Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Swell of support
I sense a swell of support amongst some of the footballing public here to give the soon-to-be-vacant Cambodian national team coaching job to a Khmer football hero of the past, Pen Phath. With South Korean Lee Tae-Hoon expected to vacate the hot-seat next month, Pen Phath's name has come into the frame, to coincide with a statement by the football federation that they are seeking a homegrown local to take charge of the national squad for the important AFF Suzuki Cup qualifiers in October. A federation spokesman suggested that now Cambodia has ten recently qualified AFC A-Licence coaches, then homegrown is the way to go. Personally, I feel that's a retrograde step at this time, when national morale is already at its lowest ebb for many years. My choice would be to appoint a suitably experienced foreign coach, with a thorough understanding of international football in this region, together with the best local coach for the two of them to work in tandem alongside each other, with a view to the local coach taking over in 12-15 months time. Only one local coach has any real bone fide international experience and that's Naga's Prak Sovannara, who had a previous stint in charge. None of the others, especially the recently qualified coaches, have the nous and know-how to operate at the level required, and that includes Pen Phath. A national team regular for a decade in the late 1960s, he later played in Thailand before moving to France where he played and coached at district level. He's also been involved in guiding the French-Khmer Select team that travelled to Phnom Penh in late 2010 and are returning for more games in August. However, that experience certainly doesn't pave the way to become the Cambodian national coach, anymore than one of the new A-qualified coaches, who have zero coaching experience at international level. Anything less than sticking with a tried and tested foreign coach will be courting further disasters to rival the twenty-one months of the Lee Tae-Hoon reign. I can of course sympathise with the desire to see a Khmer coach in charge of the national team but we have to face facts, and think with our head not our heart, as they aren't ready yet. It's simply too tough a task for any one of them to take on.