South Korean Lee Tae Hoon’s two-year stint as the national football coach is likely to end in July once his contract with the Football Federation of Cambodia runs out.
The 42-year-old Lee, who took charge of the national team in August 2010, is the fourth foreign coach to guide the Cambodian football fortunes in the past 12 years after Joachim Fickert, Scott O’Donnell and Yoo Keu Heung.
As the South Korean tactician rides quietly into the sunset, his legacy as far as his Cambodian stint goes remains a mixed bag of sentiments.
A small band of his supporters would argue that Lee did his best to meld and weld a disjointed unit, while his most trenchant critics have all along accused him of being lacklustre and laid back, often allowing the side to drift from its goals through some poor choices.
On several occasions Lee himself had poured out his frustrations over a string of dismal results, firmly pointing a finger of blame on some players for lack of zest to train and few others for being selfishly individualistic.
He was often hammered away for some of Cambodia’s notable crack-ups on the pitch, most glaringly at the 2011 SEA Games in Indonesia in November and the second leg of the World Cup qualifier against Laos in Vientiane played last July.
Federation spokesman May Tola confirmed to the Post yesterday that FFC President Sao Sokha was keen on one of the qualified local coaches taking over the reins once Lee Tae Hoon officially departs.
“Looking ahead to the Suzuki Cup qualifiers later this year, the national team would be entrusted to one of the local coaches. We have 10 A-licensed coaches in the country now. We are confident one of our own can fit in,” said May Tola.
Interestingly, it was under Cambodian coach Prak Sovannara that the Kingdom qualified for the Suzuki Cup three years ago, an achievement the foreign coaches all fell short of.
For the record, Som Saran was the first native to coach the Cambodian national side since the turn of the century, and also briefly took a spell in 2005.
Meanwhile, the newly formed National U22 team were going through the paces at the Thong Nhat Stadium in Ho Chi Minh City in preparation for today’s friendly against Saigon FC, ahead of their participation at the AFC U22 Asian Cup in Vientiane next month.
Head coach Prak Somony is placing great importance on this crucial warm-up game before Cambodia’s Group F engagements involving hosts Laos, Hong Kong, Thailand, China and North Korea.
“The U22 Asian Cup is a brand new AFC concept. It is crucial that we perform well in Laos. This age group represents the nucleus for our future competitions like the Suzuki Cup and beyond,” added May Tola.
Over the past few weeks, the squad of young players have won one and drawn three local friendlies.
Prak Somony’s side managed to peg back former league champions and one of this season’s front runners Naga Corp 3-2, while drawing 1-1 with current league leaders National Police Commissary, 2-2 against Boeung Ket Rubber Field and holding Build Bright United to a 1-1 tie.
To contact the reporter on this story: H S Manjunath at [email protected]