Preah Khan Reach Svay Rieng finally clinched their long-expected Metfone C-League title on Sunday night and are now on a quest to see out the entire season unbeaten and become Cambodia’s first ever “Invincibles”.
Keeping his feet on the ground, when asked about that possibility, victorious Irish manager Conor Nestor said: “You speak about something after you’ve done it.”
This attitude of humility backed by quiet confidence has helped push Svay Rieng to improbable heights this season, having finished sixth last year.
Nestor, 35, who coached Limerick FC U19s before taking charge of Svay Rieng in February last year, has sparked a new winning culture at the club.
In Sunday’s title-clinching match, Svay Rieng took on Ministry of National Defence at Svay Rieng Stadium.
After midfielder Hoy Phallin opened the scoring, star striker Jean Befolo Mbarga – better known as Privat – bagged a brace either side of a Soeuy Visal effort to see Svay Rieng run out 4-2 winners and secure their first C-League title since 2013.
Alongside their Irish manager, the Svay Rieng playing squad contains overseas talent.
Cameroonian leading scorer Privat has notched a remarkable 30 goals already this season, while trustworthy defender Jonny Campbell from the US has helped the team concede a mere 17 goals in 24 games, the best record in the league.
Along with a Cambodian backbone featuring international stars Phallin, Visal, captain Prak Mony Udom, Nub Tola, Pidor Sam Oeun and Ros Kungsomrach, Nestor found himself with plenty of talent to mould into a championship-winning side.
If Svay Rieng can avoid defeat in their remaining two matches they will be the first Cambodian side to go unbeaten through a whole season.
Campbell told The Post: “It’s important that we remain focused on our goal of completing an unbeaten season, but first we have to focus on our next game on Sunday.”
That match sees Svay Rieng host 10th-placed Asia Euro United and, with their perfect record on the line, Svay Rieng will not underestimate the visitors.
A trip to defending champions NagaWorld, who sit third in the table, awaits on the final weekend with history awaiting the newly crowned champions.
In their previous meeting in June, the two teams played out a scoreless draw.
“They were very disciplined and organised, which made it difficult for us to score,” said Campbell.
Whatever the outcome at RCAF Old Stadium on November 3, it’s a fitting end to the season – the new champions travelling to last year’s winners, in all likelihood with a place in history at stake.