Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Teenage hero

The teenage hero Samreth Seiha against Singapore
According to the roster of players for last year's SEAsean Games, the hero of Cambodia's two games in the AFF Suzuki Cup so far, goalkeeper Samreth Seiha won't be 19 until April next year. If that's the case, then his performances are more exciting than I first thought. The fresh-faced teenager has played out of his skin in both games and half a dozen saves in the second match against Indonesia showed the hallmark of an excellent stopper, saving with his feet, his hands and his body. Despite his small stature and fragility against the bigger-built strikers he regularly faces, Seiha (right) is an agile and athletic goalkeeper with a penchant for coming for crosses and punching anything he can get his hands to, though he came unstuck for the first goal against Singapore, when this tactic backfired. Nevertheless, he is as brave as a lion and though he spends more time on the floor injured than most keepers I've seen, I think he shows enough promise to make a real name for himself amongst Asia's leading goalkeepers in years to come. What he really needs in my view is some time at a pro club in England. For starters, I would suggest a 3-month training stint with one of the top clubs, receiving expert specialist coaching as well as a diet of steak and potatoes to put on some bulk. Wouldn't it be great if one of the money-men in Cambodia recognised his talent and agreed to pay his airfare and living expenses for a few months - I'm sure one of the leading clubs would take him on, especially if they watched the video of the Indonesia match. This youngster has bags of talent but he needs expert coaching that only a Premiership club in England can provide.
AFP's camerman catches Samreth Seiha as he fails to clear the danger against Singapore
At the moment Seiha is at the mercy of his leaky and shaky defence in every international match he plays. That means he gets more chance to shine than most keepers but it also means he is far too often exposed. I like his gutsy approach, his willingness to come for crosses marks him as courageous though in time he will realise that its a tactic that should be used sparingly and not all the time. In the domestic Cambodia Premier League he plays for the National Defense Ministry, who finished runners-up in this year's competition and are the only team not to employ the services of foreign players. Last season, he played with Phnom Penh Empire and made his debut for the Cambodia national team, after coming through the youth ranks at international level. He's now Cambodia's first-choice keeper, though he enjoys a healthy rivalry with Ouk Mic for the custodian's spot and it remains to be seen if he is fit for their last Suzuki Cup game against Myanmar tomorrow night. I hope so as I've been very impressed with the youngster and I'd like to see more of him at the top level of Asean football, as it's only competition of this nature, that will help him improve and mature as a goalkeeper of the highest quality.
Team-mates of Samreth Seiha in Cambodia's youth international squad that reached the semi-finals of the Asean youth championships in Brunei at the beginning of 2007 included the teenage strike-force of Khim Borey and Kouch Sokumpheak. All three are still teenagers and the experience they will have gained in the Suzuki Cup in Indonesia will be enormous. Also in that same squad were international team-mates Lay Raksmey and Sok Rithy.

3 Comments:

Blogger Andy Brouwer said...

Don't you just love the press...ok, maybe not!

In today's Cambodia Daily, the Football Federation of Cambodia secretary-general Ouk Sethycheat was giving his thoughts on the side's recent two defeats in the Suzuki Cup. Here's a few:
"If we compare their players' height and size, Singapore has completely more energetic players."
"Our energy is not good."
"With our energy and techniques not up to theirs, we could not make our rivals fearful. So it was not easy to find chances to attack them."

He also confirmed that after the Suzuki Cup, the team will return on Wednesday and will begin preparing for another tournament, the 2009 SEA Games in Laos.
On the subject of finance, he said coach Prak Sovannara already receives $1,500 per month salary while four asst-coaches receive $750 each. Each player on the team receives between $125 and $250 per month, though he expressed concern about the Federation's means to continue paying these wages.

December 9, 2008 at 9:50 AM  
Blogger Me said...

it is always diffuicult to attack when you keep 11 men behind the ball in your own half

nice piece about the keeper. he certainly got above alex duric a few tiomes and that is no mean feat

December 9, 2008 at 3:23 PM  
Blogger Andy Brouwer said...

French-language newspaper Cambodge Soir Hebo have also been talking to Ouk Sethycheat (FFC Sec-Gen) about Cambodia's performance in the Suzuki Cup.

Here's what he had to say:
"The federation has invested money for the team. The three games were defeats, despite the efforts for players' salaries as well as their physical preparation. More than half the players are paid 1 million riel per month ($250), other 750, 000 riel (about $190), with a daily bonus of $15 per player for food. That was paid throughout the period of preparation and competition. Sponsors have supported us.
But the final result is completely negative. Like other nations, the coach has carte blanche to form the team and is therefore responsible for its results. The Executive Committee will consider the arguments from Prak Sovannara on the poor performances. We'll see then whether to change or make greater changes in the team. Fans are disappointed and say it is worse than before, while other countries are progressing."

With their record for making changes, I sense a whiff of unhappiness from the Federation Executive committee. Coach Prak Sovannara is the only A-listed coach in the country, so he's the best homegrown coach they can have. And he only took over in July. If they feel a change is required, then they will have to look outside Cambodia's borders for a new coach. They've tried it before of course with their previous three coaches namely Fickert, Scott O'Donnell and the South Korean coach but it didn't work then either.

I suggest its time for consolidation and to give Sovannara a fair crack of the whip. He took them to their first AFF finals for a few years and whilst the results went against Cambodia, they simply don't play enough international games to be confident when they come up against better opposition, especially the likes of Singapore and Indonesia. Sovannara hasn't yet had time to work properly with his young squad of players, he needs the Federation to back him and his judgement, not to cut him loose after half a year in the job.
Okay, there were some players in the line-up that I personally would replace but its whether there's anyone suitable and better in the domestic league.
All of Cambodia's players play in the domestic competition, maybe it would help their development if they were to branch out to other leagues in the region. Certainly keeper Samreth Seiha is good enough and I would suggest that Khim Borey and Kouch Sokumpheak also have enough about them to play in a higher-standard league in a neighbouring country. It would certainly benefit their personal development for sure, and a knock-on for the national team as well.

The Federation need to do their bit by getting a suitable program of international friendly fixtures lined up for 2009, before the SEAsean Games take place in Laos at the end of the year. That will mean a few games against neighbouring countries but they should also enter Cambodia for any of the other regional tournaments that take place. And if possible, get some professional teams from the J-league or S-League to pay a visit and give the national team some different opponents and options. I can see Korea looming large in the picture as the federation has received funds from that direction, and that is all well and good, but I hope they will expand their horizons a bit beyond Korea.

So stick with Sovannara, give him the resources and opportunities he needs to develop his very young squad, trust his judgement and allow him to make mistakes (because he will) as long as there's signs that the national team is improving. Don't hold the axe over his head, allow him to experiment and don't keep talking about money. There's enough rich people in Cambodia who should be tapped for cash to support the team. If Cambodians can take pride in their national football team, then everyone will feel good about themselves. It can easily be an important part of raising Cambodia's profile - football is one way to inject even more pride into Cambodian hearts and minds. And to have a Cambodian in charge is even better.

Andy

December 11, 2008 at 12:37 PM  

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