In looking towards the future of Cambodian football, I think anyone with a brain knows that a structured grassroots program of developing young and talented individuals is the way forwards for any country. You have to get the youngsters early enough, drill good habits into them by coaches who know what they're doing alongwith an enjoyment of the game, and avoid the bad habits that the adult players of today never had the opportunity to avoid. This needs the combined efforts of the football federation in offering up a development plan for the future, an organized schools program that features sports as a key element of the school curriculum and professional clubs to set up and develop their own quality youth programs. We are a long way away from that structure in Cambodia at this moment in time. Currently, only one club has an academy, essentially spending money now building for the future as their goal, whilst some clubs have youth teams on the go, but the federation has no plan that anyone is aware of and the schools involvement is completely missing. Meanwhile, other countries are light years ahead of us. Take the Philippines as an example. With the help of the German FA, they are evaluating their own grassroots program and already training 8-year-olds from all over the country with the AFC Youth and World Championships of 2017 and 2019 in mind. What long term planning does the Cambodian federation have? None that anyone knows about. They tick boxes by holding annual championships at various age levels but they are pretty meaningless as age-cheating is rife and the winners are easy to pick before the competition begins. Much of the grassroots work is being done by groups such as Indochina Starfish and the SALT Academy, rather than the football federation, who should be at the helm of a fully integrated youth development program.
Even if the federation wake-up, join forces with the government and introduce a serious development plan for the future, that won't improve the sorry, sad state that our national team find themselves in at this time. I've already said my piece about the national team coach, so I won't discuss his failures of the last fifteen months again. Instead, how the heck do we turn the tide around and start improving our performances. Besides appointing a new coach, with the right credentials and experience, there are some options that we can consider. Our preparation has to improve, dramatically in my view. There is a dearth of suitably tough friendly matches, our players are not tested against the best the region has to offer, outside of competition, and games against local clubs or university sides from Korea simply don't cut the mustard. Malaysia for example, sent their U-23 squad to Slovakia for months on end and have reaped the rewards with a string of successes. This is something the federation have failed miserably to manage properly and need to improve in the future. They also need to think outside the box, instead of their predictable boot camps in Vietnam. Another avenue to bolster the make-up of the national team is to consider reinforcing the squad with foreign-based Cambodian nationals. I'm not talking about naturalizing players such as Singapore and Vietnam are prone to do, but taking a long, hard look at players with Khmer parentage, who are currently playing for teams in the Unites States, France and elsewhere. In recent months a few names have been banded about the internet, and I think the federation should bite the bullet, invite the best of them for trials with the national team and take it from there. They have nothing to lose and the fresh impetus from a handful of new faces should have a positive effect on the current national team squad. You might ask how the federation would pay for such extravagances, well, they receive substantial annual handouts from FIFA and of course sponsors like Metfone and don't have a grassroots program in place at the moment, so they must be awash with money.