Interviews

Zaw Min Tun: Chonburi Player

What are your early impressions of the Thai league?

A – I think Thai league is a very high standard and I am excited to be playing in it. All of the teams appear to have their strong points and it is very competitive.

After a good opening result, we struggled for a few weeks. Why do you think this happened?

A – Initially, there was a lack of understanding among the players. This was our main weak point.

So to what do you attribute our improvement?

A – We worked hard on our understanding of each other, our tactics and now we are more cohesive as a team.

What is the mood like in the camp?

A – The mood is good. We all get along really well.

How do you think we will perform for the rest of the season?

A – I think we will improve even more and become a much better, competitive team.

On a personal level, which has been your best game so far?

A – The match against Buriram Utd. I was very happy with my performance. I thought I had a solid game and didn’t make many mistakes.

It was entertaining to watch, but what are your feelings about the recent 7-5 win against Chiang Mai?

A – I wasn’t satisfied with the 7-5 win because of the fact we conceded too many goals.

How did it feel to score your first goal – the 3-2 win against Prachuap?

A – It made me feel very happy.

How closely are people back at home following your progress?

A – They are following my progress very closely and are happy to see me doing well.

What do you like to do when you’re not playing or training?

A – I enjoy spending my free time with my family.

Finally, do you have a message for the Chonburi fans?

A – Thank you for coming to support the team and for welcoming me. I promise I will always try my best.

Gary: Classic Football Shirts

Next month, the Classic Football Shirts Museum will be visiting Bangkok. I caught up with Gary, one of the company’s founders, to find out a bit more. Here’s what he had to say.

Q – Please can you start by telling us a bit about your company, Classic Football Shirts

Our business started in Manchester in 2006. Myself and my friend, Matthew had just graduated from Manchester University and both felt there was a gap in the market. I unsuccessfully tried to find an original Germany 1990 jersey around the time of the 2006 World Cup. I believed if we were looking for this kind of product, other football fans would also be interested too! 

Q – And a little about the Football Shirt Museum

We have been running an online store for nearly 13 years, and over time we have been fortunate to build the World’s biggest collection of football shirts. We strongly felt that we should build an archive separate to our retail activities, and this is how the museum concept began. We now have over 20,000 jerseys in our private archive.

Q – How do you collect your shirts?

We buy many football jerseys directly via our website, and also work with former professional players and individuals connected with the beautiful game

Q – Which of your shirts are the most valuable?

There are many valuable jerseys but of course one or two stand out. One is the Argentina jersey from the 1986 World Cup match against England, and secondly a Juventus jersey from the 1996 Champions League Final, worn by the goal scorer, Fabrizio Ravenelli. 

Q – And which are your most prized personally?

I am a huge supporter of Manchester United so to have jerseys worn in the Champions League Final and FA Cup Final is special for me. Aside from this I really enjoy finding rare one off pieces. For example last year we managed to acquire a Nigeria jersey worn against England in 1995. This was only worn in one game, and the design was the inspiration for the amazing 2018 Nigeria jersey. It feels special to own that design.

Q – Which shirts that aren’t yet in your collection would you most like to have?

My holy grail is the Argentina goalkeeper jersey from the 1990 World Cup. This tournament was my entry to football and the style of the design was really cool! Second would be the Manchester United jersey worn against City in 2008 which commemorated 50 years since the Munich Air Disaster. The design is inspired by what the squad wore during the 50s – with no sponsor or badge and is a complete one off

Q – What do you enjoy most about your Football Shirt Museum visits?

Meeting other passionate football fans and hearing their stories about which jerseys mean something to them. Football is a worldwide community and seeing the reaction of visitors when a jersey reconnects them with a moment in their lives is special for me. 

Q- How did the Bangkok exhibition come about?

A good friend of ours and big collector, is based in Bangkok, and after seeing our exhibits in the UK last year, wanted us to bring the exhibit to Thailand. We’ve always had hardcore, loyal support here, so it’s great for us to finally visit and meet everybody!

Q – What can visitors expect to see when they visit the museum?

We have curated a huge selection of amazing jerseys! There are sections dedicated to the World Cup, Champions League, Brands, Thailand national team & more! We should have around 400+ jerseys on display. We also aim to educate people on the history of these specific jerseys and why they are so important to the history of football.

Q – Do you have any Thai shirts in your collection?

We have Thai national team jerseys from the 80s onwards featuring in the exhibit. Also club teams too.

Q- Will you be looking to add to your collection while you are here?

We are always interested to add to our collection, so hopefully we can acquire some more interesting jerseys! 

Q – Are there any Thai shirts that are of particular interest to you?

