Cambodia’s football community is reacting with guarded optimism to the Thai Premier League’s proposal to introduce a mandatory ASEAN player quota next season.
The TPL, arguably Southeast Asia’s most influential and lucrative domestic league competition, has been reportedly holding talks with all 18 participating clubs in an effort to persuade them to accept one player from the ASEAN region along with one from Asia in the quota of five foreign signings allowed.
If the proposal takes effect, talented players from neighbouring countries including Cambodia could aspire for a place in the region’s best professional league, one that financially outweighs the rest.
The deputy chief esecutive of the TPL, Benjamin Tan, has been quoted as saying that the idea of allocating one slot for a player from the ASEAN bloc of countries had been formulating for quite some time to ascertain whether the move would be feasible for the participating clubs.
As it stands, TPL clubs will have to make a collective decision on whether they are ready to accept a mandatory quota for players from the region since they are already committed to signing at least one player from the Asian continent, apart from free imports.
While Cambodia has joined some ASEAN member nations like Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines and Malaysia in welcoming the TPL move if it is implemented, the Kingdom has reservations about a possible drain of Cambodian talent like star striker Chan Vathanaka.
“It is indeed a window of great opportunity for gifted Cambodian players to step up to a bigger stage that also offers a very good purse, but that gain could also prove a loss to the local club,” warned a member of the national team who wished not to be named.
On the brighter side, the Cambodian football administration is of the view that it is up to individual players to think of better career prospects and to let them make their own choices if they do get a chance to play in Thailand’s top tier.
The strength of the Thai league is well reflected in the national team’s recent performances. The Thais are gunning for a place in the 2018 Russia World Cup having made it to the final qualifying round. Besides being the holders of the Suzuki Cup and the SEA Games title, they are also the highest ranked ASEAN team with a world ranking of 121.
The rationale behind this boost for ASEAN stock is said to stem from the fact that inclusion of players from countries like Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, Cambodia and Philippines to name just a few would help create a regional flavour that would enhance the popularity of the TPL.
It is no trade secret that the Thai league is considered financially rewarding for foreign players, who reportedly earn on average anywhere between $10,000 to $15,000 a month. Singapore’s S-League is ranked a distant second offering nearly half of that minimum package.
Now the concept is in the air, the upcoming Suzuki Cup proper, and the qualifiers preceding it, will be ideal stages for the region’s players to catch the attention of Thai clubs just in case the TPL door is thrown open next season.