Baffled by Ouster, Ex-Football Coach Plans Return to S Korea

Unceremoniously dismissed last week as an unlicensed underperformer, Cambodia’s ex-national team football coach Yoo Kee-heung said Monday that his seven-month stint here has been the shortest assignment of his decades-long career.

Yoo, 61, also said in an interview that he did not understand the reasons for his dismissal, which he said he had the rude shock of learning from a newspaper.

“I don’t know what to say,” the South Korean national said through an interpreter, before adding that he would have expected to be told personally by Cam­bodian football federation chief General Sao Sokha.

“I came with the support of Sao Sokha,” Yoo said, “but it appeared in a newspaper, and he hadn’t informed me, so I am upset about this.”

In a 6-1 vote Wednesday, football federation executives re­placed Yoo with national youth squad coach Prak Sovannara, saying that the Korean had performed poorly and wasn’t li­censed by the Asian Football Confederation to coach senior international matches.

Yoo said the reasons given for his dismissal did not make sense as he had only been at the helm for two recorded international matches—one of which was a victory—and had long worked abroad without an A-level license.

“I still don’t think I did anything wrong. I tried my best,” he said. “I think the players improved and played well.”

Yoo said he plans to return Wednesday to Seoul, where he will work at the Korea Football Association and help his wife, who runs a pharmacy.

The national team had been due to leave Monday for two months of training in South Korea—plans that were scotched when he was fired, Yoo said.

The national team’s sponsor, the Korean cabling manufacturer KTC, which brought Yoo to Cambodia, paid his $4,000 monthly wage and was to have paid for the team’s Korea trip, is cutting funding to the Cambodian squad, he said.

Football Federation of Cam­bodia Secretary-General Ouk Sethycheat said Monday that KTC had negotiated Yoo’s two-year contract without mentioning his licensing, leaving football officials to learn that Yoo lacked proper credentials during May’s AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers in Phnom Penh.

A woman answering the phone at KTC’s Phnom Penh office Monday said accounting director Kwon Sun-geol was not available for comment.

Yoo said he had worked as a national coach for Bhutan, Nepal and the South Korean women’s team without an A-level license, which it is now too late for him to obtain.

“I am 61 years old,” he said. “I’m nearing retirement.”

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