Football: S-League exodus for Thai clubs not likely

National goalkeeper Hassan Sunny, the only Singaporean player in the Thai Premier League, said: "It's going to be tough for Singaporeans to come over. I don't think you will see the bulk of them moving over."
National goalkeeper Hassan Sunny, the only Singaporean player in the Thai Premier League, said: "It's going to be tough for Singaporeans to come over. I don't think you will see the bulk of them moving over."PHOTO: ST FILE
Therdsak Chaiman, Chonburi FC's player-manager, who spent six seasons in the S-League.
Therdsak Chaiman, Chonburi FC's player-manager, who spent six seasons in the S-League.PHOTO: ST FILE
Faris Ramli, Home United and winger for the Singapore national team.
Faris Ramli, Home United and winger for the Singapore national team.PHOTO: ST FILE

Despite new Thai Premier League rules, few S'pore players are on their radar, says Hassan

An exodus of Singaporean players to the Thai Premier League (TPL) is not on the cards, despite the vote by the kingdom's clubs last week to increase opportunities for top Asean players in the league.

The Thai Football Association announced that all its TPL and Division 1 clubs will be allowed to register up to five non-Thai players - three foreign players, one Asian player and one Asean player - from next year.

While the clubs are currently allowed up to five foreign players in their squad, only one is set aside for Asian footballers.

With all clubs able to include an Asean player in their ranks next season, this quota could mean opportunities for top Singaporean footballers to be picked by TPL clubs.

Yet, according to the only Singaporean player in the TPL - national goalkeeper Hassan Sunny - there is unlikely to be a mass departure of Singaporean players to Thailand.

THE ONLY SINGAPOREAN IN THE TPL

It's going to be difficult because the Thai league is (considered) the best in the region and the other countries (outside Singapore) have strong players.

HASSAN SUNNY, Army United and Singapore international goalie

While the 32-year-old hopes that this new rule will encourage more Singaporeans to ply their trade in the TPL, he feels that there are not many S-League players on the radar of Thai clubs.

Said the Army United custodian: "To be honest, it's going to be tough for Singaporeans to come over. I don't think you will see the bulk of them moving over.

THE THAI CLUB COACH

We will look for players who are better than the Thais. If not, it's better for us to use young Thai players. We can then save the money to buy new players.

THERDSAK CHAIMAN, Chonburi FC's player-manager, who spent six seasons in the S-League.

"The question is: Are the clubs interested in them? It's mostly up to the clubs to (decide whether) to take up this slot or not.

"It's a good ruling for Asean as a whole but it might not be that beneficial for Singaporeans.

"It's going to be difficult because the Thai league is (considered) the best in the region at the moment and the other countries (outside Singapore) have strong players too.

"Still, this new ruling is a great opportunity for Singapore's players to impress."

Since joining the Bangkok-based team from S-League club Warriors FC last year, Hassan has enjoyed a career resurgence and was even rated by British newspaper The Telegraph as the 18th-best goalkeeper in the world in April.

Which is why TPL deputy chief executive officer Benjamin Tan said: "We hope to encourage Asean's best players, including Singaporeans, to move over to develop their football in Thailand."

THE INTERESTED SINGAPOREAN

This is a good opportunity for those who are looking to step up their game, because knowing the quality of football in Thailand, it is a really big step up.

FARIS RAMLI, Home United and national winger.

Football is certainly on the rise in Thailand. The reigning Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup champions are the only South-east Asian country to have made it to the third round of 2018 World Cup qualifying.

Defending TPL champions Buriram United were the last Asean outfit to have made it to the knockout stage (quarter-finals) of the prestigious Asian Champions League in 2013.

The success of the league has allowed it to attract a steady stream of foreign players from all over the world.

With so many potential choices, the club coaches can afford to be selective with their foreign-player choices.

However, Chonburi's player-manager Therdsak Chaiman, who spent six successful seasons with S-League's Singapore Armed Forces FC (now Warriors FC), told The Straits Times that S-League players cannot expect to walk straight into any of the TPL teams.

The 42-year-old said: "They have to show that they are good enough to play in Thailand. We will look for players who are better than the Thais. If not, it would be better for us to use young Thai players. We can then save the money to buy new players."

November's Suzuki Cup is a platform for Singapore's national-team players to be noticed, if they are keen to land a contract in Thailand.

Hassan singled out Hariss Harun and Safuwan Baharudin, both of whom are playing in Malaysia, while Chaiman named Khairul Amri and Hariss as players who could impress the Thai clubs.

Home United and national winger Faris Ramli, 24, is also attracted by the prospect of playing in Thailand and he said the thought has been "lingering" in his mind since he heard about it last week.

He said: "This is a good opportunity for those who are looking to step up their game, because knowing the quality of football in Thailand, it is a really big step up.

"When I was playing in the LionsXII, I saw that Home were playing good football and so that attracted me. And I hope to be able to play good football in Thailand too."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 20, 2016, with the headline 'S-League exodus for Thai clubs not likely'. Print Edition | Subscribe