After a slow start to the season Angkor Tiger have seemingly made a knee-jerk reaction with the announcement that popular coach Alistair Heath would leave the club by “mutual consent”.
In an exclusive interview BPVE get Alistair’s take on his time at the club and his hopes for the future.
To read our first interview with Heath click here.
What brought you to Cambodia initially?
I had been looking for a managerial position in Southeast Asia for some time because I recognize the immense potential of football in the region. I received an offer from the club and I was excited about the club’s vision and direction. I also loved that it was a club in the province, and I wanted to help further stamp the territorial identity of the club as Siem Reap’s finest. I signed the contract because it seemed like an exciting project to be a part of.
Last year you were arguably the most promising manager in the league, what went wrong?
I think it was always going to be a real challenge to go up against the likes of Phnom Penh Crown, Visakha, Svay Rieng, Nagaworld, and Boeung Ket with the resources we had. We pulled off notable upset results last season and wanted to build from that foundation. However, we faced many issues this year. For instance, I was informed that we could only bring in foreign players later in the year for the Cambodian Premier League due to the shift in the league calendar and budget constraints. We were trying to bring in more experienced Khmer players but we did not have the resources to secure them. We were left with a thin squad for the League Cup. As such, I suggested to start the proper recruitment of good youth players in Siem Reap and surrounding provinces. However, I was informed by the club that the idea was not feasible due to the various limitations. Regardless, I was up for the challenge and went the extra mile. I went down to academy training sessions regularly because many of our young players like Sosea, David, and Vylik have school and are unable to train during our morning sessions – where we usually could only get slots for training on the pitch. Ensuring that these young players received proper training was important but without them training together with the first team, it was always going to be a challenge for the team to properly gel. Despite that, I did feel, with time, we could make some headway as the season progressed.
What do Tiger need to do to move forward?
I sincerely believe that the best way for the club to move forward is to invest in the academy and recruit from the surrounding provinces. The club has the best fanbase in Cambodia and I felt the warmth and support from the masses in Siem Reap both on and off the pitch. They need to capitalize on this more. This year, with the budget constraints, I suggested that the club engage various Siem Reap-based businesses and I am glad to have seen them follow through with this idea. However, more needs to be done. The club has the ability to reap massive benefits if they effectively tap into the Siem Reap market. We have shown this season that we can bring in quality foreign players but more needs to be done to attract experienced Khmer players. It is not easy for players to uproot themselves in Phnom Penh and leave their families without a pay raise or competitive salary offer. That is a huge stumbling block. I do hope that if the club goes through with its stadium plans, there is finally a designated venue for training instead of switching between Svay Thom or the pitches at Hanuman Stadium. I do hope the players in the club do well this season and I wish them all the best.
What do you think about Cambodian football as a whole?
Cambodian football has immense potential and I am glad to see many clubs in the league being privately owned with passionate owners and already having their own stadiums. There are a lot of talented Khmer and foreign players in the league that help raise the quality of football. I think with Felix Damas in charge of the national team as well, the future looks bright for football here. Overall, I am blessed to have had the opportunity to forge new friendships and rivalries in the Khmer Kingdom. Cambodia and Cambodian football will always have a special place in my heart.
What are your immediate plans?
I am returning to the UK to regroup and refresh before venturing out for the next chapter of my career, wherever that may be.
Was your departure mutually agreed?
This article is adapted from BPVE, (https://bpve.com/) reported and edited from the great team – Cambodia Sports Review. (https://www.cambodiasportsreview.com/)
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