Within days of being cold shouldered by Phnom Penh Crown for alleged “serious breach of club rules’’, national players Kouch Sokhumpheak and Kim Borey have joined NagaWorld Football Club.
The two-time league champions, who switched their club name from Naga Corp to NagaWorld this year, formally snapped up Sokhumpheak and Borey a couple of days ago. The team bolstered the side with the signings of foreign players Ban Kazuaki of Japan, who played for TriAsia last season, and Kenyan Ngwa Baldwin Afanwin, who turned out for Asia Europe University.
Disappointed as they are for missing the ongoing Hun Sen Cup, both Borey and Sokhumpeak, two of the most experienced players in the country, said they would like to put the Crown affair behind them. They are happy and relieved to be part of another heavyweight club and are eagerly looking forward to the onset of the Metfone C League, which kicks off on March 25.
For Meas Channa, the newly appointed head coach of NagaWorld who replaced veteran Prak Sovanara this year, the Borey-Sokhumpeak catch could not have come at a better timing as he sets out to wrest both the 2013 Cup and the 2009 League glory for the Casino-backed side.
The 35-year-old Meas Channa, who represented Naga as a player for nearly a decade until his retirement in 2011, served as assistant to the national head coach Lee Tae Hoon last year. His stint with the national team began with the under-18s before he stepping up to the senior team. He stayed there for nearly nine years, gaining a reputation as one of the best providers of proficient crosses and set pieces.
In his playing days the new Naga manager shared the pitch with Sokhumpeak and Borey, and he had been keenly following them from the other side of the touchline, where he is now hoping to cash in on this familiarity.
“Both these players bring a lot of experience with them. That adds depth to my team. Interestingly, they also have a style of play that goes well with my own style and tactics,’’ Meas Channa said on Saturday after a team meeting attended by all the new entrants to the club, including five other local players making their debut for Naga this year.
“I know I have to fill big shoes. I know the responsibility is huge. I am keeping my expectations for the season modest. While we are determined to get one or the other piece of silverware, I want my team to finish among the top in both the Cup and the League,” Meas Channa said.
Meanwhile, NagaWorld boss Lam Thiny said that he was happy to have Sokhumpeak and Borey in the side and is aiming to reap the benefits of their vast experience by regaining the League supremacy Naga last enjoyed in 2009 after its first success two years earlier.
“We finished third in the Metfone C League last year and we won the Cup two years ago. I am confident we will do well in both these major events this season,’’ he said.
The two “imports’’, 27-year old Ban Kazuaki and 24-year-old Ngwa Baldwin Afanwin, have adapted themselves to the local conditions quite well and are expected to play a vital role in the Naga mix, according to the team manager.
Before wearing the TriAsia jersey last year, Ban Kazuaki had spent one year with Poland’s Arkonia after playing the 2011 season for Estonian club Tallina Kalev.
Kenyan Ngwa Baldwin Afanwin figured in eight matches for Asia Europe University, scoring as many goals, moving over from Oman’s Majees SC.
The five local players recruited by NagaWorld this year are: Thorn Darapich and Sok Seng Dara (both former AEU). Som Sokundara (Svay Rieng High School), Nhem Sovanara (former Kirivong Sok Sen Chey), Seth Rozip (Pres Yokunthor High School).