Keisuke Honda, one of the biggest names in Asian football, announced during a visit to Phnom Penh on Thursday that he was considering opening a training academy in the capital to nurture a new generation of Cambodian footballers.
The 29-year-old Japanese midfielder, who has spent the past three seasons playing for Italian giant AC Milan, first discussed plans for the academy during a meeting with Football Federation of Cambodia president Sao Sokha in the morning, according to the federation’s vice president, Khieu Sameth.
“Mr. Honda came to visit Cambodia to learn about the possibility of opening a football school himself. He will make a final decision when he goes back to his country,” Mr. Sameth said, adding that Mr. Honda pledged to finance the academy himself if the plans went ahead.
“Mr. Honda will cover everything, such as sponsoring the players and the coaches,” he said.
In the afternoon, Mr. Honda visited Indradevi High School in Tuol Kok district and also discussed the prospect of a local training center.
“I am a professional player,” he told a group of students in English. “So I want to improve Cambodian football players. Then I decided to choose Cambodia.”
Mr. Honda explained that his interest in Cambodia was born of his visit to the country in November, when he helped Japan secure a 2-0 win against the national team in a World Cup qualifier at the Olympic Stadium.
“I realized that Cambodian football players are getting better and better, but everything is still limited,” he said.
But Mr. Honda cautioned he had no firm plans for the academy—which would bring a much-needed boost to Cambodia’s lackluster youth development system.
“I have no ideas yet, but I have to study about Cambodia’s situation first. I can’t say how much it [might] cost, but [I] will try my best,” he said. “I will train young boys as young as possible, then those boys will train until they are 16 or 17 years old.”
Roeun David, 16, a student at Indradevi High School, said meeting Mr. Honda was a thrilling experience.
“I was so happy that Mr. Honda came to our school,” he said. “No other school had good luck like our school.”
“He can help young players in the country. I want young children to know how to play football together so we can fulfill our dreams and be like him,” David added.
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