When Leonardo Vitorino was appointed as Cambodia’s head coach in March, he wanted and expected to be Phnom Penh for the long-haul. Yet just seven months and eight games later he has resigned. This may be a familiar story in Southeast Asia but there are always goings-on behind the scenes.
As the resignation suggests, it didn’t work out as the Brazilian, who has plenty of experience in Southeast Asia with Laos and Thailand, had hoped. One problem was, Vitorino told FOX Sports Asia, was the discipline, or lack of it, within the squad.
“When you come to the national team, players need to be proud,” Vitorino said. “Some players came to the national team for a holiday, they are idols but only in Cambodia. I left some players out, they were drinking a day before the game. Some were late for training and had so many excuses but I had already seen photos of them out.”
This was not what the coach had expected. “I did not come here to be the police, I want to be coach.”
That was not the main issue. The main problem, according to the former goalkeeper, was that his employers did not support his efforts to change the culture in the team.
“I wanted to have some discipline but it did not happen. I had to punish them but outside of me, nothing happened. I started feeling alone. If you fight alone against bad behaviour, I saw that I couldn’t change it by myself, so it is better I left.”
During his tenure, Vitorino insists he tried to make changes but it was a struggle.
“I wanted to bring in some new players and lose some of those not giving their best but I was told that I could not do this.”
“If Cambodia wants to improve then the players need to have more discipline. There are some talented players and some very good young players. To solve everything in a short time is not easy.”
Futebol Internacional Leonardo Vitorino deixa o selecionado do Camboja O técnico Leonardo Vitorino deixou o comando do selecionado do Camboja, nesta sexta-feira (20 de outubro). Após uma reunião com a diretoria da Federação Cambojana, o brasileiro anunciou o seu desligamento, ocorrida na cidade de Pnum Pen, capital do país. Em sete meses de atuação, já que o trabalho foi iniciado no dia 02 de março deste ano, Vitorino conseguiu resultados importantes, inéditos e históricos, além de deixar um legado positivo para o futebol local. “Agradeço a oportunidade, mas em comum acordo decidimos encerrar o vínculo. Creio que pude contribuir para a evolução do selecionado nacional, do trabalho de formação, com o início de um projeto de busca de talentos, e com o futebol local, através do contato com os treinadores das equipes que jogam a liga”, relatou Vitorino. Radicado no exterior há vários anos, a expectativa do treinador, que realizou trabalhos sólidos e vencedores em diversos países, é permanecer um tempo no Brasil e, quem sabe, comandar alguma equipe nacional. “Retorno ao Brasil no final do mês de outubro. Mas, estou aberto a conversar com equipes que tenham projetos sólidos, sérios e de longo prazo”, explicou Leonardo. Ao longo de sua carreira, Vitorino viveu experiências importantes em diversos países, comandando algumas seleções: Australiana Sub-17, Norte-americana Sub-15 e a principal de Trinidad e Tobago e também do Camboja. Além disso, trabalhou na base do Botafogo-RJ, no time principal do Santos (Angola) e em equipes do Paraná e do Rio de Janeiro. Foi técnico e coordenador da base, além de assistente técnico do principal no Al Gharafa (Qatar); coordenador da base do Al Jaish (Qatar); diretor técnico do Buriram United (Tailândia); e técnico do Lanexang United (Laos), conquistando o título da Liga local e chegando ao vice-campeonato da Toyota Mekong Cup Championship – 2017. #soccer #Cambodia #Football #sport #Esporte #koora #AFC #Aff #asia #asean
On the pitch, change was slow but the 43 year-old was confident that progress could have been made. As a team ranked 170 in the world, Cambodia traditionally lose more games then they win and all but one of Vitorino’s eight ended in defeat.
The toughest game of the Brazilian’s tenure was the early trip to Jordan in qualification for the 2019 Asian Cup to face one of Asia’s tougher teams. That resulted in a 7-0 defeat, though Vitorino only had minimal time with his charges before heading to Amman.
The following games suggested that the team was heading along the right track with narrow defeats to Indonesia and Vietnam (though the most recent result was a 5-0 loss against the Golden Stars) and victory over Afghanistan, also in qualification for the Asian Cup.
Vitorino also took charge of the Under-23 team. There were signs of progress with a draw against China and victory over the Philippines in qualification for the 2018 AFC U-23 Championship in July.
“I think we did a good job if you compare the level and that we have. If you look at history in Cambodia, it is first time to win or draw with these teams. This year, we played against strong teams. In past years, they only beat Chinese Taipei and Timor Leste.”
SEA Games results in August were disappointing but Vitorino, at the helm for the U22 tournament that was held in Kuala Lumpur, points to the fact that almost half the squad were still very much in their teens when selected.
“Players such as Sin Kakada and Brak Thiva were just 17 and 18 I think. They will learn from the experience and become better players in then future.”
Despite the issues and despite the relatively short time spent in the country, there was one aspect of his stay that was uniformly positive.
Vitorino will never forget the fans. The national team may still be something of a minnow but receives support that many so-called giants of world football would envy.
Fifty thousand regularly pack Phnom Phen’s Olympic Stadium, even for friendly games against opposition that is not exactly glamorous.
“The fans are amazing. I never saw anything like it. They always support my work, I just can say I never saw this in my life. I have worked in many countries but I never saw people love football like Cambodia.”
The obvious question is if that includes his native Brazil. It does.
“Nothing compares to Cambodia. Lose or win, they still support the team and they deserve much better things.”