South Korea-born Singapore international Song Ui-young became the latest Southeast Asian star to make the switch to the Thai League following his departure from Lion City Sailors, joining a struggling Nongbua Pitchaya side battling relegation in the Thai League 1.
Song first came to Singapore back in 2011, going straight to the island nation upon his graduation from high school back in South Korea. There he joined top-flight side Home United, with his move being eased by the presence of fellow countryman Baek Jong-seok, who served as the club’s assistant manager at that time.
In total Song spent 12 years with Home United as he established himself into an icon of the club with 168 league appearances and 56 league goals to his name. He also guided Home United to the 2017 AFC Cup Zonal Final and the 2018 AFC Cup Inter-Zonal Semifinals, before in November of 2018 Song rejected a big money deal from Persija Jakarta to remain in Singapore.
2020 saw Home United being bought and privatized by billionaire Forrest Li and his Sea Limited company, which saw the club being rebranded into the Lion City Sailors. Song remained loyal with the club despite the rebrand, and his loyalty was paid off with the 2021 Singapore Premier League title, Song’s first league trophy after claiming silver twice in the 2013 and 2018 seasons during the Home United era.
The year 2020 also saw Song’s application for permanent residency with the Singapore government being approved and a year later he officially renounced his South Korean nationality, becoming a Singapore national outright. 2021 also saw Song officially making his debut for the Singapore national team, going on to earn 15 caps and scoring three goals with the Lions.
Song’s move to Nongbua will be the first time that he would play outside of either Singapore (where he spent most of his career) or South Korea (his birthplace), and he will be moving into a side that’s undergoing major second season syndrome.
Following an impressive 2021/22 campaign that saw Nongbua finish6th, the Gamecocks have tailed off significantly. Nongbua are currently battling relegation, sitting 15th in the 16-team Thai League 1 with last season’s top performers Hamilton and Airton as well as head coachThawatchai Damrong-Ongtrakul already out of the club.
Former Leo Chiangrai United head coach Emerson Pereira has now taken charge of Nongbua and has a tricky relegation battle in his hands, with the recruitment of Song as well as the loan signings of Alvin Fortes from Ratchaburi FC and Adisorn Promrak from Port FC being done in hopes that it would help improve the Gamecocks’s position in the league standings.
Song himself is quite excited for the challenge ahead of him.
“I cannot just continue being relaxed and being comfortable at where I am right now if I want to develop further,” Song told The Strait Times, “I need to find a new platform to improve, develop and continue to show good performances as a football player.”
Song left LCS as the club’s all-time top scorer with 32 goals (since the club’s privatization in 2020), however he’s open for a chance to return to the club, saying “One day, I hope I’ll be back to play for them and the club again.”
The Singapore international became the latest in a string of Southeast Asian stars joining the Thai League in the mid-season transfer window, which also includes Malaysia internationals Safawi Rasid (Ratchaburi), Dion Cools (Buriram United), and Junior Eldstal (PT Prachuap), and Kenshiro Daniels of the Philippines (Sukhothai FC),
Saturday, January 21st saw Song made his Nongbua debut in a league match away at True Bangkok United. The Gamecocks lost 3-1, however Song scored a debut goal in the seventh minute of injury time, a consolation goal for Nongbua in their 10th defeat in the season.