Hok Sochetra had been named as the new head coach of the Cambodian national team, the Football Federation of Cambodia confirmed on Saturday.
The former top-rated striker, who scored more than 500 goals in domestic competitions and 42 for Cambodia between 1995 and 2003, replaces Lee Tae Hoon, of South Korea, ahead of October’s round of qualifiers in Yangon for the 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup.
FFC president Sao Sokha announced the appointment during his address at the opening ceremony of the U13 Football Festival, held at the new National Football Centre, in Tonle Bati district, Takeo province, on Saturday morning.
Ieng Saknida, Meas Channa, Hok Sochivoan and Soung Phirom have been named as assistant coaches.
Sochetra acknowledged the position would be a big challenge for him with big responsibility.
“Sure, I’m so happy for this job, but it’s not an easy job for me. I need to work hard with confidence – this is the national team,” he told the Post on Saturday
“However, it’s great for me to work with the same coaching staff, such as Nida, Sochivaon and Phirom, with whom I worked together with the U22 national team at the recent AFC U22 Asian Cup in Laos.
“Our newcomer, Meas Channa, has a lot of experience in playing and coaching. He worked closely with Prak Sovannara at Naga Corp and is the former assistant coach of the U16s.
“We will work hard together to lead the Cambodian team to the final stage of the Suzuki Cup.”
Hok Sochetra admitted that time was not on their side in creating a strong national team.
“Players are busy in the league. Some players like National Police Commissary will play the Eximban Cup in Vietnam in August. Phnom Penh Crown will play in the AFC President’s Cup in September. So I also need great co-operation with the clubs,” he said.
Sochetra noted that most of the U22 squad members would be favourites to make the senior team, and some veterans would also receive call-ups.
The coach vowed to stay clear of politics and favouritism when making his selection, which is slated to be finalised late this week.
“I love every player; I don’t have any favourite player, so I’ll choose based on their competence on the field and also their discipline,” he said.
“Some players are good in playing but not good at living with other team-mates, so I will not choose them. Some fans accuse the national team [of favouritism in selection] when they lose because they love the team so much. But they must also know the standard of our side.
“Before playing, we never think about losing but most of us know we are unlikely to get a result against the likes of China and North Korea.”
Sochetra, widely regarded as one of the best Cambodian players of his generation, was awarded the Golden Ball from Sanyo in 1997 as the best player in Southeast Asia.
As a player, he had stints at Ministry of Commerce (1992-1994), Prime Minister’s Bodyguards (1995-1997), Phnom Penh Dauphine (1998-1999) and Hello United (1999-2006), where he also began coaching the team.
In 2002, while he was still playing top-tier football, he became head coach of IIC, which won the University Cup.
He went on to coach two more university sides – Norton and and Human Resources – before taking a managerial position at Phnom Penh Empire, the former name of Metfone C-League champions Phnom Penh Crown.
Sochetra graduated as an AFC A-Licence coach earlier this year, along with his younger brother Hok Sochivoan and Meas Channa.
To contact the reporter on this story: Ung Chamroeun at [email protected]