Phnom Penh Crown head coach Leonardo Vitorino has come out in support of under-pressure national team forward Chan Vathanaka.
In a post to social media yesterday, the former Cambodia national team coach said he was forced to speak out after learning of Vathanaka’s concerning post on social media.
On Tuesday, Vathanaka took to Facebook to post; “I don’t deserve to be a national team player.”
However, Vitorino, who coached Vathanaka during a short-lived stint as national team head coach, sent words of encouragement to the Boeung Ket forward.
“I promised not talk about National Team and I will not talk. I just wanna talk about one young boy that represent your country along of this year with your heart and dedication to be better, reads Vitorino’s post.
“I know how you feeling sometimes, but I know how you are strong and how is your dedication as a football player. We [were] together a time ago in National Team and I know your dedication and your commitment to your country. I can say I believe in your potential,” he adds.
The Brazilian was installed as Angkor Warriors coach in March 2017 and led the senior Cambodia team to a single competitive win over Afghanistan.
During Monday’s defeat to Myanmar in Mandalay, in their second AFF Suzuki Cup group game, 24-year-old Vathanaka scored the opener to hand the visitors the lead. But much to the bemusement of fans, he was hauled off at half-time by General Manager Keisuke Honda and head coach Felix Dalmas. Myanmar then punished Cambodia, firing in four goals to win 4-1.
Cambodian football legend Pen Phath also reacted to Vathanaka’s statement on social media.
“It’s not the mistake of a single player. Football is a team game. You [Vathanaka] did well, he said. “We were affected by the lack of stamina near the end of games. We need to think about how to solve this. Why is this problem always affecting us?,” he added.
Vathanaka rejoined former club Boeung Ket after unsuccessful stints in Malaysia and Japan.
Known affectionately to the kingdom’s football fans as CV11, Vathanaka has been a veritable revelation since emerging on the books of Metfone C-League club Preah Khan Reach Svay Rieng FC in 2011.
After being coaxed into making the switch to rivals Boeung Ket, and undergoing an intensive change in diet and training, he soon progressed into a fearsome goal machine.
He hit a total of 60 across all competitions for club and country in 2015. He continued his goalscoring exploits in 2016, claiming a hat-trick against CMAC FC in his first start, going on to plunder 22 league goals as Boeung Ket beat Ministry of Defense FC to claim only their second league title.
2017 was an altogether disappointing affair. He found himself relegated to benchwarmer at J3-league club Fujieda MYFC. He ended his time in Japan last November, after a handful of substitute appearances.
In early 2018, he turned out for Pahang of the Malaysian Super League – although it was a spell he will want to forget. The move came to an abrupt end in April, a little under five months after making a high profile switch.
After two defeats, Cambodia’s chances of qualifying now hang in the balance. They next host Laos on November 20 before travelling to Vietnam for their final group stage match on 24th.