Metfone C-League newcomers Visakha FC continue to shake up the Cambodian transfer market after revealing they had completed a transfer coup of Cambodian National Team players Keo Sokpheng and Sok Sovan.
During yesterday afternoon’s unveiling, Visakha manager Hok Sochetra, himself a legendary goalscorer, touted the club’s ability to acquire two of the kingdom’s best players.
“We need additional players, and we lacked strength in depth, said the Sochetra, whose side currently sit fourth in the C-League standings. “Our younger players from our season in the second league are still lacking in experience. We signed these players to take away some of that burden from the youth and fill in the gaps where we could use their ability and experience.”
Sokpheng, formerly of Phnom Penh Crown and Boeung Ket, was recently released by Malaysian Super League outfit Perbadanan Kemajuan Negeri Perak (PKNP) after an ineffective half-season spell.
The forward had made an early impression on the MSL after scoring in a 1-0 home victory over Negeri Sembilan in his league debut. The goal also gave him the distinction of being the first goalscorer of the 2018 MSL season. However, since that dazzling debut, his struggles with injuries and homesickness curtailed his Malaysian sojourn.
The news of the move to Visakha will hit Crown fans hard. The 27-year-old was expected to resign with sixth-placed Crown and improve their stuttering attack. Reports suggested that while Crown were in negotiations with their former star, salary expectations with the former C-League champions could not be met, leaving Visakha to swoop in with a big-money offer.
Goalscoring centre-back Sovan, formerly a two-time C-League winner with Phnom Penh Crown and who also won league titles with Boeung Ket, was deemed surplus to requirements at Boeung Ket.
Sovan, speaking at yesterday’s press conference, said his motivations for signing with Visakha was to gain experience at a new club.
Meanwhile, Cambodian national team captain and Boeung Ket frontman Khuon Laboravy also announced he was on the move. The striker said he had agreed terms with Surat Thani FC of Thailand.
Laboravy, speaking yesterday, said that the Thai club had promised he would be a regular starter.
“I want to try out overseas but I do not want to sit down [on the bench]. I want to be in the first 11,” said Laboravy, who has won two league titles with Boeung Ket. “The coach wants me and guarantees me I’ll be among the first choice starters.”
Surat Thani are also known as the ‘Roosters’ and are helmed by Monthien Morrakot. They play in Thai League 3 – the third tier of the Thai football pyramid.
Laboravy said he has targeted June 9, the first match of the second round of the Thai season, to make his first appearance for his new employers.
In April, Laboravy underwent an unsuccessful week-long trial at Ratchaburi Mitr Phol of the Thai Premier League.
Despite his ability, the 29-year old has long been a target of criticism by many fans for a less than stellar goalscoring record in national team colours. Laboravy has hit the back of the net 12 times in 56 games.
Despite the critics, Laboravy was a firm favourite of former national team coach Leonardo Vitorino who vociferously came to the defence of his number 9.
“The relentless criticism of Laboravy is not a good thing, said the Brazilian coach after a defeat of Afghanistan last June. “He helps the team in so many ways. He contributes a lot in every match, whether in attack or defence he is always actively trying to help the team.”
Laboravy was the golden boot winner at last season’s Hun Sen Cup in 2017 and was pivotal in helping Boeung Ket win two consecutive C-League titles in 2016 and 2017.
Thai Premier League rulings allow clubs to include one Asean player in a squad, along with one from Asia, among the maximum of five foreigners. With the ruling implemented in 2017, Thai clubs are now able to register only three universal foreign players, one AFC and one ASEAN player.