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 By Paul Murphy

Cambodia ace Chan Vathanaka joins Malaysia's Pahang from Japan

After a winless 2017, Malaysia's new head coach Tan Cheng Hoe hopes to turn around his side's fortunes.

Cambodia attacker Chan Vathanaka has signed for Malaysia Super League (MSL) club Pahang after a disappointing spell in Japan.

Vathanaka has agreed a one-year deal with the Elephants as he opts for Malaysia, despite rumours of interest from clubs in Thailand.

The 23-year-old moved on loan from Cambodian side Boeung Ket Angkor to Fujieda MYFC in J3 at the beginning of the 2017 season. The transfer was widely anticipated as a stepping stone to a possible switch to a side in upper tiers of Japanese football.

However, things did not work out at all for Vathanaka, waiting until October for a few minutes of first team action in the league.

Happy to join with @pahangfa_official @officialligasupermalaysia

A post shared by Chan Vathanaka (@vathanaka_cv11) on

Now, the striker hopes to get his career back in track with the club who finished the 2017 season as runners up in the MSL and the FA Cup.

"After returning from the loan spell in Japan, my agent and I discussed about my future," Vathanaka told The New Straits Times. "I still wanted to play outside Cambodia, but I needed to pick a club that would use me regularly.

"In Japan, I only featured in two matches. When the offer from Pahang came, I realised that this could be a golden opportunity to get more matches and also improve in all aspects."

Despite his lack of game time in Japan, Vathanaka insists that he arrives in Malaysia a better payer than the one who left Cambodia almost a year ago.

"Although, I was not a regular with Fujieda, I did gain from the experience," Vathanaka said.

"Communication was the biggest issue, but I took it as a challenge and overall, I improved a lot in Japan.

"I am excited. I believe my stint here will help my game progress. I trained for the first time on Friday with Pahang and everyone was friendly. I hope everything will fall into place for me here."

Vathanka first came to the attention of most Malaysians as he struck twice in Cambodia's 3-2 defeat to the Harimau Malaya in the 2016 AFF Cup.

At Pahang, he will play alongside Singapore midfielder Safuwan Baharudin, who recently joined from PDRM FA.

Bangkok-based Paul Murphy has lived in Asia for a decade, writing for ESPN FC since 2014. He is a former Daily Express sub-editor. @PaulMurphyBKK

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