Although the next few days’ focus will be solely on preparing to capture their third Cambodian league title, Naga Corp are making plans for an educational excursion across the border the following week.
The club, backed by local gaming giant NagaWorld, are set to star in the Metfone C-League’s Super 4 playoff final against Boeung Ket Rubber Field at Olympic Stadium on Saturday, but two coaches and two squad members will shoot off straight afterwards for a week-long sabbatical in Thailand from Monday.
Head coach Prak Sovannara made countless trips to the neighbouring nation during his playing career, including his inaugural visit when playing for the national team against their Thai counterparts in 1993.
“I scored, but it was an own goal. We lost 8-0,” Sovannara told the Post.
Next week’s tour, however, will be his first as a coach. Along with assistant coach Lim Noun, he is scheduled to link up with top Thai Premier League clubs Bangkok Glass FC and BEC Tero Sassana FC, the latter of which plays Buriram United a week from today in the second leg of their Thai League Cup quarterfinal.
“It’s a very good opportunity to observe and learn from the management of the Thai clubs. I’m looking forward to seeing the set-up, both on and off the pitch,” Sovannara said. “I want to learn from teams abroad to help raise the game in Cambodia.”
The coach, who is pursuing a FIFA professional licence in the near future, is also excited at the prospect of meeting BEC Tero’s newly appointed technical director, Sven-Goran Eriksson, of Sweden, as well as Bangkok Glass manager Surachai Jaturapattarapong, who is widely regarded as the best midfielder Thailand has ever produced.
Joining the two Naga tacticians will be 19-year-old players Prak Chan Ratana and Kop Isa, who will be split up to train with either RBAC-BEC Tero Sasana or Rangsit FC, who are the reserve sides of BEC Tero and Bangkok Glass respectively.
RBAC-BEC Tero play in the Regional League Division 2 after being relegated from the Thai Division 1 last year. They currently reside fourth in the third-tier competition, 10 points off leaders Thai Honda with two games to play.
However, the side known as the Fighting Lions comfortably top the scoring charts on 65 goals from 32 matches, in no small part thanks to their impressive crop of youngsters including six players in the U19 national team.
Rangsit FC, meanwhile, sit ninth in Division 2. Nigerian striker Julius Oiboh, who faces his former employers Naga when he lines up for Boeung Ket in Saturday’s Super 4 playoff final, played for Rangsit during the majority of the 2012 Thai season.
Midfielder Prak Chan Ratana has leapt up through the ranks in just two years with Naga for a place in the starting squad, while striker Kop Isa has made his name as a striker since joining in 2009.
“I’m very happy to make this trip to Thailand,” Ratana said. “Although I am not intimidated now, I think I will feel nerves when having to play in front of the other top-quality Thai players.”
Isa is keen to gain valuable knowledge from the journey.
“I want to learn new tactics and practise techniques such as how to strike the ball better,” he told the Post.
Both Cambodian players admitted they looked up to the Thai league, expressing an interest in chasing a career there.
Their idols include Chonburi FC’s home-grown stars Pipob On-Mo and Therdsak Chaiman.
NagaWorld event manager Hans Yeo, who has arranged the trip thanks to his friends at the Thai clubs, said such training stints would be a regular occurrence from now on.
“We hope to create relationships with more professional soccer clubs in the region so that Naga Corp FC will be able to send our coaches and players to learn from more established league and club set-ups,” he told the Post yesterday.
“We are confident the players and coaches will gain massive experience from such trips and, in the long term, bring about improvement to both Naga Corp FC as well as the Cambodian league. Our aim is to one day have Naga Corp players signed by top foreign clubs.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Dan Riley at [email protected]