Backgrounder: Sports in Cambodia

By Elliot Ambrose

  • Cambodia has increasingly become involved in international and Western sports in the last 30 years. Such sports include volleyball, bodybuilding, golf, and baseball. Organized sports, however, are not as common as in other parts of the world due to economic conditions.
  • Many traditional Cambodian sports such as Pradal Serey, Bokator, and Khmer wrestling, forms of martial arts, nearly died out during the reign of the Khmer rouge but have seen a major resurgence since the end of the dictatorship. Numerous gyms providing classes and instruction have opened since. Other traditional sports such as water buffalo racing and elephant trekking are also still practiced.
  • Water sports are popular in Cambodia, especially in the regions around the Mekong River. Traditional Boat racing is especially popular during the time of the water festival which occurs before the start of the rainy season.
  • Football (Soccer) was introduced by the French and has long been popular in Cambodia, but was also affected by the Khmer Rouge. Many of the best players died or left the country during this time. The national team was rebuilt under German supervision and has been a member of FIFA since 1953. The team placed fourth in the 1972 Asian Cup.
  • Cambodia first participated in the Olympics during the 1956 Summer Games sending equestrian riders. Cambodia also hosted the GANEFO games, an alternative to the Olympics, in the 1960’s.

Sources:  http://www.sportincambodia.com/ ,  Britannica.com, Wikipedia.com

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