I love the 90’s design of the Thai national team and also any Adidas designs from the 80s

Q – Will you have any items for sale?

Yes we will have a pop-up shop alongside the exhibit to buy jerseys – the exhibited jerseys are strictly for display only, but we will hopefully have hundreds of other jerseys to buy

Q – What do you know about Thai football?

We have been growing our collection of Thai clubs over the last few years so it is interesting to research and find out more about the game. I am aware that Buriram Utd have been dominant recently. It’s interesting for English supporters that the Thai national team has been previously managed by a couple of English guys too.

Q – Do you have plans to watch any matches while you’re over here?

Yes. We would love to watch a couple of games and take in the Thai football experience. Hopefully an invite from Chonburi (That can be arranged – ed).

With thanks to Gary

Sam Mosley: Chonburi Fan

Q – Please can you introduce yourself

Hi, my name is Sam. I’m 30 years old and I come from Leeds, England. I teach English online.

Q – What first got you interested in Chonburi FC?

On a recent visit back home, I went to watch Leeds Utd in the Championship. After this, I got a real thirst for live football again and looked in to my nearest and local team, which happened to be Chonburi FC. I knew about the team due to all the shark logos in cars and on the shirts around the area. Luckily I came across your website and it set me up to watch them.

Q – What are your initial impressions?

The stadium was a little bigger than I expected and also the main stand seemed much more developed, not in size but in looks. I watched my first game from the swimming pool stand and it impressed me. I had little expectations and was pleasantly surprised.

The team played some lovely football during preseason. The one touch stuff from the team was great to watch. I didn’t really pay much attention to the coach, as I was too busy watching the players. However, I saw some rumblings on the fan pages about him and now I can see why. 

The atmosphere has been a bit hit and miss in my opinion. My initial thoughts were how brilliant it was. The fans were loud for my first game against Sanfrecce and everyone was really excited. The band were playing and I love all that in the games. Since then it has been a little flat, particularly in the league games. I put it down to two things, mainly the performances, but also the lads with the drums are too far apart and therefore not as effective. I think they could really create a great atmosphere if they got together.

Q – What are the main differences you’ve noticed between watching football in Thailand and going to matches in England?

The prices are so much cheaper here than at home. What we pay here would be cheaper than the 8th level in England. The pregame and post game experience is better here. At home we cram into a pub and drink, whereas here we sit outside in the sun, or the heat, and enjoy a Chang or two. Overall, the atmospheres are similar, but I think England edges it. I’m used to Elland Road though and, to be honest, that’s a different experience to most places!

Q – What are your thoughts on our start to the season?

Frustrating! I thought we would be beaten easily in the first game (away at Buriram Utd), but we played out of our skin and got the draw with nine men. The two home games have been shocking. I don’t know how we didn’t get the three points in both, never mind losing! As for the players, Lukian and Hyun-Beom have stood out. I’ve also liked the look of Rittipan, Gyeong-Min and Cruz at times too.

Q – Where do you think we need to improve?

I can see why people don’t like the manager. He is like a broom stick on the sidelines. He makes no tactical changes and does not inspire the players one bit. The other coaches aren’t particularly vocal either so it isn’t like he is delegating the jobs. He was too defensive in the first home game and didn’t have a clue in the second game. I think we have such a talented squad, when I compare it to the two teams I’ve seen come here and win.

In my opinion we need to use the flair players we have and take more risks. The defence needs some serious work on it too, they don’t have a clue where to stand at corners. The decision making from the lads on the pitch needs to improve a lot. The way I see it, we aren’t going to keep clean sheets so we might as well use our superior attack to win games. Most defences that I’ve seen seem to have a big foreigner who will win the headers but doesn’t seem the most mobile. Use that to your advantage. Finally, work on defending set pieces. It’s ridiculous how bad we have been getting rid of the ball.

Q – What were your expectations for the team before the season started?

I think I was naively optimistic. I was hoping for a top four finish and a cup run. 

Q – And what are your expectations now?

If we buck our ideas up and possibly change the coaching situation – I stand by my initial predictions. I have seen nothing special from anyone particular on the highlight shows. If things stay as they are, I can see a very frustrating season and possibly a relegation battle.

Q – What are you most looking forward to this season?

Going to away games – something I love and I think it’s a better atmosphere. Hopefully a decent cup run too, as it’s something to get excited about. I’m also looking forward to meeting some new friends. It’s nice to have similar interests and that sense of community.

Q – What would you say to other foreigners who live locally to encourage them to come down and support the club?

