Nigerian coach Solomon Demagudu (centre) was well liked and respected by his former colleagues at Cambodian football clubs. Photograph: Sreng Meng Srun/Phnom Penh Post
Naga Corp assistant coach Solomon Demagudu of Nigeria died in the early hours of Saturday morning at Calmette Hospital after losing his battle against a blood cancer that had spread to his intestines.
He was 30 years of age.
Ken Gadaffi, former president of the Nigerian Community Association and adviser to the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia, expressed the “great loss” felt by his fellow nationals and the sports fraternity in Phnom Penh.
“It’s a shock to us all. He contributed so much to Cambodian football,” Gadaffi told the Post yesterday. “Solomon was a born leader and brought the African players together during his time here.”
Demagudu is the second Nigerian footballer to die on Cambodian soil in just over two years, following 25-year-old Wilson Mene’s fatal heart attack during a game in May 2010.
“At the time of [Demagadu’s] death, he was the President of the African Football Union and helped organise a tournament last year. He always fought for the welfare of the players,” added Gadaffi.
Solomon Demagadu joined Navy club Phouchung Neak in 2008 after a spell playing in Azerbaijan.
He made appearances for Post Tel Club before a recurring knee injury forced him to hang up his playing boots and turn coach.
He lead Khemera Keila for the 2010 season when the club was in a dire financial situation, before taking control of Division A1 club Chhlam Samuth. After successfully orchestrating their promotion to the Metfone C-League, Demagudu got a contract as assistant coach at Naga under head coach Prak Sovannara.
“Solomon knew of his health problem nine months ago and revealed it to me five months ago,” Sovannara told the Post. “Doctors tried to keep his spirits up as his condition became serious over the last month and he made regular trips to the hospital.”
He coach noted how, over the last 10 days, players and coaching staff at Naga had donated blood and spent time with him at his bedside.
“Solomon is the first foreign colleague of mine who left all his problems at home and concentrated fully on work. He never showed any weaknesses to his players,” added Sovannara. “We want to hold a minute’s silence in his honour when the league kicks off again [this Saturday].”
Phnom Penh Crown striker and national team star Kouch Sokumpheak, who had captained Khemera during Solomon’s stint, expressed his emotions at the tragic news.
“When I got the call from my friend [Naga defender and former Khemera team-mate] Tiet Chandara Sokha, I was very, very shocked. I knew him very well,” said Sokumpheak. “Solomon is a good foreigner who tried to help Khemera when they had financial problems. He tried to help Cambodian football.”
Demagudu is survived by two sons, his Azerbaijani wife and a sister, who all currently live in Phnom Penh. Burial arrangements are being made.