Southeast Asia Thailand

Theerathon Bids Farewell to the J.League as Buriram Return Beckons

After four years on the Japanese isles, it was time to go home.

This week, J.League 1 giants Yokohama F. Marinos announced that they have parted ways with their Thai left-back Theerathon Bunmathan, ending a successful three-year stint with the men in blue as well as an eventful four year-stay in Japan, if one takes into account Theerathon’s brief one year at Vissel Kobe prior to his Yokohama tenure.

Theerathon’s next destination will be a homecoming to Thai League 1 titans Buriram United, where the left-back had made a name for himself during his six years there. During his first stint with the Thunder Castles, Theerathon made over 200 appearances and scored 15 league goals, before controversially and sensationally leaving Buriram for their arch-rivals Muangthong United in 2016.

The move shocked Thai football back then and Buriram owner Newin Chidchob was left with an intense bitter taste in his mouth, as he saw Theerathon as one of his “prodigal sons” and his move to a club considered to be Buriram’s fiercest rivals was seen as a “betrayal on the highest level.”

It took three years for Newin to forgive Theerathon for his perceived “treachery,” and by then the left-back had already shed the colors of Muangthong – for whom he played 48 times in three years – in favor for the crimson of Vissel, and later the blue of Yokohama.

Theerathon’s move to Buriram for a second stint can be seen as a sign of an ever-progressing reconciliation between Newin – the godfather of Buriram – and Theerathon – considered as the Thunder Castles’ lost sheep. But will the Buriram fans once again embrace and accept Theerathon, having lambasted him every time Muangthong visits the Chang Arena?

Well, considering what Theerathon had done after leaving Muangthong – a J1 title, over 100 appearances in a league considered to be one of the best in Asia, and placing Thailand on the map of Asian football in a scene dominated by titans from Japan, South Korea, China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Qatar – maybe emotional resentments can be set aside in favor of a glorious return of the talented lost son who could tilt the 2021/22 Thai League 1 title race in Buriram’s favor.

The Thunder Castles are currently transitioning into a new era, following the departure of head coach Alexandre Gama and the arrival of former Kashima Antlers gaffer Masatada Ishii from Samut Prakan City. Two of Buriram’s Brazilian imports, winger Maicon and striker Samuel Rosa, have departed the club, with the latter joining Samut Prakan on loan. The duo was replaced by Kenyan striker Ayub Masika and Congolese attacker Jonathan Bolingi, while Theerathon was Ishii’s first Thai signing. Not only that, Sasalak Haiprakhon is set to return to Buriram after winning the 2021 K-League 1 while on loan at Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors.

Exciting times await Buriram United underneath the stewardship of Masatada Ishii, as they seek to come out on top on a title race involving themselves, who are currently top of the Thai League 1 in the mid-season break, 2nd placed True Bangkok United, and the chasing pack consisting of Chonburi FC, Port FC, and defending champions BG Pathum United.