Cambodia’s new football coach, South Korean Yoo Kee-heung, aims to transform the region’s whipping boys into one of the best teams in Southeast Asia.
Yoo said he had a proven track record of success, and potholed pitches and a chronic cash shortage will not prevent him from turning the squad of part-timers into a respectable team.
“I am confident and I want this team to be number one,” Yoo said recently during his first training session with Cambodia, who have conceded 21 goals in their last four matches.
“I want these players to be confident,” Yoo said.
“I have never failed the teams I have been in charge of.”
Trained in Brazil and Germany and a former coach with South Korea’s 1994 World Cup squad, Yoo has been sent to Cambodia as a gift from a Korean firm who will pay his $100,000 yearly salary.
Having coached soccer minnows Bhutan and Nepal, he knows that transforming a winless, ragtag team sitting 183rd in the FIFA rankings will not be easy.
“This team lacks funding, it needs training equipment. They are too poor, lots of things need to be changed,” said Yoo, perched on a plastic chair on the sidelines of a bumpy, balding pitch on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.
Yoo said he had arranged for the national team’s best players to go to South Korea to train with professional teams.
One of his ambitious plans is to nurture the players of the future by promoting soccer in all Cambodian schools.
“I have a lot of responsibility and the weight is on my shoulders,” he said.
“But I always think ahead. I am 60 years old, I cannot play for them but I can teach them tactics. If they follow me they will get good results.”