Thursday, July 5, 2012

Who's in the frame?

The word on the street, so to speak, is that the Cambodia football federation will announce the name of the new head coach of the Cambodian national football team within the next week. It'll be good when they finally get around to doing it as the important AFF Suzuki Cup qualifiers are coming up in three months time (5-13 October in Myanmar) and in between time we have the bulk of the second half of the Metfone C-League to get through, whilst Phnom Penh Crown will then be involved in the AFC President's Cup in late September and the National Police team are off to Vietnam for a cup tournament. Not exactly leaving the new head coach with much time to prepare. No doubt, the coach, once appointed, will want to test out various players for his senior squad and will call on the clubs to release their players for training and friendly matches. Which will be inconvenient to say the least, as the clubs go hell for leather to make the four play-off qualifying places in the domestic league championship and then the sudden death deciders. I can definitely see a club v country problem rearing its ugly head in the near future. Planning the season to allow the national team to prepare properly for these Suzuki Cup qualifiers obviously didn't enter the heads of the federation planners.

That said, the main interest will be the name of the new head coach. The federation spokesman has already stated that they want to go with a local man, claiming that the country is now suitably stocked with A-licence coaches who can do the job. If they believe their own hype then they are living in cloud cuckoo land. The country may now have ten or so coaches - no-one is quite sure as the federation haven't officially announced the results of an A-licence coaching course that was held here a few months ago - but having the certificate is a long way from being able to coach a national team in international matches. The one man with previous experience in the role is Prak Sovannara, the coach at Naga and the country's AFC coaching instructor. He must be in the frame for the top job again, as will no doubt his brother, Prak Sokmony, who recently returned from an unsuccessful AFC U-22 Asian Cup qualifying attempt in Laos as coach of the U-22s. Other names bandied about include Pen Phat, a Khmer national team player from the 1960s who's since resided in France and coached at lower league levels over there, whilst an outside bet might be Ieng Saknida, assistant coach in the ill-fated Lee Tae-Hoon era which is now drawing to an ignominious close. The main problem is that all of them, including Sovannara to an extent, lack the essential ingredient of solid international coaching acumen at a suitably high enough level. They simply don't have the benefit of coaching national teams under their belt. My preference would be for a proven foreign coach to come in, bringing his experience and brains to the team and to help guide some of the younger local coaches who could be groomed to take over at a later date. I don't believe Cambodian football is yet ready to stand on its own two feet at national team level - the country's FIFA ranking fell seventeen places to an all-time lowest position of 192 in this week's latest table - and it requires suitable experience, maturity, guile and expertise to recover from the disastrous series of results under the departing coach.

Cambodian football fans need to see some semblance of improvement in their national team. Everyone wants to see the team winning, but we have to walk before we can run and we have not seen anything to shout about for too long. In fact the senior team has not even played a competitive or friendly match for more than a year. So the Suzuki Cup in October will be a tough test, with Cambodia one of five teams seeking the two qualification places. Myanmar, Brunei, Laos and Timor Leste are the others. With a new coach, an unknown squad of players that are still to be determined, and just three months to gel it all together, the man that the federation finally get around to appointing, will certainly have his work cut out in order to succeed.


Andy Brouwer said...

A bit of additional information relating to the coaching set-up of the Cambodian national team.

The Cambodia U-22s have just returned from Laos, having failed to qualify for the AFC U-22 final rounds. The team's coaching set-up included no less than 4 coaches who were involved in the AFC A-licence coaching course held in Cambodia between 10 Feb-7 March. I'm not sure whether all 4 of these individuals successfully passed their A-licence as no official announcement has been made by the federation.
The 4 coaches are U-22 head coach Prak Sokmony (National Police technical advisor), Hok Sochetra (38 yrs old, Preah Khan Reach youth coach), Hok Sochivorn (28 yrs old, not attached to any club) and goalkeeping coach Suong Phirum (Army goalkeeping coach).

A 5th coach with the U-22s was Ieng Saknida (aged 32), who was also assistant coach to Lee Tae-Hoon. He used to play for Samart, Hello, Naga, Preah Khan and Khemara. He has coached the country's U13 and U14 national teams in the past. I believe he has a B-licence qualification.

Andy Brouwer said...

The Cambodia football federation are clear that they want a Cambodian coach to take over the national team. This quote from the federation's spokesman says exactly that.
“Looking ahead to the Suzuki Cup qualifiers later this year, the national team would be entrusted to one of the local coaches. We have 10 A-licensed coaches in the country now. We are confident one of our own can fit in,” said May Tola. (PPPost 30 May 2012)
In addition, May Tola was quoted as saying the following prior to the AFC U-22 competition in Laos, which didn't quite work out as planned...“The U22 Asian Cup is a brand new AFC concept. It is crucial that we perform well in Laos. This age group represents the nucleus for our future competitions like the AFF Suzuki Cup and beyond,” said Tola.

Disappointingly there has been no public statement by the Cambodia U-22 coach Prak Sokmony or the federation spokesman following the failure of the U-22s to qualify for the AFC U-22 competition. Either to comment on how the squad performed, identifying the positives from the competition or anything at all. Before and throughout the competition, any comments attributed to the squad came from one of the assistant coaches, Hok Sochetra. Perhaps the press simply aren't asking the questions that allows the federation and coaches to sleep quietly in their beds and not have to explain to the public about the national team's performances. It seems to be an easy life in Cambodia for a national coach.

Anonymous said...

when you pay peanuts you get monkeys.... u need quality no quantity ... and you need to experience 1st hand how to run a pro team (which there is non in Cambodia).... feel that cambodia is still trap in a time zone somewhere in the 1970s,,,, there doesnt seem to invest in any modern training aids...i sometimes wonder if the physios who run down to the pitch are even properly train,,,, The FA doesnt really wish to spend but wish to get the team forward... wishful thinking esp when most countries are having a proper experience coach that are well paid...