Skip to content

Canadian Marcus Haber leads all goal-scorers in Cambodian Premier League

Some 11,800 kilometres away from home, Canadian Marcus Haber is doing what he does best. Score goals.
Canadian forward Marcus Haber celebrates scoring a goal for Preah Khan Reach Svay Rieng FC against Phnom Penh Crown FC in Cambodian Premier League play in Svay Rieng, Cambodia in an Aug. 11, 2023 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Preah Khan Reach Svay Rieng FC **MANDATORY CREDIT**

Some 11,800 kilometres away from home, Canadian Marcus Haber is doing what he does best. Score goals.

The 35-year-old forward from Vancouver, who plays for Preah Khan Reach Svay Rieng FC, leads the Cambodian Premier League in goals with 23 this season, eight more than his nearest rival, and has 11 more in cup play.

At six foot four, Haber is an archetypal target man. He's been dubbed "king of the header" in Cambodia.

Haber, who has won 27 caps for Canada, is on his second team — he spent a year with Visakha FC — in his third season in Cambodia. And he has found a home in Phnom Penh, the capital which sits at the junction of the Mekong and Tonlé Sap rivers. 

"It's a really nice, beautiful country … it's just a nice place to be," Haber said in an interview. "I've enjoyed it to be honest … The people are extremely friendly. I found it to be very laid-back."

Another plus is the "extremely affordable" cost of living.

Haber began his career with the pre-MLS Vancouver Whitecaps and the Groningen under-19 side in the Netherlands. He spent 2010 to 2019 in Europe — in England with West Bromwich Albion, Exeter, Stevenage, Notts County and Crewe Alexandra and Scotland with St. Johnstone, Dundee and Falkirk

After stints in the Canadian Premier League with Pacific FC and Cavalry FC, Haber came to Cambodia in late 2020. He had planned to head to Asia after his time with Pacific, only to be stymied by the pandemic.

Instead he played the shortened Island Games 2020 season with Cavalry and then looked to Asia again.

"It was a market and an area that I wanted to check out and I always thought that I could excel in that environment, simply because of my experience and just kind of the style of player I am. In Asia, big strong powerful centre forwards are kind of what they look for."

He has used his base in Phnom Penh to explore Asia whenever he has free time. A favourite stop is Bangkok, which is a 45-minute flight away.

Haber's Instagram offers a peek at those travels, as well as the tattooed striker's keen fashion sense. 

"I'm a pretty open-minded guy, as far as culture is concerned," he explained. "I like to travel. I've seen a lot of different things."

"I've lived away from Canada for a long time, throughout most of my career," he added. "I didn't really think it was going to be too difficult for me to adjust."

Cambodia's hot and humid weather proved to be a challenge, however. As a result, Haber "completely changed" his diet and training regimen, upping his long-distance running.

"You have to be exceptionally fit to be able to perform here," he said. "And that's also because there's a ton of expectation on the foreign players in Asia, simply because there's a quota that teams are not allowed to go over. I wanted to give myself the best chance to be as good as I can."

Haber has long paid attention to his body, doing what is needed to maximize his skills and career.

"I'm much fitter, much faster, much stronger than I was when I was in my mid- to late-twenties," he said.

Haber's team trains just outside Phnom Penh and plays its home games in Krong Svay Rieng, some 120 kilometres southeast of the capital.

The team travels to Svay Rieng the morning of games, a bus ride of 2 1/2 to three hours, then lunches in a hotel before kickoff, returning to the capital the same day.

"Interestingly enough our home games are more or less like away matches. And our away matches have a similar context to being home matches because the travel's a lot less."

Haber gives the local food an enthusiastic thumbs-up. The traffic, not so much

"The roads are pretty much run by the motorcyclists. If you're in a car, you're probably taking three times as long to get somewhere as you would be on a motorbike, which is the transportation of choice."

The Cambodian league has some good players and is improving each year with foreign coaches adding to the local expertise, according to Haber. Bolstered by a new coach, Spain's Pep Munoz, Svay Rieng tops the table at 16-2-2.

Munoz spent time coaching in FC Barcelona's system and was an assistant coach with China before coming to Cambodia.

"He's got quite the pedigree and I really enjoy him as a coach," said Haber. "'I've learned a lot, tactically especially from him. He has us playing a good brand of football over here that's very possession-based"

Cambodian teams are allowed five imports plus a player from elsewhere in Southeast Asia. Haber's team features two Brazilians, two players from Japan and one from Laos.

Haber wears a distinctly Canadian number in No. 99 with Svay Rieng, but says he only chose it because No. 9 was taken.

Svay Rieng hosts Nagaworld FC on Sunday, after a week off due to Chinese New Year celebrations.


Follow @NeilMDavidson on X platform, formerly known as Twitter  


This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 16, 2024

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks