Search form

Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Football legend to return to coach Cambodian squad

Football legend to return to coach Cambodian squad

Footballer Pen Sophat.

Football legend to return to coach Cambodian squad

Pen Sophat made his name on the field in the 1960s and ’70s but fled to France as civil war approached. Next year, he will come home

Football legend of the 1960s and ’70s Pen Sophat is set to return from France to the Kingdom next year to help coach Cambodian players.

Sophat is credited with helping the country to place fourth in the 1972 Asia Cup – an achievement widely regarded as the biggest achievement in the history of Cambodian football – but left the country soon afterwards to escape the civil war.

While in neighbouring Thailand, he won further fame as part of the Thai squad, where he was nicknamed “Keng Kong Snack”, leaving in 1977 for France where he settled and became a coach.

During a recent holiday in Phnom Penh, where he frequently visits and takes part in competitive football events, he told the Post he plans to return permanently in 2015. “I will finish my career in France next year, but I’ll never give up my career as a football coach,” he said.

Pen Sophat has coached teams in Cambodia before.
Pen Sophat has coached teams in Cambodia before. PHOTOGRAPH SRENG MENG SRUN

“I plan to come back to my motherland and become part of Cambodian football and help it become what it was during the 1950s and early 1970s, when Cambodia was a highlight of Southeast Asia,” he added.

Born in Kampong Cham, Sophat was a gifted footballer from childhood. As a young man, he made his way to Phnom Penh to chase his sporting dreams, later qualifying in divisions A and B before fleeing the threat of war. While he met with success as part of the Thai team in the mid-1970s, he never took citizenship there.

His retirement will be spent in the country of his birth, though his salary from the French club where he coaches will help support his new life, he said.

Once here, Sophat will continue to earn $1,200 a month as part of his retirement package. “I think I can survive with a fine lifestyle in Cambodia, so there is no need for me to concern myself with profiting financially from the sport here,” he said.

He added that he hoped to help young men to develop their talents and not be distracted by the push for higher ranking.

“I understand the situation of football in Cambodia, and I know its deficiency – that some men are only concerned about promotion. I am different from them; I’d like to train the young to play football, but not to make arguments,” he added.

His son, 28-year-old Pen Stephane, is a keen footballer who debuted with Naga Corp, winners of the Hun Sen Cup in 2013.


  • Breaking: PM says prominent human rights NGO ‘must close’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has instructed the Interior Ministry to investigate the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) and potentially close it “because they follow foreigners”, appearing to link the rights group to the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party's purported “revolution”. The CNRP - the

  • Rainsy and Sokha ‘would already be dead’: PM

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday appeared to suggest he would have assassinated opposition leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha had he known they were promising to “organise a new government” in the aftermath of the disputed 2013 national elections. In a clip from his speech

  • Massive ceremony at Angkor Wat will show ‘Cambodia not in anarchy’: PM

    Government officials, thousands of monks and Prime Minister Hun Sen himself will hold a massive prayer ceremony at Angkor Wat in early December to highlight the Kingdom’s continuing “peace, independence and political stability”, a spectacle observers said was designed to disguise the deterioration of

  • PM tells workers CNRP is to blame for any sanctions

    In a speech to workers yesterday, Prime Minister Hun Sen pinned the blame for any damage inflicted on Cambodia’s garment industry by potential economic sanctions squarely on the opposition party. “You must remember clearly that if the purchase orders are reduced, it is all