Reasons Conflict Over Football Coach’s Dismissal

Executives at the Football Fed­eration of Cambodia on Thursday gave conflicting reasons for their dec­ision to replace Yoo Kee-heung, the Korean coach of the Cambodian national football team.

FFC executive members voted 6 -1 Wednesday to replace Yoo with Under-17 national team coach Prak Sovannara, who one member said remains dogged by match-fixing allegations since a youth championship in August 2007.

FFC Secretary-General Ouk Sethycheat said Thursday that Yoo, hired seven months ago to replace the team’s Australian manager, Scott O’Donell, had been let go be­cause he did not have an A-level coaching license from the Asian Football Confederation.

Without the license, he cannot coach Cambodia during October’s Asean Football Federation qualifiers, which are to be held in Phnom Penh, Ouk Sethycheat said.

However, the FFC’s president, Military Police Commander Sao Sokha, who did not attend Wednes­day’s meeting, said Yoo’s dismissal was because of poor performance.

“If we cannot play well, the fans will hate us,” Sao Sokha said Thurs­day.

Having managed the South Korean national women’s team and the Nepalese national men’s team, Yoo was signed in December, when the FFC also inked a three-year sponsorship deal with Korean cable company KTC.

During his brief tenure, Cam­bodia fell 2-3 to Korean club Ulsan Hyundai in February and won three exhibition matches in Vietnam in May, but exited the AFC Challenge Cup group D qualifiers that month with a 0-1 defeat to Nepal and 3-1 victory over Chinese Macau.

A Korean language interpreter for Yoo could not be contacted.

Interior Ministry Deputy Secre­tary-General Hul Sakada, an FFC board member, said Thursday by telephone that he had voted against Yoo’s dismissal because of controversies surrounding his replacement and three other nominations.

Football fans rioted in Phnom Penh last year claiming match fixing when Cambodia’s youth side, then coached by Prak Sovannara, ap­peared to refrain from attacking Brunei in a match Cambodia nevertheless won 2-0.

Many observers said they suspected the Cambodian team had been instructed not to score over a point-spread determined in advance by bookmakers, a claim the FFC denied.

Prak Sovannara said Thursday that he was not disturbed by the all­e­gations surrounding him.

Wednesday’s FFC meeting also saw the appointment of assistant coaches Tep Long Rachana, Phea Sopheaktra and Prak Sovanny, according to Hul Sakada, who said he suspected all three of match-fixing during a youth competition in Brunei in March of last year.

Hul Sakada alleged that the three had been in close contact with a Cam­bodian betting company, the name of which he did not recall, during the competition, in which Cam­bodia fell 0-7 to Burma.

Tep Long Rachana, Phea Sop­heaktra and Prak Sovanny could not be reached for comment; however, Sao Sokha said he knew of no evidence to support Hul Sakada’s allegations against them.

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