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
Over the years, the Cambodians have greatly adapted to western influences, which is also evident from their love for football. It was first introduced in the country by the colonial French during their rule.
The Football Federation Of Cambodia is the central body governing the country’s sport. The Federation was formed in 1933 and controls and manages the Cambodian League and the national football team.
The country’s national soccer team has been a FIFA member since the early 1950s and became a member of the Asian Football Confederation in the later part of the same decade.
To facilitate the growth of sports in the country, the government has also invested in developing the infrastructure. The Phnom Penh Olympic ground is the national arena for soccer, while another modern facility Morodok Techo National Sports Complex, is being built according to international standards. Phnom Penh will also host the Southeast Asian Games in 2023.
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
The next most popular sport on our list is basketball. The official basketball league in the country is called the Cambodian Basketball League (CBL). It was founded in 2013. The main competitive arena for the sport is the Beeline arena, where the local teams compete for the CBL title.
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.