Despite sudffering a second heavy defeat in their ongoing AFC U23 Championship Group H campaign, Cambodia coach Felix Dalmas reiterated his belief that the kingdom’s football was improving.
“I do not blame the squad, but instead and as always, I say the same thing, I believe in Cambodian players, they are in the process of developing themselves, “ said the Argentinean after Sunday’s 6-1 defeat to South Korea .
“Victory for Cambodia is always our main goal, and today, apart from the result, I see the progress of the team,” he added.
Despite the presence of Japanese football icon and Cambodia General Manager Keisuke Honda on the sidelines, Cambodia struggled to get any meaningful foothold on the game as the Koreans controlled the tie from start to finish.
Despite two successive losses, coach Dalmas says he remains optimistic for the team, regardless of the outcome of the group.
“As I have often said, we are progressing and in some parts of the game you can see the ideas working and the confidence growing. They are beginning to trust the system.I believe in what we’re doing and that makes me proud.
Dalmas also shed some light on Honda’s opinion on Cambodia’s recent form and development.
“When [we] talk about progress of the team, we have a clear concept that matches the football we want to play, he said. Honda was unveiled by the Football Federation of Cambodia as the new General Manager of the national team last August.
However, due to his lack of coaching licences, the head coach role was taken up by Dalmas with Honda providing tactical advice in his role as GM.
Honda’s first visit to the kingdom took place in 2015 during his nation’s 2018 Russia World Cup qualifying group stage qualifiers which pitted the Angkor Warriors against Honda’s Samurai Blue at Phnom Penh’s National Olympic Stadium. He duly netted a goal as Japan ran out 2-0 victors on the night to secure their spot at the top of the group ahead of second-placed Syria.
He returned in June 2016 as part of the inauguration of his eponymous Honda Soltilo Soccer School and a later three-day trip a year later allowed him to take a closer look at the school and take in a little of the Cambodian football scene.
Soltilo Familia Soccer School is a network of football training clubs established by Honda in 2007. It has since expanded to 65 football schools with over 4,000 students around the world including schools in his native Japan, China, the United States and now Cambodia. Honda has played a role in football development in Cambodia through his involvement in Cambodian first division side Soltilo Angkor – formerly known as Siem Reap Angkor FC.
Writing in a column for the Player’s Tribune, Honda expounded on his fondness for football development and for Cambodia.
“I’m especially proud of our professional soccer teams in Cambodia (Soltilo Angkor FC) and Uganda (Bright Stars FC) since these teams give kids who dreamed of becoming a professional soccer player the opportunity to have that dream. My interest in providing opportunities to economically disadvantaged athletes while playing soccer also led to me becoming an angel investor. This allows me to support big ideas, and startups, that that will hopefully make the world a better place,” it reads.
Cambodia play their final group game tomorrow.