It is well past time for Cambodia to turn its enormous passion for football into tangible assets.
This well-crafted message is from one of Singapore’s best known football coaches, Poravankara Narayanan Nair Sivaji, who goes by the short and sweet nickname of PN in professional circles.
“I am amazed by the popularity of football and the talent that is on display but somehow Cambodia hasn’t been able to transform that promise into achievement to the levels it should have by now,” observed Sivaji in an exclusive chat with the Post at the Phnom Penh Hotel on Monday.
With credentials as a FIFA Instructor and member of the AFC’s Elite Panel on coaching, Sivaji has been assigned by the Asian body to conduct a one-month A-License certification course for coaches in Phnom Penh.
As many as 25 participants – including 20 from Cambodia, two each from Myanmar and Laos and one from Japan – are attending this course at the National Football Centre in Cheng Meng on the outskirts of the city.
“This course is crucially important for Cambodia where the current Naga Corp coach Prak Sovanara is the only one with A certification, which entails coaching of national teams. More qualified coaches are vital for the development of the game,” said Sivaji, who presided over the destiny of Singapore football as its technical director between 2004 and 2007.
“Over the last three weeks, I have not only seen love for football among Cambodian participants but have also been impressed by their hard work. What they need is mental toughness that will create self-belief. I am confident things will change for the better,” he added.
The man who turned out for Singapore’s second string as a player in the early 1990s has charted a remarkable course as a coach, completing several high profile assignments in the region.
He is currently the Technical Director of Myanmar’s professional outfit Okkthar United FC.
The participants have covered lot of ground on theory including factors that impact team selection, formations, on pitch tactics and game plans.
They also had sessions on team management, recovery and regeneration, apart from a concerted look into load and intensity.
According to Sivaji, every aspect of football has been featured in this one-month course.
The final week is set aside for a three-tier practical assessment at the end of which a list of successful candidates would be released.
“I have to commend the Football Federation of Cambodia for its work in developing grassroots projects. If you look at the regional balance, countries like Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Brunei are well below the upper crust like Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Singapore. This imbalance has to be dealt with,” Sivaji said.