Millions of tourists descend on Thailand each year, keen to experience its enchanting beauty. The lure is often the prospect of a relaxing and stress free idyll, where life slows to a pace in keeping with the tropical climate. At times too, professional footballers from around the globe may be enticed not only by the attractive wages on offer but also the promise of an easy life, effortlessly dominating weak opposition and plundering goals against sub standard defences. However many big name signings have discovered to their cost that the Land of Smiles hosts an extremely competitive league where only the strongest can survive.
Perhaps the biggest name to appear in the Thai Premier League was ex Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler. The Scouse sharpshooter was one of the most feared marksmen in the early years of the English Premiership but as injuries mounted his career took somewhat of a nosedive before becoming something of a football nomad by his mid thirties. A somewhat successful stint in Australia with North Queensland Fury and Perth Glory preceded a big money move to join Muangthong United in the Thai Premier League. The football mad country was ecstatic to have football royalty in their midst and Fowler became an instant hero among fans. However a meagre return of two goals in his turbulent stint at Muangthong, where he was also briefly appointed as player/coach, led the Liverpudlian to cut short his Thai sojourn and he returned to England with his tail somewhat between his legs.
Image From The Independent
Another English import who failed to make the expected impact was Jay Simpson, a powerfully built centre forward from England. Signed in 2014 by Buriram United on a recored breaking 40,000 pounds a month, the ex Arsenal starlet was expected to fire the goals that would lead the ambitious club to success not only at home but in the Asian Champions League. It sadly failed to pan out that way as Simpson only managed a solitary goal for the Thunder Castles in what proved to be a hugely disappointing campaign for the then 25 year old in the prime of his career. He managed to revive his career back in England with Leyton Orient but interestingly has since revealed the difficulties he faced in adapting to life in South East Asia. The intense heat and humidity, the language barrier, the loneliness of adapting to a new culture far from home were difficulties he spoke about and indeed are all factors that may prevent a new international star signing from fulfilling his potential but are of little solace to fans impatient for an immediate impact on the field.
Former Ireland international Andy Keogh had a respectable career in England and has since become an A League star in Australia with Perth Glory but had a brief and ignominious spell in Thailand with Ratchaburi, and while he has since spoken disparagingly of the professionalism and standard of the League, with his return of zero goals and anonymous performances in his disastrous stint, the Thai fans certainly have few fond memories of the Irishman.
On the flip side, many international players have prospered in Thailand and enhanced the league with their skills and professionalism. They have all brought with them however a willingness to embrace the lifestyle, to immerse themselves into their new surroundings and most importantly had a respect for the ever increasing standard of play in the far flung footballing post of the Thai Premier League.
Cover Image From The Emerald Exiles