Asian Football Interviews

Changing Stripes: A New Chapter Begins For Oriol Mohedano at Svay Rieng

When I last interviewed Oriol Mohedano, the Tiger Tactician was approaching his 100th game for Angkor Tiger and finished the 2021 campaign as a centurion. In the current global football landscape, it is indeed rare to witness football coaches reaching this pinnacle. However, after 5 seasons with the Tiger, Oriol crossed the 100-game mark, transforming the club into a force to be reckoned with.

Yet, 2021 would also mark his last season with Siem Reap’s finest.

Image Credits: Angkor Tigers

“After spending five years with the club, I felt it was time for me to move to a new adventure. The five years taught me learned a lot of lessons, especially being resilient and resourceful. Thankfully, we parted ways on a good note and it was a mutual understanding between myself and the President, Aki[hiro Kato]. Mid-way through the season, we agreed that this was my last campaign with Tigers and I wanted to give my all before I left the team.”

With more than one hundred games under his belt, it was time for Oriol to move on to greener pastures and Thailand came calling. Or so he thought.

Oriol had the opportunity to work with a Thai League 1 outfit. Towards the end of the 2020/2021 Thai league season, the club offered Oriol an assistant coach position and that he could link up with the squad in December 2021, after he had completed his 2021 campaign with Angkor Tiger. However, trouble brewed when the club began to suffer a slump in form during the 2021/2022 campaign, with rumours brewing about the head coach getting the axe. Towards the end of the year (mid-way through the Thai season), the unfortunate happened. The head coach was shown the door. The club went in a different direction to recruit a new head coach and therefore, brought in another assistant. Thus, Oriol’s opportunity to work with the club never materialized.

The whole episode truly crushed the Spaniard, who knew that coaching in the Thai top flight would be a great next step to further his career. However, after taking some time off to regain his composure, Oriol knew that he needed to voice his story if only to warn other coaches to protect themselves from such actions by clubs.

However, this incident left Oriol without a club and a job, and the search for a new team ensued. Thankfully, a host of offers were knocking on his door. Clubs from Finland and Costa Rica approached to recruit former Angkor Tiger Head Coach. At the same time, interestingly, a potential move to Singapore was also on the cards. However, after evaluating his options, Oriol decided that he was determined to remain in Cambodia for the 2022 campaign. and continue his efforts in elevating the footballing standards of the state. According to Oriol, Cambodian football is experiencing unprecedented growth. Since arriving in the country in 2016, where he was interim manager for Phnom Penh Crown FC, Oriol feels like he has a deep connection with Cambodia and is thrilled about the exciting period ahead.

Image Credits: Preah Khan Reach Svay Rieng FC

Preah Khan Reach Svay Rieng FC (more commonly known as Svay Rieng FC) came calling and snapped up the veteran C-League gaffer to be their new assistant head coach. While he may not be appointed as a head coach at Svay Rieng, Oriol is relishing the opportunity to work alongside Connor Nestor, whom he has known for years.

“We knew each other as rivals but we eventually became friends. During the offseason, we used to meet up in cafes and talk a lot about football,” shares Oriol. “I have always had a deep respect for Connor. He has a remarkable record of going unbeaten for more than thirty games and his style of football is also in line with my tactical philosophy. Obviously, I was an assistant coach before my time with Angkor Tiger but I do not see myself as an assistant coach but as part of a broader coaching staff. Modern football is very stressful and many issues arise. I believe that there needs to be a strong backroom staff to deal with this and Svay Rieng have brought me into the club on such a basis. Since I was a head coach for the past five seasons, I do feel that I am best equipped to support Connor this season. Even now, we have been exchanging a lot of ideas and learning from one another.”

The 2022 season would also be interesting for Oriol as it marks the first season of the newly-launched Cambodian Premier League – a move that sees the total number of teams in the league reduced to eight, including his former side, Angkor Tiger.

“I really want the Cambodian Premier League to succeed and as I mentioned before, the football scene is really expanding. Things like the quality and sense of professionalism have always improved. Interestingly, we see much different football schools of thought and styles emerging in Cambodia and this makes the scene very vibrant. The U-22 rule implementation does illustrate that the officials recognize that the current youth setup has some challenges but I think there are issues by making it mandatory to field U-22 players. From my experience and understanding, every Cambodian team tries to promote their youth players and give these youngsters a chance to play. I think it is better if we let things take their natural course.”

Image Credits: Preah Khan Reach Svay Rieng FC

While some may think it would be a bittersweet encounter for Oriol when Svay Rieng take on Angkor Tiger, he doesn’t feel so. Having experienced going up against former sides before the Tigers role, Oriol knows that he needs to be professional. Still, he does hope for the best for Siem Reap’s finest and sincerely treasures the memories he forged at the club. But right now, his focus and commitment are to Svay Rieng.

It certainly has to be said that Svay Rieng have certainly done well to add Oriol to their backroom staff. Besides having a wealth of experience under his belt, Oriol brings a positive mentality and his ability to relate to his players is simply unparalleled. It will be interesting to see how Oriol and Connor work together for the upcoming campaign and if anything, the Spaniard’s acquisition is further proof that the club is a serious title contender. After all, the club has brought in goal machine Marcus Haber this campaign, and after a sensational run with Visakha in 2021, fans would be expecting the same this season.

Nevertheless, while he may be in a new environment, one thing has certainly not changed for Oriol Mohedano.

“My goal has always been to become one of the best coaches wherever I go to – be it in Cambodia, or some other place. To get there, I know I need to learn more and I am always trying to make a positive impact while coaching football. This season, with Svay Rieng, I hope to accomplish great things and I am working closely with Connor to make that target a reality.”

Featured Image Credits: Angkor Tiger and Preah Khan Reach Svay Rieng FC.

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