Cambodia’s general manager Keisuke Honda has broken his silence after the kingdom’s poor showing at the ongoing AFF Suzuki Cup.
In a short video posted to his official page, the Melbourne Victory midfielder is shown talking to his players under the caption; “There are 23 national players chosen among 16 million people, he said. “They are the hope of the Cambodian people and they face many obstacles without being able to escape. They are creating hope for their people but I know they can do more.”
After bowing out at the group stage following galling defeats to Malaysia, Myanmar, and Vietnam, Honda said he remained hopeful that his presence in the role of general manager would help the country to improve its football.
Football observers from around the world reacted with a mixture of astonishment and bemusement after Honda was unveiled in August. He was given a two-year unpaid contract and is also be acting as a cultural ambassador, highlighting the natural beauty of a kingdom renowned for its UNESCO-listed World Heritage site Angkor Wat.
His 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. He 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.
Honda became Melbourne Victory’s marquee signing for the Hyundai A-League 2018/19 season, joining after varying degrees of success with Italian giants AC Milan, Russian club CSKA Moscow, and Mexican outfit Pachucha. He started his career at Nagoya Grampus in 2004.
He is widely recognised as among the best Asian players in recent years and has an impressive record in the blue shirt of Japan. He has earned over 90 international caps since 2008, played at the 2010, 2014, and 2018 FIFA World Cup, and won the 2011 AFC Asian Cup, where he was voted Player of the Tournament. He confirmed his retirement from international football following Japan’s elimination by Belgium at the 2018 Russia World Cup.