Cambodian Football Star Is Headed for Japan

One of Cambodia’s top footballers will have the chance to test his skills in a Japanese league for the first time in history, a spokesman for the Football Federation of Cambodia said on Sunday.

Striker Chan Vathanaka, 23, will join Fujieda MYFC next month on loan from his current club, Boeung Ket Angkor FC, through late this year, said Be Makara, Boeung Ket’s general manager.

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Chan Vathanaka puts on a Fujieda MYFC jersey during a signing ceremony at the Phnom Penh Hotel on Friday. (Masayori Ishikawa)

Mr. Vathanaka’s goal-scoring talents, which have made him one of Cambodia’s most famous athletes over the past two years, piqued the interest of the Japanese club, Mr. Makara said.

“First, he is fast. Second, he shoots well on target. And third, [he has] speed while dribbling the ball and also has a good free kick,” Mr. Makara said.

“The most important thing [is] we want him to be a model for the younger generation,” he added.

Mr. Vathanaka is set to be paid about $10,000 a month by the Japanese club, according to the agreement he signed on Friday at the Phnom Penh Hotel, Mr. Makara said.

Football Federation of Cambodia spokesman May Tola said Mr. Vathanaka had also fielded offers from Singapore and Malaysia, but opted to pursue a higher level of football.

Mr. Tola said Japan would be a test as to whether the Cambodian star can cut it amid elevated competition. Though Fujieda MYFC is in Japan’s third-tier division, J3, it is still a challenging league with skilled players, he said.

“If, within a year, his level of technique progresses—better and stronger—the Japanese club could possibly send him to play for a higher-level club,” Mr. Tola said. “It is a window of opportunity to a broader world of football.”

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