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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Lee Tae Hoon back as national team coach

Lee Tae Hoon back as national team coach

The Football Federation of Cambodia is set to welcome back South Korea’s Lee Tae Hoon as the head coach of the national football team for a second term beginning next month ahead of preparations for the SEA Games in Myanmar in December.

An official announcement confirming Lee Tae Hoon’s reappointment, replacing incumbent Prak Sovannara, is expected in the next few days, according to sources familiar with the ongoing discussions between the South Korean tactician and the FFC top brass.

Often singled out for criticism by his detractors for Cambodia’s string of failures in several regional events during his reign between October 2010 and late 2012, Lee had accepted a portion of the blame but maintained that the national team needed a complete change in attitude.

Even after giving up the job last May — which made way for Hok Sochetra, who lasted just a few months before the FFC plumped for the experienced Prak Sovannara — Lee had kept in touch with Cambodian football, while his relationship with the Federation remained friendly and warm.

The South Korean had been watching some of the league matches in the past few weeks, fuelling speculation about a possible return to his old job.

He sat through the Metfone C-League final on Saturday between Svay Rieng and Boeung Ket, and the Post caught up with him after the match to get his take on the rumours — all he initially said, smiling, was a short “maybe”.

But when pressed, Lee willingly opened up and went as far as suggesting that he may take charge some time next month. “I know most of the players, and I have been watching them. I have some fresh ideas and let’s see,” he added, noting that good preparations for the SEA Games was indeed a top priority for the country.

While Lee Tae Hoon is getting ready to get back to his duties on the pitch, marshalling the national team, the genial, softly spoken Prak Sovannara may return to his previous post as head coach of two-time league champions Naga Corp next season.

Though this is by no means a done deal yet, indications from sources close to the Naga management are that Sovannara would be more than welcome to reassume command of the team.

Incidentally, Prak Sovannara is the only national coach to have taken Cambodia past the AFF Suzuki Cup qualifying stage, a feat he accomplished while serving his first term back in 2009.

His short second term at the beginning of this year was beset with some disappointing performances by the national team, including two heavy defeats during the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers in Manila in May.

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