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From Pitches in Asia – Report from JFA Coaches/Instructors Vol. 77: OHARA Kazunori, Technical Director of Football Federation of Cambodia

28 April 2023

From Pitches in Asia – Report from JFA Coaches/Instructors Vol. 77: OHARA Kazunori, Technical Director of Football Federation of Cambodia

Current state of Cambodia football

Cambodia celebrates the Khmer New Year in mid-April, which is the hottest time of the year.

With the Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) set to be held in Cambodia for the first time from the end of April to mid-May 2023, preparations are proceeding at a rapid pace on all fronts. The National Olympic Stadium, where the Football Federation of Cambodia (FFC) is located, is also undergoing a process of replacing the artificial turf with natural grass, installing seats in the stands, and renovating the dressing rooms. The federation has been forced to carry out office work in noisy environments with Wi-Fi outages and power outages as a result of the renovation work.

The U-22 Cambodia National Team, who will participate in the SEA Games, started their training camp in Thailand at the end of February, while the Cambodia Women's National Team are continuing their training camp in China from September 2022. The torch relay started from Angkor Wat on 21 March and preparations are now in the final stages ahead of the big event.

In the run-up to the SEA Games, all domestic events have been postponed with the exception of club team cup competitions, as the focus has been centred primarily on national team activities. Meanwhile, although they are not organised by the FFC, well-known politicians are organising football tournaments across the country in the run-up to the general elections at the end of July.

Football activities to date

Activities undertaken in the run-up to the SEA Games include the establishment of the FFC National Academy in 2013, the establishment of regional academies in 25 provinces across the country in 2017, the strengthening of national teams in the age groups eligible for the SEA Games, the launch of a youth team development grant for top clubs in 2020, and the establishment of a management company for the top league and the strengthening of the league in 2022.

I was appointed Technical Director in 2015 and was involved in establishing and supervising the regional academies in 2017. It took us about a year to travel through the 25 provinces for the selection process of coaches and players. Annual training centres were held thereafter, as information was being shared with coaches and players in order to enable the best players to be recommended to the FFC National Academy.

Youth tournaments have also continued to be held since 2017. Although the number of matches was limited, the league competitions, instead of short and intensive tournaments, have helped to revitalise the daily activities of the youth clubs.

The evaluation of these activities will be made after the SEA Games, but the current players on the national team have higher levels in terms of skills and understanding of individual tactics than those in the past. However, due to the fact that the FFC National Academy was launched before the youth football base in Cambodia had fully expanded, and because of the change made to the age eligibility for the SEA Games in 2017, we feel that we did not have sufficient time to discover and develop new young talents for this year's SEA Games.

Future outlook

Cambodia's next goal is to qualify for the FIFA World Cup™ in 2038 and reach the knockout stage. I have also submitted a draft with a long-term strategy to the FFC. I believe that continuous youth development, coach education, and strengthening of the top league will be key to future success. Cambodia has a large population of young people and football is the most popular sport in the country. There are futsal courts everywhere, and small-sided games are played wherever you go. We used to focus on activities that catered to particular age groups, but we are now realising that raising the bar across the board is necessary to advance football in this country. Many facilities have also been built ahead of the 2023 SEA Games. I believe Cambodia football has a promising future if we can utilise them.

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