Football superstar Keisuke Honda, one of Asia’s top talents as a midfielder for Japan’s national team and Italian club AC Milan, said on Monday that he wants to expand training programs in the country to give more Cambodians a chance to make a career playing the sport.
Mr. Honda was visiting Cambodia a month after launching a youth football academy—part of the network of Soltilo-Familia Soccer Schools—with programs in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kok and Chamkar Mon districts.
Together with 10 Japanese coaches, he spent about 90 minutes practicing passing, shooting and dribbling with about 100 children, ages 6 to 12, on Olympic Stadium’s football pitch.
Mr. Honda told the boys and girls they might be recruited to play professionally in Japan or Europe. While Cambodia’s national team has seen some international success over the past year, the country rarely exports its top talent abroad.
Speaking through a translator at a news briefing at InterContinental hotel later in the day, Mr. Honda said he wanted children all over the world to have the same opportunity to pursue their athletic ambitions as he had as a child.
“We want to give the opportunity to children like my father did for me. That is the reason why we started,” he said.
In addition to their work with young footballers, Soltilo was working with the Siem Reap Football Association to develop an adult football club there, Mr. Honda said.
“We will give the players a good training program and we will make them a good team,” he said.
On Monday morning, Mr. Honda also met Prime Minister Hun Sen at the National Assembly. Mr. Hun Sen asked the Japanese athlete to continue encouraging Cambodian youth to play sports, according to a post on the prime minister’s Facebook page.