Friday, April 30, 2010
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Keo dreams of bright future for Cambodia
He is relatively unknown in Asian football but, in Cambodia, the name of Keo Kosal raises great hopes for the future. The 24-year-old midfielder is pursuing his dream of taking the Cambodian national team to the last four stage of a major competition - preferably as a player but if that is not possible, even as a coach.
Cambodia's best international performance was fourth at the 1972 AFC Asian Cup when they were known as the Khmer Republic from 1970 to 1975. Now a lowly 171st in the FIFA World Rankings, they are among the weakest teams in the world and did not even attempt to qualify for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Keo, with his competitive attitude, may be the one to change his country's fortunes. He hates to lose. The pain is especially bad when the national team are eliminated from a tournament, whether it is a regional ASEAN Championship or the continent’s flagship competition AFC Asian Cup. "I am just 24 and still an active player for my club and country. I wish to break this jinx before I retire as a player," he told www.the-afc.com. "If I am not able to make it, I hope I can carry on this mission when I become a coach in the future. Even if I don't become the national coach, I will still do my part to develop quality players for The Royals," said Keo, who is currently playing for the Royal Sword FC, also known as the Police Military team.
This is why Keo is among a select band of young coaches chosen for the AFC's Project Future programme, being part of the 2008 batch. Keo has represented Cambodia since 2004 when he was an 18-year-old. He is now the pillar of the team under the guidance of Australian Scott O’Donell, a former Director of the AFC Coach Education Department. An ex-Cambodian Army player, Keo led Khemara to the 2006 AFC President Cup semi-finals for the first time in Kuching, Malaysia. That grab-and-win feeling was so satisfying that it is etched firmly in Keo's mind. "No one likes to lose. I have experienced the sweet feeling of qualifying for the (AFC President Cup) semi-finals with Khemara before and I am very hungry for more success. The Cambodia national team deserves better and we have the ability to achieve something in the future," Keo said.
Keo certainly has big plans for Cambodian football. Although still primarily a player, he wants to learn as much as he can about coaching in order to serve his country beyond his playing days. "I must start young, the sooner the better. I know where I am heading and I need to get myself ready in advance," he said. "AFC's Project Future is a great long-term project and it will definitely help to kick-start my coaching career. I am honoured to be part of this project, which could be the platform for me to achieve something extraordinary in the coming years," said Keo, who is also studying for a Bachelor in General Management from the Phnom Penh Build Bright University. "In fact, I am also holding the role of youth development coach in my club. I think this job will help me understand more about what it needs to be a coach," he added.
Similar to AFC's 'The Future is Asia' motto, Keo believes that in Cambodia 'The Future is Youth'. He is dreaming to produce more players such as Hok "Jet" Sochetra - Cambodia's all-time greatest player who scored 42 goals in 64 internationals. Said Keo: "I strongly believe that the future of Cambodian football depends on the youth. I am involved in grassroots and youth development work in Royal Sword FC and there are many talented youngsters. I need to turn these youngsters into professional players. This kind of foundation work might take at least 10 years for fruition but I am willing to take up this challenge."
Keo is hoping to be O’Donell’s successor in the future. "Scott is a great coach who I admire very much. He teaches me so many things, from behaviour and discipline on and off the pitch, individual skills to tactics, fitness and detailed planning. I would like to become who he is after I hang up my boots. Even if I am not able to realise my dream of taking over the reins (of the national team), I will not give up on my country’s football. I will try my best to coach in Asia's top clubs, upgrade my knowledge and gain more experience. When I come back (to Cambodia) one day, I will surely teach and share with my colleagues what I have learned abroad. I believe this is the right way for Cambodian football to move forward," said Keo.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Monday, April 26, 2010
The Prince brushes aside the challenge of Sok Vannak as he powers through
All photos courtesy of: http://www.nicksellsphotography.com
PKR started the stronger, tackling with intent in the middle of the park and not allowing the reigning champions to get into their stride. The game burst into life on 13 minutes when new PKR recruit Devide Njoku's deflected shot crept in at the far post. Within two minutes Naga were level when Chin Chom's early centre found Teab Vatanak in acres of space, and possibly offside by a good 5 yards, and he finished with ease. The goals were coming thick and fast and on fifteen minutes Preah Khan grabbed the lead again. Teenager Prak Mony Udom weaved his magic on the bye-line, leaving two players on their arse and picked out Anthony Nzekwest at the far post with a perfectly flighted cross, dispatched by the PKR newboy with a powerful header. As the game ebbed and flowed evenly between the two teams, it was Naga who struck next. On the half-hour, Chin Chom's free-kick was headed against the bar by Teab Vatanak and when Devide Njoku lashed at the rebound, Joseph Oyewole popped up with a deft header to direct it goalwards and into the net.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
The Khemara rearguard action finally crumbled on 32 minutes when Sun Sopanha's 30 yard free-kick was touched onto the crossbar, leaving Oscar Mpoko with a simple tap in. A few niggly tackles began the second half and sent the match referee Tuy Vichheka on what is fast becoming his normal course of action, card flashing. He totalled 12 yellow cards in this game and on 66 minutes sent off national team skipper Kuoch Sokumpheak with a straight red. Sokumpheak was seconds late as Sani Saidu cleared but the defender's piercing scream was enough to shatter windows and convince Vichheka of the need for action. Saidu got to his feet within seconds of seeing Sokumpheak take his lonely walk.
Perversely, the dismissal of their talismanic skipper galvanized Khemara. Within three minutes, Ek Vannak fed Sophal Udom and the striker's first touch took him around Crown keeper Peng Bunchhay and he rolled his shot into the empty net for the equalizer. Two minutes later and Khemara took the lead. Samut Dalin broke quickly down the right flank and his firmly-struck low cross-shot was touched in on the goal-line by Sophal Udom to surprise everyone, including the Khemara bench. Sensing victory over their much-fancied rivals, Khemara were undone when The Prince struck two minutes into time added on. For the neutrals, the game was a great advert for the C-league.
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Wednesday Update: I can't make the game today as I've had severe stomach cramps all morning and caution is the key word, rather than spending a few hours at the Olympic Stadium with its less than rudimentary toilet facilities. Oh, and it looks like rain, which belted down for an hour yesterday lunchtime and flooded the whole city. I bumped into Prince Justine yesterday and he looks like he will be out of today's game with a thigh strain, which he felt go when scoring his unstoppable thunderbolt against Chhma Khmao a couple of weeks ago. It would be nice to hear that Prek Pra gave a good account of themselves but I fear a thumping is the most likely result, with Keo Sokngorn to net a hat-trick at least. This is the 15th game of the new C-League season and the first one that I've missed. Grrr.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
There will now be a week's break in the C-League for the Khmer New Year celebrations. The games will resume on Wednesday 21 April (3.30pm) when high-scoring Phnom Penh Crown take on struggling newboys Prek Pra Keila. I expect an avalanche. Come armed with a calculator.