Football Tribe Thailand
As football fans, we are obligated to feel excited with transfer activities, especially when it involves two clubs which simply despise one another. The football world went into a frenzy when Luis Figo joined Real Madrid from Barcelona. The same thing happened in Thai football when star left-back Theerathon Bunmathan ditched Buriram United for rival Muangthong United.
It doesn’t matter if it is our club or not – if it’s huge, fans are going to have an opinion about it. And there is no bigger deal in recent weeks than Datsakorn Thonglao’s free transfer to Chonburi FC.
The announcement, which confirmed that Datsakorn will be available for the second leg of the Thai League, pretty much came out of the blue and caught all Thai league fans off guard.
The unveiling was met with mixed reactions from the Shark’s faithful, as evidenced by the storm of facebook comment on Chonburi FC’s official page – many of which state that Datsakorn’s age and ties with Muangthong United make it hard for them fall in love with the new recruit.
“Man, I gave him a lot of stick when he was with Muangthong” wrote a Chonburi fan while another, sarcastically, advice the club to sign “Natee Thongsookkaew (former Thai national team defender and captain during the late 90s) to strengthen the defense.”
The supporters have been calling for reinforcement and Datsakorn is at least an adequate squad member. The problem is things just doesn’t feel right.
The ex-Changsuek captain, who made a century of appearances for the national team, burst on to the scene with BEC Tero Sasana (now Police Tero FC) at just 17 years old, lifting the league title in his first season with the senior team. Nicknamed “The Dynamic Kid” for his ability to turn the game around in the blink of an eye, Datsakorn became an integral part of the Fire Dragon side that reach the 2003 AFC Champions League final.
After two successful seasons with V league outfit Hoàng Anh Gia Lai between 2007 and 2009, Datsakorn made his grand return to Thai football when he signed for powerhouse Muangthong United in 2010, becoming Thai League’s most expensive player at the time. The creative midfielder won three league titles and two domestic cups in six seasons with the Kirins, during which time they manage to finish higher than Chonburi FC on four occasions. This is probably when the hostility towards Datsakorn started to grow amongst a large fraction of Chonburi supporters.
For the fans, Datsakorn was the face of an unstoppable force in Thai football. A team looking to take Chonburi’s place as one of the elite clubs that also happened to be backed by giant sports media Siam Sport, who have a strong tie with the Thai FA at the time, led by president Worawee Makudi. On the pitch, Datsakorn’s Muangthong was the team to beat. Off the pitch, it was a political fight, led by the Chonburi hierarchy, to overthrow Worawee’s reign.
Another reason many are conflicted about Datsakorn’s latest venture is the 35-year-old’s on-field antics and reputation to get into trouble due to his competitive streak. At times, deserving or not, many fans view him as some sort of a primadonna. Too talented to do the hard work. Too special to be sub off even when he had a bad game. Add to that his failure to win a single South East Asian (SEA) Championship and some would go even as far as to say he is the biggest waste of talent in recent history. A Thai Paul Gascoigne or Jack Wilshere, if you will.
He was regarded as one of SEA’s best and Thailand was supposed to the dominant force in this region; but how come there’s no proof of that? How did a team with the likes of Crystal Palace and Everton trainee Teeratep Winothai, or Melbourne Victory duo Surat Sukha and Sutee Suksomkit, fail so badly?
In hindsight, a lot of the blame should be pointed at Worawee’s atrocious mismanagement of the FA and the national team. And unfortunately, as the best his generation has to offer, it was Datsakorn who got most the blame.
Disheartened to be slowly phased out throughout the 2016 season and in need of a new challenge, the mercurial midfielder returned on loan to BEC Tero Sasana at the start the 2017 campaign. “Being home” was supposed to ignite the fire in Datsakorn, but Tero was not the same club he once knew. Things turned sour quickly as the club finished a disappointing 14th place that season and another loan moved to 3rd tier Udon Thani FC, one of Muangthong’s proxy clubs, followed.
Having represented 3rd tier side Simork FC at the start of this season, Datsakorn was free to sign with anyone when the FA and the Thai League disbanded and withdrew the club from every competition due to financial misconduct (such as failing to pay players their players).
Many players, even the world-class ones, often find it tough to handle the decline in their career and Datsakorn is no different – at least in the beginning.
There is a sense that the man Chonburi just signed is a different man than the one they used to hate. Datsakorn is no longer “The Dynamic Kid” showcasing his raw talent to the world. No longer the primadonna trying to justify his wages with egotistic manner nor the hot-headed, over-pressured national team captain.
The player Chonburi signed is a guy who has been there and done it all. Someone who understands that he might not start every game, and the greatest thing he has to offer now is his experience.
Chonburi FC’s jekyll and hyde performances might have something to do with the young nature of their squad. Surely, having an experienced head like Datsakorn in and around future stars such as Worachit Kanitsribampen or Saharat Sontisawat wouldn’t do any harm.
Now in the later stage of his career, it seems all Datsakorn want is to enjoy doing what he loves with the people he likes. He needs to feel loved and part of the group. The fact that he is “besties” with Shark legend Therdsak Chaiman and knew the current backroom staff pretty well already definitely played a major part in the decision.
“I am honoured to be given the chance to represent this club” said Datsakorn, with a hint of shyness on his face “From now on, I’m wearing blue”
The majority of Chonburi fans may probably find it weird watching a 35-year-old Datsakorn dictate play, spreading passess around the Chonburi Stadium. That is not wrong, Datsakorn may probably feel the same too.
However, we should look at this from a more holistic view. This is a Thai football modern great. A man who has come full circle on his footballing journey. Through ups and downs he has made Thailand proud on both club and international levels. Once the finest player in the league, he dipped his toe into the lower divisions and is now looking for peace, playing for his good friends, at one of his previous rival club.
It’s highly unlikely Datsakorn will hang his boots with Chonburi FC. Yet, that doesn’t mean he couldn’t leave his mark on the club, players, staffs or fans just like everywhere else he went. A poetic twist to the final chapter of an incredible career.