In a sensational move on Sunday, Cambodia has secured the services of one of Japan’s acclaimed stars Keisuke Honda as the Kingdom’s head coach on a unique two-year contract even while he continues his stint with Australian club side Melbourne Victory.
Current interim coach Prak Sovannara, who did a sterling good job in his short stay by steering the U21s to the final of the Hassan Bolkiah Trophy in Brunei in May, will soon make way for the former AC Milan and CSKA Moscow star, who is two appearances shy of winning 100 caps for his country, having scored 37 goals.
According to a spokesman for the Football Federation of Cambodia, Sovannara will continue to be actively involved in the coaching network at different levels.
Honda, who formally launched his Soltilo Soccer Academy in Phnom Penh nearly two years ago making Cambodia its ninth country, and who has since supported the Siem Reap-based Metfone C-League side Soltilo Angkor, will be monitoring footballing activities via weekly video conference calls, at least in the initial phase.
Founded in 2012, Honda’s Soltilo Familia Soccer School has a network of 60 such institutions involving up to 4,000 children in Japan and China. Now operating in nine countries, the Honda schools have been built on the player’s vision of creating a chance for kids to dream big when it comes to football.
Less than two weeks after his 32nd birthday in June this year, Honda scored against Senegal in Japan’s second match in Group H at the 2018 Russia World Cup. With this goal he became the first Asian player to have scored against a nation from every continent, as well as becoming the top scoring Asian player in World Cup history and the only player to register a goal and an assist in each of the last three tournaments.
After Japan’s exit in the round of 16, Honda announced his plan to retire from the international stage.
Announcing Honda’s appointment at a media conference in Phnom Penh, Football Federation of Cambodia president Sao Sokha said the Kingdom was fortunate to have a player of his calibre help boost Cambodian football.
“Our focus will be on the upcoming AFF Suzuki Cup and next year’s SEA Games in the Philippines, and probably look ahead towards the 2023 SEA Games we will be hosting” the FFC chief said.
“Unlike other coaches we had before, Honda may not be in Cambodia often enough and may have less time to spare, but his excellence and expertise count hugely. As a player of such reputation, he commands great respect from the players and I am certain he will be an asset,” Sokha said, adding: “I call on all clubs and related organisations to help Honda and the team.”
Honda said: “My objective is to help Cambodia develop a new style of play in possession and defending under pressure. Every country has its own style and Cambodian players are similar to Japanese. I will work not just on football skills but also on other aspects of the game that make an impact.”
The FFC spokesman rejected the suggestion that the coaching arrangement in initial stages at least sounded remote control since Honda would also be actively involved with his club commitments in Australia.
“It is unique in a way, but he will find time once a week to work with the national team by video conference and he will do his best to improve Cambodian football.
Honda is the second Japanese to assume charge of the national team after Kazanuri Ohara was named interim coach a few years ago.