Asia 50 Exclusives: Theerathon Bunmathan

Theerathon Bunmathan has bounced all the way back from being dropped from the national team to now proudly being the Thai captain. And he has some big goals, as FourFourTwo discovered...

It is difficult to contemplate right now that not all that long ago, Theerathon Bunmathan – No.21 in FourFourTwo’s Asia 50 of 2016 – was dropped from the Thai national team.

At the age of 26, Theerathon is now widely considered the best player in the country

He responded to that difficult situation by playing a major role in Buriram United’s fourth Thai championship victory last season, leading the league in assists along the way, and it was his form at club level that prompted national coach ‘Zico’ Kiatisuk Senamuang to recall him.

The left-back’s form held up on the international stage, helping the ‘War elephants’ progress to the final stage of World Cup qualifiers as group winners.

“My best moment since last year so far have been getting recalled to the national team early on, this time as skipper, ” he told FourFourTwo.

“I was in a good run of form in early 2015 because I had time to rest for one month without playing for international football at the end of 2014. That made me hungry when I came back.

“I believe that rest is important because when you take a full rest, you come back hungrier.”

‘Aum’ Theerathon is a multi-faceted player, excellent in both attack and defence.

He creates chances with his precise crossing while also helping defensively with his good reading of the game.

Theerathon has also enjoyed notoriety for his dead-ball work, including two stunning goals against Gamba Osaka in the 2015 AFC Champions League.

One was an inch-perfect effort from 30 yards, while the other came directly from a corner.

“I don’t watch or learn from someone specifically,” Theerathon said when asked about his clinical free kicks. “I just try to develop it game-by-game. I review myself every game to find where I need to improve.

“But if I had to choose my favourite goals from 2015 until now, I would choose those two goals against Gamba Osaka.

“I also liked a goal I scored against Vietnam (an impressive passing move during 2018 World Cup qualifying) as well as an equaliser from a penalty against Iraq.”

At the age of 26, Theerathon has won every competition at club level and is now widely considered the best player in the country.

Last year he played every minute at international level without being substituted in the War Elephants’ quest for a World Cup berth.

Thailand have been drawn with Japan, Australia, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in the third and final round.

At club level, Theerathon also has big ambitions.

Thai legend Wittaya Laohakul

“I want to play in Japan,” he said. “The J-League has professionalism, it seems like they are more professional than the others; playing system, training system, teamwork, strength. I like (Japanese captains Makoto) Hasebe’s leadership style as well.”

Theerathon also has one other goal, one which may prove a little harder to realise. He dreams of playing alongside Thai legend Wittaya Laohakul, a trailblazer who competed in Japan and Germany.

“If it’s possible, I’d like to play with Wittaya Laohakul to be honest.” Theerathon laughed, in reference to the now-62-year-old.

“I would like to play alongside him because I never watched him play, I just heard so much about him.

“When I was eight or nine years old, he trained children at Bangkok Sports School where I was studying and people told me ‘he is the best player’. So every time I saw him, I would run to him and paid respect.”

Theerathon also voiced his pleasure at being named among Asia’s 50 best footballers by FourFourTwo.

“Finally, I’m delighted that FourFourTwo have selected me to the 50 Best Asian players list,” he said. “I will try to improve myself to be selected for further years.”