PHNOM PENH, Dec 19 (Reuters) - Cambodia’s cash-strapped national team has parted company with Australian coach Scott O’Donell because it could not find the money to pay him, the country’s soccer president said on Wednesday.
O’Donell opted not to renew the contract, due to expire at the end of this year, after a sponsor paying his salary pulled the plug on the deal.
“Scott’s payment is too high, we cannot afford it,” Sao Sokha, president of Cambodia’s soccer federation, told Reuters.
“Our country’s economy is recovering from the past difficult times,” he said, referring to Cambodia’s three-decades of civil war, which included the brutal Khmer Rouge “killing fields” genocide between 1975 and 1979.
“For sure, Scott is a good coach but training players to achieve the level of our satisfaction we cannot do overnight,” he said.
O’Donell, a well-known television soccer pundit in Asia, said he wished he could have done more with the team.
“At the end of the day it came down to money, which Cambodia doesn’t really have,” he said.
“There’s no hard feelings, the team just didn’t get the support it needed.
“I know I gave it everything I could, I’ve not been able to do what I wanted. They just couldn’t afford to keep me on.”
The Australian had endured a tumultuous two-and-a-half years in charge of the struggling side and surprised many when he refused to quit following a bizarre intervention by Cambodian Prince Norodom Ranariddh, who replaced the team with his own just days before the Southeast Asian Games in 2005.
Cambodia’s team of part-timers is one of the world’s least successful national sides and is currently 183rd out of the 201 countries in the FIFA rankings.
They were eliminated in the first round of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup and were hammered 3-1, 6-2 and 8-0 to finish bottom of their group in this month’s Southeast Asian Games. (Writing and additional reporting by Martin Petty; Editing by John O’Brien)