Chan Vathanaka’s stint at Pahang FA came to an abrupt end yesterday, a little under five months after making a high profile switch to the Malaysian Premier League (MSL) club.
Vathanaka has found himself expendable with the club’s coach Dollah Salleh choosing to replace him with Issey Nakajima.
Vathanaka’s place in coach Salleh’s squad had been precarious since the signing of Patrick dos Santos Cruz, a Brazilian forward who has notched nine goals in just 10 appearances. In his nine outings, Vathanaka had registered a single strike, in last weekend’s league fixture against Kedah.
Vathanaka was optimistic in a social media post addressing his situation yesterday: “It’s not strange in the football world. It has always happened, reads the post. “But, what makes me happy is that I have completed the task that I came to do. What I have to do continuously is to not give up. Although I have stayed here [Pahang] for just a few months, it’s really a place that made me learn more about football. A new experience for life and the way I want to continue without stopping. I don’t give up because I want to win, I am tired, but I have to bear. Finally, I only have the words of thanks to everybody who always supported and encouraged me. Thank you all very much.”
Pahang coach Salleh often expressed his frustration with Vathanaka, saying he felt 24-year-old forward was not showing any significant improvement and playing below expectations.
Pahang and Salleh’s patience ran out yesterday after the club revealed their intentions to allow Vathanaka to leave. He becomes the second Cambodian to be cut in this MSL transfer window after Keo Sokpheng’s was also shown the exit door by PKNP FC.
Former Cambodian national team coach Leonardo Vitorino sent Vathanaka some words of support; “Do not give up on what you want. Waiting is difficult, but regretting is even more difficult. Effort and try to move forward Chan Vathanaka. “
Former Pahang teammate Safuwan Baharudin also expressed his support for Vathanaka in an Instagram post of the duo. He had previously praised Vathanaka: “Vathanaka is my roommate on our away trips, the Singaporean midfielder told Fox Sports Asia. “He is a quality player and like everyone else, he is pushing himself hard to help the team.”
Known affectionately to the kingdom’s football fans as CV11, Vathanaka has been a veritable revelation since emerging on the books of Metfone C-League club Preah Khan Reach Svay Rieng FC in 2011.
After being coaxed into making the switch to rivals Boeung Ket, and undergoing an intensive change in diet and training, he soon progressed into a fearsome goal machine.
He hit 35 league goals and a total of 60 across all competitions for club and country in 2015 and finished the year as highest goalscorer of any Southeast Asian nation.
He continued his goalscoring exploits in 2016, claiming a hat-trick against CMAC FC in his first start, going on to plunder 22 league goals as Boeung Ket beat Ministry of Defense FC to claim only their second league title.
His 2017 however was an altogether disappointing affair, as he found himself relegated to benchwarmer at Japanese J3-league club Fujieda MYFC. He ended his time in Japan last November, after a handful of substitute appearances and duly signed on at Pahang a month later.
Malaysia’s Football Association had announced last year they would be emulating their Thai counterparts by implementing an Asean player quota on a trial basis for five seasons starting from the 2018 season before a review in 2022.
Under the new rules, 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.
Thierry Chantha Bin, Prak Mony Udom, Sokpheng and Vathanaka all benefited from the quota with Chantha Bin and Mony Udom the last Cambodian’s standing. Where Vathanaka will go next is anybody’s guess.