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From Pitches in Asia – Report from JFA Coaches/Instructors in Asia Vol.33: OHARA Kazunori, Technical Director of Football Federation of Cambodia

05 April 2018

From Pitches in Asia – Report from JFA Coaches/Instructors in Asia Vol.33: OHARA Kazunori, Technical Director of Football Federation of Cambodia

“From Pitches in Asia” is a report that introduces the viewpoints of instructors active in Asian countries. The 33rd edition is a report by OHARA Kazunori, who works in Cambodia as Technical Director of Football Federation of Cambodia (FFC).

Heading into the fourth season in Combodia

Prior to assuming this position in 2015, I was informed by the Japan Football Association (JFA) that they had not started to build a foundation for the development of youth players in Cambodia including grassroots programme. When I first started to work in Cambodia, I visited various football activities and interviewed people involved to understand the football environment in Cambodia. I held meetings with nearly 40 coaches who are employed by the FFC with the financial support of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), and observed their day-to-day activities. In efforts to improve their activities, I have collaborated with the National Academy to organise workshops and instructed the youth development coaches until the end of 2016.

In 2017, with the support from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MoEYS) of Cambodia, the FFC President took the initiative to launch a project to spread “Designated Football Schools,” a non-boarding style academies, throughout Cambodia. The project started by investigating football grounds and schools throughout the country from January to March. In April, we revisited each provinces to select coaches and players. The first school opened in May at Svay Rieng Province and the opening ceremony was broadcasted on TV. The number of these designated schools grew gradually, leading to the establishment of the new youth league in November. The league consisted with the designated schools from 12 different provinces, youth club teams, and the National Academy. Teams were divided into four regional groups, competing in a home and away format where the top two teams from each group advanced to the final round. The final was played on 17 March 2018.

For the project to take root in Cambodia

Regional football associations do not exist in Cambodia, so we had to collaborate with each of the Municipal and Provincial Departments of Education Youth and Sport of MoEYS. With the FFC and MoEYS operating under different system of governance, there were times where we were given the cold shoulder from local departments. Also, nepotism is common in Cambodia and we were requested to employ certain coaches in order to earn support for our project. In provinces where the number of applicants exceeded the number of recruitment, we held a practical session to determine the employment.

The establishment of the designated schools were completed in all 25 provinces this February. The developing process has just begun and what we do from here will be the main focal point. But the establishment of a nationwide scouting system and regional hubs for the FFC has made a great impact already. At the beginning of March, the player selection took place for the National Academy. Player recommendations were made by the 25 schools while data from each school’s inaugural selection and the final round of the youth tournament were utilised for the selection.

With the help of three other FFC staffs, I have been managing, checking, and observing the schedules and reports submitted by each schools. However, we occasionally find no one showed up at the training ground, even though we were visiting according to their schedule. So, there are schools where they cancel their activities without informing us, but with the youth league starting, activities has definitely picked up its pace.

The project would be a success if we can find players who can be a part of the National Academy or play in a strong club team. But more than anything, I believe that Cambodia has the great potential to become an international powerhouse in the close future, if we can successfully build the foundation for youth development through the designated schools. The schools will serve as a platform to not only develop players but coaches as well.

The power of football

In Cambodia, Japan is highly respected as one of the strongest country in Asia. There are currently three Japanese instructors (Referee Director KARAKIDA Tetsu, Coach of FFC Academy & U-19 National Team MIZUSHIMA Musashi) including myself at the FFC, and all of us are expected to contribute to improve the level of football in Cambodia. Two out of twelve clubs competing in the Cambodian Top League are Japanese teams, while more than 20 Japanese players and staffs are actively working in the league. As part of the grassroots movement, I have been informed that there are Japanese football schools as well as football classes held by Japanese organisations in rural areas. Football serves as an effective international exchange platform in Cambodia, not only because football is popular here, but because the local people are very eager to learn from an Asian power-house like Japan. When you look at it that way, it really raises my consciousness.

In conclusion

The level of Japanese football serves as an indicator to evaluate the Japanese instructors. I would like Japan National Team to keep striving to achieve greatness at the World Cup as the leader of Asia. However, with their focal point heavily aimed towards their own country and Europe, I must reassure Japan not to take Asia for granted. Without the development in Asian football, there will be no success for Asian countries at the world level. I hope that more Japanese instructors will challenge and play a role in Asia.


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