The Angkor Tiger FC’s Move to Siem Reap (and English Studies)

By Anna Torkkola, ACE Teacher

The future of football in Cambodia appears optimistic. With a blossoming professional league, Cambodian football is catching up with that of its Southeast Asian neighbours, and has started to expand beyond its original base, Phnom Penh. This expansion includes the Angkor Tiger Football Club, whose owner, Akihiro Kato, and manager, Yusuke Shinoda, decided to move the club’s home city from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap in early 2017.

Current players are very happy with the move, despite its challenges, according to Yusuke. The team had to sacrifice some key professional players, mostly those with families, and therefore had to recruit some amateur players from Siem Reap in order to make the move possible. “The first year for them... it was really tough, but step by step now they can play well”, says Yusuke. Luckily, good things come with time. Since the move, Siem Reap has welcomed the Angkor Tiger FC with open arms, and has shown it nothing but love and support. Yusuke explains enthusiastically that the result has been a much larger fan base, with crowd numbers increasing from a few hundred in Phnom Penh to approximately 4,500 at the most recent Siem Reap match. The club expects this number to rise to about 5,000 at the next home match in April.


Yusuke describes the sacrifices made for this move as necessary. Professional teams abroad and the big players in Southeast Asian football (Thailand and Malaysia) do not have all their eggs in one basket, so to speak. “Only in Cambodia are all of the teams in [one city]”, he explains. “In Cambodia, around 300 players are professional players, but most come from Phnom Penh or nearby. I saw that Siem Reap had potential.” This was a crucial first step in the expansion and development of Cambodian football. Yusuke envisions a bright future for the Cambodian league, one in which teams disperse across the country and new professional teams develop from amateur ones. This vision is already becoming a reality: two amateur players from Siem Reap contracted with the Angkor Tiger FC were recently selected to join the Cambodian national team. “We were able to prove that the players from Siem Reap have potential.”


With the aim of further development, Yusuke emphasises that English language skills are essential. At present, the team has foreign coaches and a mostly foreign management team, and Yusuke hopes to see his star athletes play abroad. So, English language skills are vital for them. “During the match [not communicating in English] doesn’t work well in the moment. That’s why if the player can understand English, it’s really nice for him”, Yusuke says. This focus on English language education began with Yusuke himself, who has been enrolled at the Australian Centre for Education (ACE) since mid-2018. Since Yusuke began his own studies, about ten members of the senior team, junior team and management team have joined him and enrolled as well. Moreover, ACE has recently come on board as a proud sponsor of the Angkor Tiger FC, a Siem Reap relationship that Yusuke describes as exciting. He hopes to have his players start their English language studies as early as possible, to help the team’s future success. “With just two months of study, I saw players being able to use English instantly more than before while playing. I was pleased to [witness] growth”, Yusuke confirms.

The Angkor Tiger FC has also been involved in various community projects in both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, including a team clean-up of Pub Street, ticket donations to Angkor Hospital for Children, and football clinics in Cambodian schools, with football donations accumulating to 10,000 of the team’s own footballs. The club engages in community projects to connect more closely with the local community and its fan base, especially the children of Siem Reap. “We give an opportunity for the children, but actually we learn something from them. Our job is not to only play football [but to encourage the children] to play. We have learned something from the children, which is a nice activity for our players as well.”

Angkor Tiger FC will play Boeung Ket FC, Phnom Penh, at Siem Reap Stadium on 7 April 2019. Tickets can be purchased at the stadium.

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