The narrow loss to West Bank champions Hilal Al-Quds in the AFC President’s Cup early this month might still be rankling, but Boeung Ket Rubber Field manager Be Makara is quite emphatic that the side are sharply focused on doing well in the 2013 RHB Singapore Cup.
A heady mix of six attackers, six midfielders, and as many defenders, as well as two goalkeepers left for Singapore on Wednesday ahead of Boeung Ket’s opening round clash tonight against local S League side Tanjong Pagar United at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
The 20-player squad was accompanied by head coach Prak Vuthy, manager Be Makara, assistant coach Sam An and media officer Ken Gadaffi.
Unlike in the 15 previous editions, when teams had a clear route to the final, each round will have a draw to determine match-ups. Boeung Ket are one of the four foreign invitees alongside Loyola Meralco Sparks and Global FC from the Philippines and Lao Police Club from Laos.
The rest of the field of 16 is made up of a dozen S League teams in this knockout tournament, which carries cash prizes of $100,000 for the winners, $60,000 for the runners-up and $40,000 for the team finishing third, an increase of nearly 25 per cent in the prize fund compared with last year.
The 2012 Cambodian Metfone C-League champions, who have reeled off 10 wins on the run in their defence of the title, are hoping that their unbeaten domestic streak will keep them in good spirits and shape when they take to the pitch at 7pm (6pm Cambodian time) under lights against Tanjong Pagar, who finished 12th in the S League last season. In fact, Tanjong only returned to the league in 2011 after being forced out due to financial constraints in 2004.
Boeung Ket will be banking on the striking prowess of Nigerian Bisan George, who will reinforce the frontline after sitting out the AFC President’s Cup. Chan Vathanaka has been a revelation this season and the 19-year-old’s precocious talent could be an asset to the side.
The midpark versatility of Momoh Deguile and the brilliance of Chukwuma Ohuruogu as a trusted linkman between the midfield and the backline could all add up in good measure to give Boeung Ket a well-rounded look.
Before leaving Phnom Penh, manager Be Makara expressed confidence in his outfit, saying that the side had the gumption and quality to perform well in an event of this stature, despite the fact the team’s experience outside of the country has been very limited.
Concerns about the team playing under lights, which is quite unusual back home for Boeung Ket, was downplayed by the manager, who insisted that his players would quickly adjust to the conditions.
Meanwhile, head coach Prak Vuthy points to the balance in the team as one of the key factors. Though Tanjong Pagar is an unknown quantity for Boeung Ket, the team’s current level of self belief should be a redeeming feature.
Unlike domestic and AFC-sanctioned competitions, the Singapore Cup allows Boeung Ket the chance to field all five of their foreign players at the same time.
According to press officer Ken Gadaffi, coach Vuthy will take full advantage by selecting the aforementioned Nigerian trio along with compatriot forward Gerard Chinedu and Cameroonian midfielder Befolo Mbarga in his starting line-up.
Additional reporting by Dan Riley