Southeast Asia Malaysia

Tok Gajah Eyes Laotian Striker and Europa League-Experienced Goalkeeper

Having signed Johan Martial, brother of France international Anthony Martial, in December, Liga Super Malaysia side Sri Pahang FC are continuing to reinforce themselves for the upcoming 2022 season. The Tok Gajah had added the likes of Nicholas Swirad, Mahmoud Za’tara, and Muslim Ahmad into their ranks, and they’re not done just there yet. Sri Pahang are currently lining up Laos international Billy Ketkeophomphone and Malian goalkeeper Mamadou Samassa to further strengthen their squad.

France-born Billy had recently received his Lao citizenship prior to the 2020 AFF Championship earlier this month, having been born to Laotian refugee parents who had fled the country during the 1980s. This made Billy eligible for the Liga Super’s ASEAN quota, and with the wealth of experience that he had in France – gracing Ligue 1 between 2015 and 2018 with Angers before going down the French football pyramid with Auxerre, Cholet, and USL Dunkerque – Billy could become a vital component of Sri Pahang’s attack, where he could pair up with Jordan international Za’tara as the Tok Gajah‘s main strike partnership.

During his time in Angers, Billy had played alongside Sri Pahang legend Dickson Nwakaeme in the 2016/17 season. It was the Nigerian who linked Billy with Sri Pahang, with the recently-capped Laos international now undergoing mandatory quarantine in Malaysia before being able to finalize his Tok Gajah contract.

As for Samassa, the goalkeeper may have zero experience in Southeast Asian football, but he came with excellent pedigree. Samassa had played an important role behind the recent rise of Turkish Super Lig side Sivasspor, playing as their number one goalkeeper during his two years there. Together with Sivasspor, Samassa played in the Yigdolar‘s first-ever UEFA Europa League group stage campaign in the 2020/21 season.  There he played in all 6 of Sivasspor’s European matches against the likes of Villarreal, Maccabi Tel Aviv, and Qarabag as Riza Calimbay’s men ended 3rd in their group.

Having left Sivasspor at the start of the 2021 season, Samassa had since played for Greek second division side Levadiakos, though he has yet to play for his new side in the league.

It is hoped that the two’s arrival would take Sri Pahang into the next level, with the Tok Gajah aiming to propel themselves back into the Malaysian football elite.