In 2018, the Cambodian football seemed to be no different from previous years! They played a lot of matches, won a few and lost a whole lot of them. And despite some little changes here and there, there still doesn’t seem to be light at the end of the tunnel for the Beautiful Game in Cambodia.
Here, FOX Sports Cambodia Editor Piseth Mao looks back at the year 2018 and reviews various departments of the game in the country.
The National Team
The Football Federation of Cambodia (FFC) have changed two coaches in 2018. Prakan Sovannara was the coach of the Angkor Warriors after Leonardo Vitorino parted ways back in October 2017. During his stint, he guided the U21 national team to the final of the Sixth Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy U21 football competition in Brunei where they lost to Timor-Leste in the final.
In August 2018, the FFC appointed former Japan international Keisuke Honda along with Argentine coach Felix Dalmás as his assistant. Honda, despite having an envious track record as a player, is yet to have an impact on the national team and is juggling between his career as a professional player for A-League’s Melbourne Victory.
The national team relinquishes at 172nd portion in the latest FIFA World Rankings and taking into consideration the recent track record, they are bound to continue there for a while, as well.
Cambodian youth teams did not do very well in 2018. Initially, the U19s unde the guidance of Japanese coach Inoue Kazunori had the chance to qualify for the 2018 AFC U-19 Championship, but missed out on the qualification by fine margins as they finished second in the group behind China.
Meanwhile, the fortunes of U-15 team also doesn’t seem like improving after long-time coach Lee Tae-hoon of South Korea announced his departure from the Cambodian youth setup.
It has also been reported that many youngsters coming out of the National Football Academy are failing to find suitors and do not get to play for domestic league clubs.
However, one bright spot in the country’s football scene during 2018, was a recognition from FIFA. Cambodia was chosen to host the FIFA Executive Committee meeting this year. In addition, FIFA president Gianni Infantino has also decided to provide US $ 750,000 to $ 1,200,000 to Cambodia for the youth development as the national prepares to host the 2023 Southeast Asian Games.
The Cambodian League was marred with violence his seasons as one incident during a match between Svay Rieng Football Club and National Defense Ministry in June saw 15 players and official suspended for five months and fined 2 million Cambodian riel.
Nagaworld FC emerged as the champions of the Cambodia top division which ran from March to November. It was Nagaworld’s first title since 2009, but for a team that have spend nearly half a million dollars a season, the prize money they received for winning the championship was a mere US $ 12,000.
The sad state of the league is also visible in the attendance figures with the highest attended match of the season between Angkor Tiger and 2017 champions Boeung Ket only attracting a crowd of 4,257.
What’s new in 2019?
The Football Federation of Cambodia will host the first AFF U-22 tournament in early 2019. Additionally, there will be AFC U-23 qualifiers. In 2019, the FFC will also have to rework their youth setup and appoint a new youth coach. It is being reported that they are is currently negotiating with Japanese and South Korean trainers for the role.
FOX Sports Asia Report Card Rating: D
They might have recruited a high-profile coach in the form of Honda, but it looks like that won’t be enough to lift Cambodian football in the short term.
If they need to develop the football in the nation, the federation should set out with a comprehensive long-term project sooner rather than later!