European Football Interviews

Back to Scandinavia For A Different Adventure: Oriol Mohedano Signs With Raufoss IL

After spending more than 6 years (cumulatively) in the Khmer Kingdom, Oriol Mohedano is someone that fans of the Cambodian top flight are all too familiar with. The Spaniard crafted his legacy at Angkor Tiger, where he managed 100 games across 5 seasons with the Siem Reap-based outfit before being appointed as Assistant Coach at Cambodian titans, Preah Khan Reach Svay Rieng for the 2022 Cambodian Premier League Campaign. Yet, while he has undoubtedly made a considerable impact in the country, Oriol has decided to leave Cambodia for greener pastures in Norway and has signed as an assistant coach for Norwegian second-tier side Raufoss IL’s first team, the team which Singaporean stalwart Ikhsan Fandi turned out for between 2019 and 2020 and began his European adventure.

However, it is not unfamiliar territory for Oriol, who spent significant time in Scandinavia, prior to helming Angkor Tiger in 2017, where he coached at Finnish outfits SJK Seinäjoki and FC Legirus Inter.

“For me, it is a return of sorts to this part of the world,” explains the 36-year-old. “During the earlier stages of my coaching career, I had conducted football clinics in Norway on two occasions – one in Filsa and another in Kolbotn – with other Spanish coaches. Of course, I spent considerable time in Finland between 2016 and 2017 as well so adapting to the weather and extraordinary culture here has become a rather swift process. What has also helped is the warm welcome I have received from everyone at the club – from the Sports Director to the players. The club has also been extremely kind to me in helping me settle in and have assisted me with material and logistical aspects.”

Image Credits: Raufoss IL

It was however by no means an easy decision for Oriol to make given his love for Cambodia and its football, but one that he believes is necessary for his own growth. Staying within one’s comfort zone isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does limit one’s opportunities to grow. To be the possible version of yourself, often you need to take a risk and step out. At Angkor Tiger, Oriol believes that he was stuck in this zone and after 5 seasons, it was time he ventured into a new domain. Following the 2022 campaign with Svay Rieng, Oriol knew that he was at risk of remaining in his comfort zone once again and was determined to look for opportunities that would allow him to push himself and become a better coach – something that he feels he is already experiencing with Raufoss.

“I have already started work with my new colleagues and I have to admit that it is a refreshing experience,” shares Oriol. “We are creating a positive environment to work in and placing a lot of emphasis on the finer details of plans. It is remarkably great to be involved with the first team at this level and it has only been two weeks. I am sincerely looking forward to what lies ahead – whether be it training sessions, fixtures, or analyzing footage.”

Thankfully, Oriol can look to his experiences at Svay Rieng to aid him in his new Scandinavian adventure.

“I will fondly remember my experience in 2022 because it was significant to my development as a coach,” mentions the Spaniard. “Svay Rieng are one of the biggest clubs in Cambodia. You will be amazed by the structure and dimensions present in the set-up of the club. Of course, some of these aspects are visible to outsiders while others are not. However, after being part of the club last season, I have to praise the considerable efforts of various club personnel in their bid to help elevate Cambodian football standards.”

Image Credits: Preah Khan Reach Svay Rieng

Oriol also learned another valuable lesson during the 2022 campaign – how Svay Rieng lost the title after establishing a massive lead for the bulk of the CPL season. The bitter memory still lingers in Oriol’s mind but he does admit that nevertheless, “the high quality of the set-up was always there every day” and that he will take away many positives from his time with the 2019 C-League champions. In his mind, he knows that his former outfit has what it takes to make amends for the 2022 season and acquire the success it was touted for in 2023.

One thing that many within the Cambodian football fraternity would be wondering is whether we could potentially see a Cambodian footballer ply their trade in Norway. Even though there is indeed a gulf in the football standards between Cambodia and Norway, Oriol believes it is possible for a Cambodian footballer to make the leap.

Image Credits: Oriol Mohedano

“Of course, yes, it is more than possible,” claims Oriol. “However, there are many gaps that need to be filled before such a move can take place. One feels a different kind of pressure when playing as a foreign player abroad. Norwegian football is arguably the strongest in the Scandavanian region and as such, the nature of the beautiful game here is more competitive as well as challenging. Given this, it would be best for Cambodian players to first move abroad within Southeast Asia to play in a more competitive league and adjust to life overseas before a move to Europe may be possible. With the current trends across the ASEAN region, we can expect to see more Cambodian footballers moving to other Southeast Asia or even wider Asian leagues. In due time, we will see Khmer players playing in Europe, and perhaps sooner than we think.”

While Oriol plans for the year ahead he will always keep an eye on the Cambodian Premier League, and to that end, he has a message for current and budding Cambodian professional footballers:

“I humbly ask the Khmer players to not only dream but also to act. They need to take the necessary steps to bridge the gaps and do so without fear. It just takes one person to take the next step in their career and we can see the massive ripple effects on the broader Cambodian football fraternity, and then everyone will also step up accordingly.”

Image Credits: Raufoss IL

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