrations of Bokator combats from that era on the walls in Angkor Wat.

Another traditional combat sport quite popular in Cambodia is Pradal Serey. Also called Kun Khmer, it is a full-combat martial art sport. The game entails stand-up and clinch fighting and involves using four kinds of strikes, including knee strikes, kicks, elbows, and punches.

Basketball In Cambodia

Basketball in Cambodia has witnessed a notable growth in popularity and participation over the past decade. The Cambodian Basketball League (CBL), established in 2013, has become the premier basketball competition in the country, showcasing local talent and attracting international players. Contrary to earlier information, the games are now held at the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia in Phnom Penh, highlighting the sport’s increasing stature within the national sports landscape.

Efforts have been made to bolster basketball from the grassroots level, with initiatives aimed at identifying and nurturing young talent, particularly in preparation for Cambodia’s participation in regional competitions such as the Southeast Asian Games. The Cambodia Basketball Federation (CBF) has been pivotal in these efforts, emphasizing the development of both the men’s and women’s teams through various programs and partnerships with entities like the Yuetai Group to promote youth development in sports.

Despite challenges such as limited funding, facilities, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on sports activities, the CBF remains committed to improving the country’s standing in international basketball. Cambodia’s national teams have participated in FIBA events and the SEA Games, seeking to enhance their performance on the international stage. Although past performances at the SEA Games have been modest, there is a clear intention and strategic action plan to advance Cambodian basketball, focusing on selecting the best players for the national 5×5 and 3×3 teams.

The introduction of a high school basketball league is a significant step towards achieving this goal, aimed at increasing the sport’s popularity among young Cambodians and fostering a competitive spirit from an early age. This initiative, alongside continuous support for the CBL and the strategic action plan laid out by CBF officials, signals a bright future for Cambodian basketball as it strives for better performances internationally and grows the game domestically.

Petanque In Cambodia

Petanque was first brought to Cambodia by the French. The sport entails using boules or balls that the player or the teams play toward the target ball. The main aim is to score points by having the ball closer to the target than the opponent once all the balls have been thrown.

The main governing body for the sport in the country is Cambodian Boules and Pétanque Federation. In 2019, the National Pétanque Championship was organised in which 327 athletes from 25 provinces of Cambodia took part.

While the above-mentioned sports are quite prevalent in Cambodia, rugby is another popular western sport that is rapidly becoming popular. It was also introduced during French rule. Currently, it is governed by the Cambodian Federation of Rugby which manages the Cambodian national rugby union team.


Can You Bet On Cambodia Sports?

In Cambodia, sports betting holds a unique position within the broader context of gambling regulations. The Cambodian sports landscape is vibrant, with traditional and modern sports, including football and the national sport of Cambodia, Kun Khmer (Cambodian kickboxing), drawing significant interest. However, the legal framework for sports betting Cambodia is quite restrictive for local residents. Cambodian law permits gambling, including sports betting, primarily for foreigners within designated zones and venues, such as casinos. Cambodians are generally prohibited from participating in gambling activities, with exceptions being made for national lotteries.

Online sports betting exists in a grey area. While the Cambodian government has ceased issuing new online gambling licenses and plans to let current ones expire by 2024, many international sports betting sites continue to cater to Cambodian players. These sites offer a wide array of betting options on both local and international sports events, operating in a legal limbo where they are accessible to players in Cambodia but not explicitly legalised by Cambodian law.

For those interested in engaging with sports betting in Cambodia, it’s crucial to choose platforms that are reputable and offer secure betting environments. Despite the restrictions, some sites provide competitive odds, live betting, and various bonuses to attract Cambodian punters. It’s advisable for bettors to look for sites offering robust customer support, secure payment methods, and responsible gambling tools.

In summary, while sports betting is a popular activity among Cambodian sports enthusiasts, it is crucial to navigate the legalities and ensure responsible participation in such activities, especially considering the legal constraints and the focus on attracting foreign investment and tourists through regulated gambling sectors.

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