Get yourselves down! There are some funny characters in the current ex-pat crowd. The football is surprisingly decent at times and it’s very cheap to follow the team. I have actually seen more and more foreigners around Chonburi and Bangsaen the past few months. Also with Pattaya United moving locations, maybe that crowd could start to come up. 

Q – Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I just want to thank everybody for being so welcoming. The whole experience is an enjoyable one. It’s frustrating to watch at times, but I am keeping faith. I hope the manager soon sorts the situation out or the situation sorts the manager out!

With thanks to Sam

Niran Hansson: Chonburi Player

Q – Please can you start by telling us a bit about your background?

I’m 23. I was born in Bangkok, Thailand, and moved to Stockholm in Sweden when I was 18 months old. I started playing football with a local team in the suburbs before the academy of IF Brommapojkarna scouted me. I went through the U15,U17,and U19 sides and signed my first professional contract in 2015.

Q – How did your move to Chonburi come about?

I was playing week in and week out for Tero when Rangsan was in charge of the team and my performances improved with every game. I think that’s when I first gained attention from the national team coach and other clubs. My contract was coming to an end so towards the end of the season I had a few offers to review. The reason I signed for Chonburi is that I have seen many young players get the chance to play and develop here. I hope I can do the same.

Q – What did you know about the club before you came here?

I knew it was a big club with a great history. In recent years they haven’t been challenging for the title, but I think they have had their focus on building the club from inside. I am sure the results of this work will show in the coming years. It’s a sleeping giant with many up and coming academy players that will deliver a great deal of success in the future and I hope to be a part of that journey.

Q – How have you settled in?

Really well. I’m enjoying the city and the slower pace compared to Bangkok. The ocean and beaches are really lovely and the people are great.

Q – How has pre season training been going?

Pre season has been tough, as they always are, but I feel we are getting there. The players look fit and I hope we can focus more on our tactics in the remaining build up towards the first game. For me personally, I’m still adapting to new teammates and the new coach, but I’m enjoying every minute of it.

Q – Which aspects of the game have you mainly been working on in training?

We have been building our physique and stamina, but have also been doing a lot with the ball; combining fitness with tactics.

Q – What do you enjoy most about training?

I enjoy the fact that every training session has a clear focus and that they all result in something that we will use in the games. This means that we will have covered all our tactics throughout all the sessions.

Q – How does the training at Chonburi compare to that at your previous clubs?

As I said before, the sessions all have a focus, which hasn’t always been the case at other clubs. They are short and concise, but you always feel like you have put in more work and have achieved more than at the three hour sessions that you get at other clubs.

Q – Which of your new team mates have impressed you so far?

I have been really impressed by Worachit. Having played against him, I knew he had qualities on the ball, but seeing him close up and playing with him, I can appreciate that he is so much more than one of those technical magicians. His contribution and positioning in defence plus the amount of work he puts in, really surprised me. He will be key in our build up, as his linking play and intelligence will be vital.

Q – Other than Worachit, where do you think the team’s main strengths lie?

I would say the main strengths lie in the individual quality we have. We will always be a threat at the final third with players like Lukian, Kroekrit and the aforementioned Worrachit. I think we are going to create a lot of chances and we will control the pace in many of the games we play. I think we need to keep the balance with our build up from the back through midfield so it doesn’t become risky and leave us exposed. 

Q – What would you say are your main strengths?

I am a central defender and my main strengths are my pace, organisation and defensive qualities. I like to help my teammates positioning and defending dangerous areas by leading on the field and shouting directions.

Q – And which aspects of your game would you like to improve?

I want to improve my offensive skills, being better in build up play and when I’m in possession of the ball.

Q – What are your personal ambitions for the season ahead?

I just hope to play as much as possible and contribute to the team.

Q – Would you like to send a message to the Chonburi fans?

I just hope I will see as many of you as possible at our games, cheering us on and helping us to win the three points. Every single one of you is important for us and we will show it at any given chance.

Q – Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I enjoy your initiative with the website and on social media. I think it’s a great way of creating a community for fans.  Keep up the good work and I will see you soon. All the best.

With thanks to Niran

Tobias: Sanfrecce Hiroshima Fan

Q – Please can you introduce yourself

A – Hello. My name is Tobias. I am 30ish and live in Germany, where I was born. I have been following Japanese football as a hobby since 2011 and since 2014 I have been contributing to the German-based multi-lingual football portal www.transfermarkt.comas a Japan data scout.

Q – How long have you been supporting Sanfrecce?

A – When I started to follow Japanese football, Sanfrecce Hiroshima was starting a very successful stint, with current national team coach, Hajime Moriyasu. As Hiroshima was the most beautiful city I visited on my first trip to Japan in 2008, I kind of got stuck to them.

