So, as the days slowly roll past and I slowly prepare to go back, i thought it might be a good idea to have a guest blogger. Unfortunately, I don't know any bloggers. So I thought I might as well put up one of my old blogs from my personal account. COP is the organisation I worked with that ignited the touchpaper. Please enjoy.
When I first joined the team as a coach it was at the exact same tournament. Under 17s. It was my first experience with them and my lack of khmer was really difficult. I was trying to give advice but could not get it out. Incredibly frustrating.
They came dead last and missed all their penalties.
This tournament was much better. Their maturity and growth in the six months I've been with them is incredible. I know they had matured from playing in the big boys league. So it was an interesting experiment to see what would happen when playing in their own age group once more.
We had just started a new warm up technique so we got all players to turn up early. The tournament started at 0730. We got them there at 0645 and warmed up until 0710. Due to their only being one pitch and the way the pools placed us, our first game? 0930. No need to get there so early! Never mind we played on.
The first game and first half was dire. It was against a team that had some muscular kids and had just battered a team about 4-0. So COP was playing nervously. We had to get to half time.
Half time arrived and we hadn't scored nor had they. It was shaky but we could do it. I had to motivate them and reignite their desire for it. I asked what have they come for? To win? Or to play nicely? They replied they wanted to be champions. I had to get onto Vitu's back telling him if he has come to watch then he can sit with me. Something my Dad used to ask me in Sunday league.
Second half began. I made two subs. A workhorse of Rothana on the right side and our secret weapon of little Roth (13 yrs against big 16/17yrs) in the middle and moved Vitu to the left. It worked. Rothana bust down the right hand side, played in a cross and Vitu was on the end to head it in. 1-0. Now because this was a while ago, I can't remember as to how they equalised but they did. 1-1.
Our secret weapon, little Roth worked. He made some nice movements and Rothana put in another cross of which he headed in. 2-1. Just before the end of the game another chance came of which he volleyed in. 3-1.
Match number two. Local rivals.
Had to win to advance. First half again was sloppy and they went 1-0. We never looked like we had it in us for most of the half. But then one of our thinkers got the ball, Mony (17 yrs), He played a quick passing move with little Roth and he got it back and scored. 1-1. However they were still all over us. Get them in again. Change it up. My assistant coach spoke to them tactically. I spoke to them passionately. I took Vitu off, he had some blisters from playing in the heat. Brought Rothana on again. We were playing better and were more sound defensively. Though we weren't scoring. Brought Meng (16) off and replaced him with Vitu. Last minute of the game a ball came from the left from little Roth beating his man. Crossed it in, Vitu checked his run and side footed it into the bottom left hand corner. 2-1. Full time.
Semi final. Big rivals who's captain 'looked down on us' according to the players.
We played well and were sound. It was a feisty game. We were doing fine but just couldn't unlock the door. We hit the bar. We made the keeper work a fair few times. It just didn't want to go in. Then a lapse of concentration from our defender meant they got in one on one and scored. Never mind.
The lads heads went down. They were panicking and lost their heads in actual fact, 3 players went to close down one and he slipped a ball through 2-0. Game ended a couple of minutes later. We ended up hitting the bar twice and the post once. With the keeper tipping it round to a corner 4 times. Unlucky.
Penalties with the other losing team to find out who came third.
Now as an English man I'm never confident with these. Especially since what I had seen all those months ago and we hadn't practiced them since. Little Roth had the confidence to say he wanted to go first. So he was one out of three chosen.
The other two were the captain Hab and Vitu.
Roth steps up and misses. I told him to pick a corner, not change it and shoot. He didn't change it but he tried to shoot into the corner too well and it went past the post.
They scored. Pressure on.
Vitu steps up and scores.
They scored. 2-1.
Hab steps up and scores. 2-2.
They step up and it's saved by our keeper, Meng (17). True heroics. He'd saved penalties in the big league as well!
Another player needed to be picked to take the fourth. I choose Mony.
Steps up and scores. 3-2.
They step up and miss!
We did it! Third. What an improvement, I regret I wasn't able to give them a trophy. But after coming dead last and then in six months coming 3rd. Looking back I'm incredibly proud of their efforts and the result. Of course, the fairytale would be champions. Though it didn't happen. I will remember it forever. Thanks COP, you made me, yourselves and our fans incredibly happy and proud of you. To the next one.
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