Head of Football Federation of Cambodia (FFC) Sao Sokha has announced that he will resign from his post if the Cambodian under-22 team cannot get through the Group A qualifiers of the 32nd SEA Games.
He made the promise following a heart breaking 1-1 draw with the Philippines on May 2.
The result was all the more frustrating for the Young Kouprey and their fans, as they held a 1-0 lead until the 93rd minute, when the Philippines were able to draw level in extra time.
Sokha took to social media to express his frustration.
“Since Cambodia was awarded hosting duties for the games, I have spent more than a decade preparing to honour the nation through football. If the team fails to advance to the semi-finals, I will resign as head of the FFC immediately,” he said.
“If this happens, I request that the FFC executive committee and General Secretariat hold an immediate general assembly and appoint my successor. I will apologise to every one of the Kingdom’s football fans for my inability to lead this team to success,” he added.
The match, held at the National Olympic Stadium, began well, with striker Ky Rina scoring in the 26th minute to give the Kingdom’s team a 1-0 lead. They maintained the single goal buffer for the full 90 minutes, when the referee declared he would add a further 5 minutes of extra time.
With only 3 minutes remaining, fans – both at the stadium and those watching the free live broadcast – were confident Cambodia could hold on and claim 3 points for a win in their pool.
It was not to be, as Filipino striker Dov Anthony Misael Santico Carino – who had only been sent onto the pitch in the 83rd minute – headed in a goal in the 93rd minute.
The visiting team seemed elated to have eked out a draw, while the Cambodians were deflated that their long-held lead had not been enough to secure enough points to guarantee a place in the semi-finals.
Several players had been substituted – due to injury or minor muscle niggles – when the heartbreaking header soured into the back of the Cambodian net.
Ky Rina was substituted in the 37th minute, while Sieng Chanthea and Sophal Diamond left in the 76th minute. Chea Sok Meng and Phat Sokha were also substituted in the 88th minute, while some players with minor injuries struggled to play to their full potential.
Prime Minister Hun Sen took to social media to assure the team that he was still a fan.
“Congratulations to the Cambodian football players who worked so hard in their men’s Group A football match on the night of May 2. Although the match was a 1-1 draw, I wish them success in their next match,” he wrote.
With the one point from the draw, the Cambodian team still tops the Group A table. Myanmar defeated Timor-Leste 1-0 on May 2, giving them three points, so they are tied for second on the table with Indonesia. The Young Kouprey still have everything to play for, and will meet Myanmar on May 7 before taking on Indonesia on May 10, their final pool game.
“It is easy to say that we could have won the game. I’m proud of my guys for the point they scored tonight. We will change our mentality soon and prepare for the next game! Thank you,” said the national team’s general manager, Japanese legend Keisuke Honda.