Q – Do we call them Sanfrecce, Hiroshima or Sanfrecce Hiroshima?

A – There is no universal answer to this question. All of them are correct, but I think simply Sanfrecce does the job.

Q – Please can you summarise last season for us?

A – To understand last season we have to look at the season before, when Sanfrecce almost got relegated, to “rise from the ashes” and almost win the league title. This appears to be a little fairy tale, but unfortunately it is not. So let’s have a brief look at 2017: After winning three league titles in the past five seasons, Moriyasu was sacked (Ofiicially, he resigned), after an unfortunate loss in a surprisingly good game against the Urawa Red Diamonds. It was the the fifth league defeat and saw Sanfrecce in 17th place in the table. After a short stint in charge by former player, Jan Jönsson who somehow got Sanfrecce out of relegation, Hiroshi Jofuku was installed as a new manager for 2018. The biggest surprise of the 2018 J. League season was Sanfrecce topping the league for 24 straight match days and finding themselves 12 points ahead of second place. Yet – and here we reach a new height of awkwardness – being the worst team of the last 12 match days, meant Sanfrecce lost their championship hopes and almost the AFC Champions League qualification.

Q – How happy were you with the team’s performance last year?

A – For a team that had recently won three championships out of nowhere, it may look like a successful season, but I fear it wasn’t. As only a few J. League matches are shown in Germany, I have only a small impression of my own, but from what I’ve heard the match plan of Horishi Jofuku is pretty straight-forward, and this failed after Patric stopped scoring goals. This in particular leaves a stain on this season, which could be described as “effective” – or “boring”.

Q – What are your expectations for the new season?

A – Looking at how other teams have performed in the ACL in recent years, I am pretty confident Sanfrecce will get to the group stage, but will have no interest in competing any further. The most important thing will be to get the squad to a point where they even out domestically on the 2017 and 2018 seasons, whilst broadening the offense to more than one player. If they end up in the top half of the table I will be pleased.

Q – What do you know about the JLeague Challenge?

A – I know that South East Asia is a big market for the J. League and the inclusion of Thai talent is an important step to gain more interest in the region. But being raised in a country with an overfed football market, I am also aware that friendly games are not what they used to be. No matter if it is the UEFA Nations League or the Challenge Cups of the Japanese national team to promote some beverage. I personally see them primarily as friendly games.

Q – How seriously will the club be taking it?

A – As Sanfrecce may want to qualify for the AFC Champions League and will probably play Changrai United in the qualification match on 19th February, I think the club will be taking it quite seriously.

Q – How seriously will you be taking it? 

A – This is also the main reason I will be interested in the match.

Q – What will you be looking for during the friendly v Chonburi?

A – Sanfrecce have added a Swedish right back to the team who is not used to the climate in South East Asia and East Asia. It will be interesting to see how he performs. Also, Sanfrecce has one of the oldest squads in the J. League. I would like to see if they give some younger players a chance ahead of the new season.

Q – Which of your players do we need to look out for and why?

A – Takuto Hayashi. Even though he is 36, he had a splendid season last year, only conceding 35 goals (3rd fewest) even after the tough second half of the season. Toshihiro Aoyama is a rough yet calm guy, who has good vision. He also has a strong shot from distance. Yoshifumi Kashiwa is a very agile and fast player, who switches from the right to the left wing throughout the game. He is sometimes a little too egoistic, but can make the difference, dribbling past players. Kosei Shibasaki is good at free kicks so you’d better not concede any near the goal. Patric was almost the sole goal scorer for the team last season. To stop him from heading the ball will be a tough task for a lot of Asian defenders. Unfortunately, he sometimes is a little sloppy with his ball control, especially while on speedy runs. Teerasil Dangda, you probably know better than me.

Q – What do you know about Chonburi?

A – I know Chonburi from their AFC CL qualification appearances a few years back. They are unique with the shark logo, which looks pretty cool, but I have to admit, I do not know the players.

Q – What do you know about Thai football in general?

A – The Thai League has grown in recent years and the development of players like Chanathip shows that some players may compete with Japanese football players, which is a good sign. 

I have contact to Twitter user @thaifussballde who reports frequently on the league and I have a very enthusiastic data scout for Thai football at Transfermarkt, so I sometimes check the teams that I hear about.

Q – Finally, what are your impressions of the Thai players who played in the JLeague last season?

