Coach of Underperforming National Football Team Fired

Hoping to improve the national team’s play against other South­east Asian countries, the Cam­bo­dian Football Federation has de­cided not to renew the contract of Coach Joachim Fickert, of­ficials said Thursday.

“He has helped Cambodia reach some of its goals, but the overall results were not what we expected. If he could help the team out, we would have re­newed his contract,” Federation Ge­neral Director Keo Sareth said.

Football officials brought Fi­ckert to Cambodia in 1995 on a $4,500 per month contract. The team’s lackluster performances have convinced officials to move in another direction, Keo Sareth said. Authorities are considering al­lowing Fickert, a German, to stay on through the Tiger Cup and Asian Cup tournaments, which are scheduled for August and Oc­to­ber, respectively.

Defending himself Thursday, Fickert said he was given little to work with but the team has none­theless improved. In the 1995 Southeast Asian Games, Cam­bo­dia lost all four of its matches. But in 1997, the team won two matches, he said.

“Two years later there were huge differences, you see,” Fi­ckert said, adding his team was able to give China “a scare” in World Cup qualifying play last year.

Singling out the coach for a team’s poor play is an easy way to shift blame from where it be­longs: With the football federation, a player said in defense of Fickert Thursday. “Even if we got a coach from heaven, our play will still be poor if the state does not pay attention to us and encourage the players,” goalie Hok Sochetra said.

Saying he does not “totally blame the coach,” Keo Sareth said he still wants to see the team move in a new direction.

Fickert said he does not know what his next move will be.

Football officials have not identified a successor yet, but are considering looking for a new coach in South Korea or Yugoslavia, where they can get a new technique-driven coach for relatively cheap, Keo Sareth said.


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