Monday, November 30, 2009

On the training pitch

Malaysian tv interview Scott O'Donell after this afternoon's training session
Rather than undertake a fruitless search for the television headquarters, I got a tuk-tuk (which I didn't want to as the drivers are greedier than Phnom Penh's riverside tuk-tuk drivers, yes I know, hard to believe, but true) and went out to the Games Village to hook up with the Cambodian squad as they boarded their bus bound for the tv stadium this afternoon. Actually stadium is a misnomer, a hard, bumpy pitch with the grass cut but left on top is a more accurate description, hardly conducive to an international football team training for an important regional competition. Nevertheless the team trained for about an hour, starting with a warm-up and then a game which coach Scott O'Donell stopped at regular intervals as incidents took place that he felt needed correcting. One of the important points he made to his team was to be positive in the final third, take players on, look to get the wide players in behind the opposition, whilst in defence, if in trouble, boot it out or up the field rather than try to play your way out. All straightforward stuff but important points that need to be rammed home time and again before they sink in. You have to remember that this is a team that has very limited time together, unlike a club side who work on these tactics day in, day out over a whole season.
Worryingly, the fans' favourite, Nov Soseila sat out most of the afternoon session - held in bright sunshine - with an ice-pack on a sprained ankle, a remnant of their last game in Vietnam against Can Tho. The morning session had been held at the army stadium, which I didn't attend as I was stuck in the media center getting my press pass. Scott reported the pitch was much better so its disappointing they had to swap this afternoon. They return to the bumpy pitch tomorrow morning before their first look at the Chao Anuvong stadium in central Vientiane (five minutes from my guesthouse) for their afternoon session. A request for access to a swimming pool was met with a blank stare but time in the water worked well in Vietnam, so I know Scott won't take no for an answer. Rather than an overpriced crappy tuk-tuk, I waved down a song thaw for the ride back to town, considerably quicker and cheaper. Whoops, nearly forgot to mention that captain Sun Sovannarith takes his international duties seriously. So seriously, he missed the birth of his first child, this morning, a baby girl. "My wife and baby are okay," he beamed with pride.
Session over, but still time to learn. The coach gives his squad the benefit of his knowledge.
On-field instruction from coach Scott O'Donell in red
On-field running repairs for Chan Dara from physio Hay Sakiry
A look at the accommodation block where Cambodia's football squad are housed in the Games Village

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