From Pitches in Asia – Report from JFA Coaches/Instructors Vol. 76: INOUE Kazunori, Head Coach of U-16 Cambodia National Team & FFC Academy U-15
24 February 2023
The resumption of football activities in 2022
Over the past few years, the global spread of Covid-19 has resulted in restrictions on football activities and cancellations of domestic and international competitions in Southeast Asia, including Cambodia. However, these activities have gradually resumed in 2022.
The youth leagues have resumed in Cambodia and our team, which consists primarily of junior high school players, competed in the high school division and finished the league in third place after losing in the semi-finals.
The national team participated in two international competitions: the AFF (ASEAN Football Federation) U-16 Youth Championship in August and the AFC U17 Asian Cup qualifier in October. At the AFF U-16 Youth Championship, the team came up short of reaching the semi-finals, but managed to defeat a formidable Australia side with a score of 4-2. This result was a great achievement and gave us the confidence to believe in ourselves to succeed.
The team was eliminated from the AFC U17 Asian Cup qualifiers with a record of one win and two losses. We lost 0-9 to China PR in our first match and 0-10 in our re-match against Australia. Although we were able to see the growth of our players, the two matches made us realise that there is still a clear gap between us and the top countries, especially when our opponents are in full-competition mode.
The final match was against the Northern Mariana Islands, led by Head Coach MITA Michiteru, coach of the JFA International dispatch coach programme. With two Japanese coaches facing off against each other, the players showed great enthusiasm, saying that “We cannot have coach INOUE lose!” I am sure that the Northern Marian Islands side also felt the same way, and it was an intense but clean match that left a lasting impression.
Cambodia traditionally had very few competitions for the youth age group, but the year 2022 made me realise that the development of the players and staff is highly motivated by the emotions felt during these competitions, such as joy, frustration, and a desire to perform better the next time.
As the host nation of the SEA GAMES 2023
In May 2023, the “SEA Games” (Southeast Asian Games), also known as the Olympics of Southeast Asia, will be held in Cambodia. It will be the first time for Cambodia to host a major international event.
Football is one of the sports where the public has high expectations for the team to perform well in the competition. Academy alumni who have been coached by Japanese coaches in the past are expected to make the national team and we are very much looking forward to seeing them in action.
Furthermore, this year marks the “70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Cambodia and Japan.” We hope that exchanges between the two countries will flourish even more in all fields, including football.
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