A – It is a joy to see Chanathip Sonkrasin play in the J. League. He is a really passionate player and has a great attitude towards his profession. I heard he even left his girlfriend so he could focus on football in Sapporo. He is part of the reason why Consadole are playing where they are now and he will probably have a big impact for years to come. Unfortunately, I cannot say much about the Thai player at Sanfrecce. I know Teerasil Dangda has played in Europe, but I could hardly follow him when he came to play in Hiroshima. Theerathon Bunmathan has been a regular at Vissel Kobe and I thought he did quite well. It turns out his loan was not extended there and now he will move to Yokohama F. Marinos, who lost their star left back, Ryosuke Yamanaka. These are big shoes he has to fill, but I am confident he will have a positive impact on the very furious offensive playing style of F. Marinos.

With thanks to Tobias & Alan

 

Stephen Packer: Sanfrecce Hiroshima Fan

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Q – Please can you introduce yourself

My name is Stephen Packer. I am 32 years old. I am an American who was born and grew up in the UK. For my day job, I am a government lawyer. 

Q – How long have you been supporting Sanfrecce?

I was placed in Hiroshima prefecture as an ALT on the JET Programme in 2008 and lived in Hiroshima until 2010. During that time I missed maybe one or two games. It is very difficult to watch live or time-delayed J League games in the USA because the availability of streams is so bad, but I still try to keep up to date. Hopefully this year the streaming situation will improve. There is no reason for Premier League and Bundesliga to be the only games that I can record on my DVR.

Q – Do we call them Sanfrecce, Hiroshima or Sanfrecce Hiroshima?

Sanfrecce for short is fine! Locals also call them Sanfre (サンフレ) for short.

Q – Please can you summarise last season for us?

It was a very strange one, battling for the title after almost getting relegated the year before and then losing five games out of the last six at the end to let the title slip away. As they say, amazing J! 

Q – How happy were you with the team’s performance last year?

It was a very strange season with the World Cup break right in the middle. Performances were very good in the first half and started OK in the second half before taking a total nose dive from September onwards. Hopefully this season begins with the first-half level of performances rather than the second half.

Q – What are your expectations for the new season?

I expect Sanfrecce to not take the ACL seriously in order to concentrate on the league. I am hoping for a top six finish. 

Q – What do you know about the JLeague Challenge?

I had never heard of it before you asked! But it looks similar in concept to the International Champions Cup. I went to see Real Madrid and Manchester United when they played in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The J League Challenge seems like a similar idea but with Thai and Japanese teams.

Q – How much coverage is the tournament getting in the local press?

I haven’t seen anything at all in the US press. The local newspaper in Hiroshima I know is the Chugoku Shimbun, and they have reported that Sanfrecce arrived in Thailand on the 21st to work on strength and endurance training but don’t mention the J League Challenge.

Q – How seriously will the club be taking it?

I think they will take it seriously insofar as they will be trying to instil grit and determination into the players to fight over the long season. My sense is that Jofuku will not want to replicate the collapse of last system and wants to have the players better mentally prepared. As for the result, I don’t think they will take that too seriously.

Q – How seriously will you be taking it? 

I will read the reports but I won’t be disappointed if Sanfrecce lose the game, I don’t think that matters. 

Q – What will you be looking for during the friendly v Chonburi?

I will want to know how the new players are fitting in. Emil Salomonsson has come over from Sweden and has the potential to be a very solid J League defender. He’s also still only 29. Douglas Vieira also comes in from Tokyo Verdy so we’ll be looking to see if he looks sharp because he has quite a step up from J2 to make.

Q – Which of your players do we need to look out for and why?

Douglas Vieira may be looking to prove himself ahead of the new season. Kohei Shimizu is a fast winger who is back at Sanfrecce after having been loaned to Shimizu, transferred there, then loaned back to Hiroshima. He will be looking to establish himself in the team also.

Q – What do you know about Chonburi FC?

Nothing really. I had heard of Chonburi because they have been involved in the ACL Champions League, but no more than that.

Q – What do you know about Thai football in general?

I understand that it is improving because Thai players are starting to come to the J League and perform well, but not much beyond that. I know that there are some people who follow Japanese football who are quite enthusiastic about the future of football in Thailand, but I have heard also that perhaps there needs to be more investment in the infrastructure and the business management of clubs. 

Q – What are your impressions of the Thai players who played in the JLeague last season?

Obviously Chanathip Songkrasin took the J League by storm last year, making the league Best XI and being voted MVP by his teammates. Teerasil Dangda also did a job for Sanfrecce without setting the league on fire I think. Other than those two I can’t recall another Thai player off the top of my head.

Q – Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Good luck to Chonburi, I hope it is a good game for the fans. 

With thanks to Stephen & Alan

 

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