Japanese owner plots ambitious rebirth for Cambodian Tiger FC

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’s Tri Asia Phnom Penh FC will be reborn as Cambodian Tiger FC for the 2015 season, the club announced at their kickoff event in Tokyo earlier this week.

The team finished fifth last season in their Cambodian League debut but faced dissolution after heavy financial losses. The team was purchased in March by Akihiro Kato, chairman of sports and branding consulting firm Forward.

“Our goal is to become ASEAN’s number one club,” Kato told Football Channel.

“Currently we can only scout for players in and around Phnom Penh, but we also want to invest in our youth system and be able to discover and develop players from around the country.”

Kato’s ownership ensures a continued Japanese presence in the league, which is partnered with ’s J-League, following the sudden closure of Albirex Niigata Phnom Penh.

But with 10 of the top division’s 11 clubs based in the capital city, there is a considerable struggle to build a fan base and remain economically viable.

In order to establish ties with rural areas of the country, Cambodian Tiger intend to distribute over 5,000 footballs to local children as part of their One Child, One Ball Project.

“We want to be a symbol of hope for Cambodia and inspire people around the country,” Kato said in describing the project, which will be funded by sponsors and supporters from Japan.

In a separate fundraising effort, popular Japanese mascot Ippei-kun is using crowdfunding site Camp Fire to raise nearly $6700 in order to give Cambodian Tiger a mascot of their own.

The frog, who serves as the unofficial mascot for J2 League side Ehime FC, has been spotted in stadiums around the world in support of Japan’s national team.