With four of Cambodia’s finest footballers making the leap to the Malaysian Super League this year, Khmer Times will be keeping fans abreast of their fortunes ahead of this weekend’s opening round of fixtures.
Malaysia’s Football Association announced late last year they would be emulating their Thai counterparts by implementing an Asean player quota.
The Malaysian Football Association confirmed last month the quota would be in effect on a trial basis for five seasons starting from the 2018 season before a review in 2022.
Under the new rules, Malaysian Super League clubs are able to register three foreign players, one Asian player and an Asean player. Previously, clubs were only allowed to register a maximum of four foreigners with one signing coming from Asia.
Chan Vathanaka, who signed for Pahang FA, has already been marked out as one to watch by respected football fanzine FourFourTwo.
Formerly of Boeung Ket, Vathanaka scored twice against the Malaysians at the 2016 AFF Suzuki Cup opener and was scouted by various regional clubs before agreeing to an ultimately doomed deal with Japanese outfit Fujieda MYFC in January 2017.
However, he struggled to get any match time in Japan and returned to Boeung Ket in December last year before he was swiftly snapped up by Pahang, where he has started strongly.
Vathanaka will be vying for a spot in coach Dollar Sallah’s starting 11 in their season opener against Perak at Stadium Darul Makmur in Kuantan on Sunday afternoon.
Former Preah Khan Reach Svay Rieng winger Prak Mony Udom joined Negeri Sembilan last week and would have featured in a tasty international clash against compatriot Keo Sokpheng, who now turns out for Perbadanan Kemajuan Negeri Perak.
However Sokpheng, who signed from Phnom Penh Crown, will be forced to sit it out through injury and is not expected to be fit until matchweek 3. The sides will meet tomorrow afternoon at Penang State Stadium.
Also in action over the opening weekend is Terengganu FC midfielder Thierry Chantha Bin, formerly of Phnom Penh Crown and Thailand’s Krabi FC. Chantha Bin, who won two C-League titles with Crown, will meet Perbadanan Kemajuan Negeri Selangor tomorrow afternoon.
While some of Cambodia’s finest will be hoping for a good debut league season, the bookies’ favourites for the league title are juggernauts Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT), flush with cash and owned by Crown Prince of Johor Tunku Ismail Idris, have won the league title for four successive seasons since 2014.
It is reported that a major Cambodian television station is in talks to obtain rights to Malaysian Super League matches – especially those involving Cambodians – although a deal is unlikely to be in place for matchweek one.
An honourable mention should go to Atuheire Kipson, the former NagaWorld striker, who also made the switch to Malaysia. The 2017 C-League golden boot winner agreed terms with Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) and will be playing in the second-tier of the Malaysian football pyramid.
Cambodian football, after rapidly losing fans in droves, will hope the Malaysian connection could be enough to reignite the passion of its long suffering supporters.