Military Police-backed team Preah Khan Reach are in contention for their first taste of silverware with a formidable line-up of experienced professionals
Preah Khan Reach captain Samel Nasa (left) puts in a tackle on Post Tel Club’s Henri Bitga during their 2009 Samdech Hun Sen Cup quarterfinal at Olympic Stadium February 28.
PREAH Khan Reach (PKR) are one of the favourites to lift this year’s Samdech Hun Sen Cup. The club, which fans and players often refer to as “PM” after their previous name of Police Military, boast one of the best squads in the Kingdom, and head coach Prak Sovannara is optimistic at their chances.
“Based on the experience at the top level, I can say that our team will qualify from the preliminary round,” he said. “But it will be difficult for us to predict the results for the next round in Phnom Penh because we’re sure that we will meet other strong teams such as Khemara Keila, Phnom Penh Crown, National Defence, Naga Corp or Build Bright United.”
PKR open their account at 4:15pm today against Chhma Khmao on Svay Rieng’s Svay Rumpea pitch. Other group H opponents include Svay Rieng province, BB World FC and Kratie province.
For the upcoming tournament, PKR has signed Peas Sothy and Ung Kanyanith, both former national team players. Ung Kanyanith has recently recovered from a year-long injury, which saw him sidelined but active as coach of Khemara Keila.
“We have a first team and a second team, so we needn’t look for more players outside,” said Prak Sovannara. “We can use some of the youngsters from the second team in our squad. It’s enough for us. We have youngsters and older players who put in great performances, and we just strengthen them in both physical and technical ability.”
Key players with international experiences include goalkeeper Ouk Mich, San Narith, captain Samel Nasa, Khounla Boravy, Lay Rasmey, Prak Monyoudom, Sok Rithy, Tum Saray and Keo Kosal.
Despite their high regard in domestic competitions, PRK have yet to claim either league or Cup titles. In 2005, they finished third in the Cambodian Premier League, but were relegated to the second tier after ending up in sixth in 2006.
The team quickly saved face by earning promotion back into the top division the following season, and steadily rose up the ranks to take fourth place in 2008, and third place in 2009 after beating 2008 champions Phnom Penh Crown 2-1 in the Super 4 playoffs.
For the inaugural Samdech Hun Sen Cup in 2007, PKR were knocked out at the last-16 stage by Khemara Keila, but surprised everyone in 2008 by reaching the finals, where they lost 1-0 to Phnom Penh Crown.
In last year’s Cup, Crown proved once again to be PKR’s vanquishers, with a 4-0 trouncing in the semifinals. However, the military police side picked themselves up to inflict a 3-0 drubbing of Phouchung Neak in the third place playoffs.
Prak Sovannara also revealed a new sponsorship deal for the team from local Internal portal Sabay. “Now it’s at the beginning stage, but I hope that it will be for the long term,” he said. “We will try to do our best to show the sponsors that what they spend on us is useful. It’s just one of the income sources for our club, but it’s a big motivation for us, especially for the players.”
The coach, who handled the Cambodian national team prior to current boss Scott O’Donell, expressed his hope for other clubs to also find permanent sponsors to resolve their financial problems.
Photos by Nick Sells (www.nicksellsphotography.com)