With half the CPL season completed, clubs turn their attention to transfers with talented free-agents snapped up quickly and deals for others being proposed
Transfer window bursts openWITH the Cambodian Football Federation allowing Cambodian Premier League (CPL) teams the opportunity to add one foreign player and two local players to their squad during the midseason interval, many are in hot pursuit of new members to bolster their squads ahead of the second half of the season, which starts July 11. Teams will have until July 31 to register new players, with those already tied to long-term contracts requiring either negotiations between clubs for transfers or loan agreements.
The transfer market this season looks somewhat bleak, with many teams adamant to keep hold of their best men, while the few players available for signing are considered mainly undesirable.
Salang Kang doesn't like the choice
Coach Salang Kang of Khemara Keila FC lamented the dearth in quality of local players up for grabs to help them claim a top-four finish. "We have some problems," he admitted. "We only have 15 players in our squad and some are nursing injuries." The coach did, however, indicate his content with foreign players in his team, for the time being.
Crown look to beef up classy roster
Reigning champions Phnom Penh Crown are still in the hunt for signings and will look to prey on emerging talent in lower-placed teams. Crown manager Makara Be expressed his dissatisfaction with his defence, suggesting he will look to strengthen that department. "We have gotten good results lately, but I am not happy with our performance so far," he stated after his side spanked Post Tel Club 3-1 Wednesday. "We have let in cheap goals because of defender and goalkeeper errors, which I need to correct as we haven't been keeping clean sheets."
The Crown manager announced the addition of former U17 and U19 Cambodian international Sok Sovann from the Ministry of Interior, who will be drafted into the centre back position. "He is young but experienced, even though he is making his debut in the Premier league," said Makara Be. "He is a very clever player who times his tackles and reads the game very well."
Crown have also revealed their ambitions for Ouk Thon of Phuonchung Neak and Spark FC's Prince Justine, who is the league's top scorer with 9 goals in as many games. Makara Be will hope to negotiate the signing of the prolific Nigerian from financially strapped Spark in an attempt to fill the void left by Cameroonian talisman Jean-Roger Lappe Lappe, who has been loaned once again to Thai Premier League club Samuth Songkhram FC for two months as part of a friendship/sponsorship agreement.
However, Spark manager Dara Vann said they are not ready to let their prized possession go. "We cannot," he retorted when asked if he is willing to consider a trade for the striker. "We cannot release him because the club needs him now."
Meanwhile, Prince Justine Uche has stated he is ready to sign for the highest bidder, although maintained he would only go if it did not to invoke the wrath of his current employers.
"I am here to play football and always ready to sign for the best club that can meet my demands," Justine said by telephone. "When I first came, many teams were after me, but only Spark met my demand. I will not leave them unless there is an agreement between my club and any other club."
Preah Khan Reach was also believed to be hovering to sign the bulky striker, but Justine ruled out going to the league leaders, at least for now. "My manager has said only if Phnom Penh [Crown] come for me that he will release me, so I don't think I can sign for Preah Khan Reach now.
"But this is football, you never know what will happen," he reasoned.
Onyeahiri is delighted to be back
Post Tel Club manager Nisai Kao expressed his team's hopes of signing some new players to strengthen his team currently languishing in the drop zone. "We are looking at signing Nigerian player Amarachi [Onyeahiri] and Toung [Pum] to play in the midfield," he said. "We also have in mind another local player from Kampot to add to our squad". Former Kirivong Sok Sen Chey midfielder Onyeahiri is a free agent while Post Tel will need to negotiate with fellow strugglers Phouchung Neak for Toung Pum.
Onyeahiri said he was delighted to be given a chance again following a failed attempt with Kirivong. "I am happy to put away my bitter experience at Takeo," he said.
The Nigerian had his contract mysteriously terminated by manager Lay La after playing for Kirivong last season. "I don't know what really happened," he muttered. "I had no problem in Takeo, but suddenly [the manager] asked me and some other players to leave.
"I have been training hard ever since, and I am looking forward to donning the shirt of Post Tel soon."
Onyeahiri is not fazed by the club's precarious postion second from bottom, asserting that they can still escape relegation if the right players are signed during the mid-season break.
Navy team face new players dilemma
Phounghung Neak are keeping a keen eye on a trio of Nigerian players to help lift them from the murky depths of the league. Former PKR striker Wilson Mene, former Kratie striker Sunday Ayodele and new arrival Sanni Dauda, popularly known as "Machine", have been seen training at the Navy team's ground in the past week.
"I just arrived about two months ago," said former Nitel FC player Dauda. "I know the team is struggling for relegation, but we can still turn things around in the second [period]."
To sign all three would mean dropping their existing foreigners, although a clash of opinions between Phouchung's new coach Solomon Demagudu and manager Chay Socheaoun threatens to delay proceedings. The coach wants exisiting players to remain in the hope of improving their form, but Chay Socheaoun seems to be out of favour with them, instead insisting on the appointment of the aforementioned threesome.
BBU have double league trouble
Coach Meas Samoeurn of Build Bright United (BBU) is feeling the pressure of a hectic schedule, with his young team committed to a university league as well as the CPL. "I need more players as my team is injury depleted," he complained Wednesday, after his team lost 3-1 against Khemara Keila. "We have to play two matches in a day ... at 9am in the university game and now 3:30pm in the league."
However, Meas Samoeurn also had reasons to be cheerful, after it emerged that former Preah Khan Reach (PKR) striker Augustine Ogbemi has shrugged off advances from Post Tel and Phouchung Neak to favour the university-sponsored club. The Nigerian forward was spotted at the team's training ground at Boeung Keng Kang High school and shared his enthusiasm for playing in the CPL once more after suffering a termination of his contract with PKR at the end of last season.
"I am yet to sign for BBU, but I hope I will sign soon as I can't wait to get back on the field," Ogbemi stated. "I have been training hard even when I wasn't playing. It's difficult to be on the stand watching others playing."
"We hope to sign him [Ogbemi] because we need another striker to support Oriola Adeseye," coach Meas Sarouen said, adding that with their foreign player quota full, they would need to look for local players to fill positions in goal and defence.
Clubs battle in vain to train in rain
CPL teams face huge difficulties in finding decent playing fields for training sessions, with most pitches now flooded or muddy after heavy downpours of the monsoon season. Phnom Penh Crown manager Makara Be acknowledged the issue, saying: "We don't have a place to train, and this will affect our preparations [for games].
"Most of the fields are now in bad condition, and the rain disrupts our training programs."
Spark FC manager Vann Dara agreed with Makara Be's comments, and also complained about players' present attitude towards training. "Most players don't come to training anymore because of the rain," he stated. "We cannot train normally because of the rains, and sometimes we only train once or twice before the match, which is not good enough to [observe] the players and make decisions."
While most teams in the Cambodia Premier league have their own practice pitches, others including Post Tel, BBU and Spark are forced to rent fields in public schools, with most having inadequate drainage. Once such solution could be from investors, attracted by the rapid growth of football in Cambodia, funding improvements in existing football grounds or even commissioning artificial pitches which can be played on all-year round.