Cambodia - Temples, Books, Films and ruminations...by Andy Brouwer
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
From the new Coach
Scott O'Donell, the new Cambodia football coach
So you hear it from the horse's mouth, so to speak, here is my full interview with Scott O'Donell, the new Cambodia national football team coach. The interview took place on Sunday. His comments form the majority of this interview.
The Cambodian Football Federation (FFC) have turned to a man they already know well to elevate the national football team to new heights. Australian Scott O’Donell took over as the full time national coach yesterday, some seventeen months after relinquishing the same role. The homecoming of O’Donell is timely, he quit his job as Director of Coach Education for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) in February and rejoined his family who were already living in Phnom Penh. “From Monday I am full time as the Cambodia national team coach and I have a 1 year contract. I’ve kept in touch with the Cambodian Football Federation whilst I was at the AFC and I have a lot of time and respect for the FFC President Sao Sokha. He called me up a couple of weeks ago and over dinner he asked me to become the full time coach again. It was good timing for me as I’d just moved back to live in Cambodia and I am ready for the challenge. There’s no formal targets set but we want to see an improvement on past performances. To get out of the group stages in the SEA Games will be real progress though it’s not going to be easy when we compare ourselves against neighbouring countries. Everyone must be realistic with their expectations. I want the players to have a belief in themselves and have a commitment to the national team,” said the former no-nonsense defender who played his football in Australia, Malaysia and Singapore before taking his first coaching role in charge of Singapore club side Geylang United in 2003.
O’Donell’s first spell in charge of the Cambodian national team began in July 2005. “I had 2 and a half years as the Cambodia coach, which was frustrating at times especially when two weeks before, and after six months of training, my team were pulled from the SEA Games in November 2005 and replaced by the Prince Ranarridh’s club side. But I really enjoyed my time here, I had a good bunch of lads, they were willing to learn and I enjoyed working with the players. It was very rewarding watching the players improve and to see that the young players I introduced go onto become regular fixtures in the national team. After the SEA Games incident I was re-designated as Technical Director but once things were sorted out I was reinstated as national coach until I left in December 2007,” he recalled. Since then he has worked as the Director of Coach Education for the AFC. “It was a great opportunity to travel and to make good contacts at conferences and meetings as well as being involved with coach development throughout the region, but I got tired of coming back every two or three weeks to see my family and I resigned,” he confided. The AFC’s loss will hopefully turn out to be Cambodia’s gain.
“My focus this year will be the SEA Games in Laos in December. It is up to me when I get the team together. I need to identify the players who are eligible for the SEA Games, which is at under-23 level, and then formulate a plan to work towards the games. Hopefully I can get a squad of 25 players, or more, depending on budgets. I will get them together a couple of times a week while the league season is still going and maybe play a couple of friendly matches before the season ends. Then we will get together full time. I will speak to some contacts I have about the possibility of arranging friendlies, but again budgets will be a factor. I will have a number 2, a number 3, a goalkeeping coach and I already have them in mind.” he said. O’Donell has kept in touch with developments in Cambodia since his initial spell in charge. “Since I was here before, I would come back every 2nd or 3rd week to see my family and if I had time I would watch some of the matches. Now I’m back I’ve already seen a few players I’m interested in but I need to know who is eligible for the under-23 team. One of the positive things I have seen is the league is a lot stronger now. I don’t see 20-0 victories anymore, it’s all very evenly contested and that’s only good for the league. This season has already thrown up a lot of upsets and that’s good to see too. I would love to see Cambodian coaches improving their skills and we can do that through the AFC, which I know the Federation here is keen to do. That will be a positive step forwards. More qualified coaches will improve the quality of Cambodia’s players.”
In looking to the future, O’Donell is optimistic. “I am a firm believer if players are good enough, they are old enough to play for the national team. I don’t care who they are, names or reputations, I will pick the best available players for my team. I see the way forward will be to make the under-23 team the nucleus of the Cambodian national team. I have full control over player selections and coach selections, I will have full say and that’s how it should be. If there are Khmer players overseas in France, Australia or America who are eligible and they are good enough, I will be happy to select them if they are better than the players we have here.” On his management style, O’Donell was quite clear. “I believe in discipline, both on and off the pitch, taking training seriously and a strong work ethic. Its no secret that a weakness with Cambodian players is that they haven’t been able to match the physical strength of Indonesia and Thailand in the past. It will be up to me to get them physically prepared to play as well as focusing on the tactical side as well. We have some great technical players here but they haven’t been coached enough – most of the countries we face have had qualified coaching from a young age, whilst our players have effectively taught themselves. The Cambodian public can expect my eleven players will go out and give 100% for their country and for each other.”
O’Donell’s presence on cable television as a football analyst will continue. “I have a contract with ESPN Star Sports and I’m also a FIFA instructor and will be conducting courses for FIFA in Kuala Lumpur in June and the Cayman Islands in July, which I will make sure doesn’t interfere with my national team duties.” As for his connections to Cambodia, they are already very strong. “I first came to Cambodia in 1998 to adopt our first child. I’ve lived here since I was appointed coach in the middle of 2005, and though I was away for 14 months in Malaysia, my family, wife Margaret and adopted daughters Emma and Ellie, have always remained here. It’s our home.”