Phnom Penh Crown have named Sam Schweingruber as their head coach, replacing outgoing Englishman David Booth, who resigned shortly after their return home from a disastrous AFC President’s Cup finals campaign in Tajikistan last month.
The three-time league champions have offered the 33-year-old Swiss national a one-year contract without detailing a financial package.
“First we sign him for a one-year contract, and if he does well we will extend it for another five years,” club owner Rithy Samnang told reporters at a press conference held at the Crown Bar on Street 200 yesterday morning.
Schweingruber has spent the past six years living and working in Battambang, where he founded the sports and leadership training NGO, SALT Academy.
With the growing stature of the organisation, which included hosting numerous league competitions and football festivals, Schweingruber helped create the first Cambodian U16 women’s national team, leading them to a FIFA-recognised international friendly against Laos in May 2009. He has since taken U14 and U13 to AFC Girls Football Festivals in Vietnam.
“This is an opportunity to test myself on a bigger stage, having had a fantastic time developing the SALT Academy and working with grassroots football,” said Schweingruber, who is also a certified FIFA Grassroots Instructor.
“For my first appointment in senior football, I couldn’t have chosen a bigger or better club to work with. This is a very exciting time and I can’t wait to get started.”
Schweingruber’s history in the beautiful game includes playing as a 16-year-old for local Swiss team Munsterlingen on the banks of Lake Constance, before having runs at Oberglatt and Pfyn. A stint as coach of the U14 side of second-tier club FC Winterthur helped him get valuable experience as a tactician prior to heading out to the warmer climes of Cambodia.
In 2003, Schweingruber was player-coach of Phnom Penh team Mild Seven, moving to coach the Royal Navy team the following season. He switched to coaching Khmer Empire in 2006 and then left the big smoke to set up his NGO in Battambang.
According to Crown’s media officer Andy Brouwer, Schweingruber’s appointment is a clear reflection that Crown is looking to build their future with stability and alongside their strategic objectives. “It’s an appointment designed to take the club forward in structured and professional way,” Brouwer wrote on his Facebook page yesterday.
Crown owner Samnang echoed these comments in his address yesterday, noting that Crown have always tried to be a role model for professional clubs in Cambodia.
“In recent times, Cambodia has failed to reach any significant heights in competitions because we don’t have any strong foundations. Phnom Penh Crown keep striving for the better future of Cambodian football with our academy program,” he said.
Booth joined Crown midway through the season last year and steered them to the Metfone C-League title as well as a place in the final of the 2011 AFC President’s Cup against Taiwan Power Company. A disgraceful display of fouling by the Cambodians in Kaohsiung saw three red cards and a host of post-match sanctions by the Asian Football Confederation, leading to Crown clearing out the squad with sackings during the off-season.
“Sure, we knew already what happened after rejecting our eight key players, but we had to respect the disciplinary actions of the AFC,”
Samnang said. “We lost that day but we will [succeed] in the future.”
Crown finished fifth in this year’s league campaign. Academy head coach Bouy Dary will serve as Schweingruber’s assistant coach, along with Kao Kiri, Tes Sophat and goalkeeping coach Prak Vanny.
Schweingruber will also retain a link with the SALT Academy and the girls’ national team in an advisory capacity.