Top 10/50/100

10 ASEAN players that went to Japan before Chanathip Songkrasin

Following Thailand star Chanathip Songkrasin’s move to J-League 1, FFT takes a look at previous ASEAN players who made similar breakthroughs there and how they fared...

We are part of The Trust Project What is it?

Before the professional J-League was established in 1993, there were some Thai players playing in Japan like Wittaya Laohagul, Worawan Chitawanich, and also Natee Thongsukkaew, who arguably had the most success in Japanese football.

But after Japan decided to establish the now-thriving professional J-League, Japanese football standards was raised to such a high level that it became more and more difficult for ASEAN players to move over.

But Thailand’s star Chanathip Songkrasin, who has joined Consadole Sapporo on loan from SCG Muangthong United, gives hope that there is an increased opportunity for other ASEAN players to play in Japan in the future.

Here, we present to you a list of ASEAN players who played in Japan previously and how they performed.

Adul Lahsoh (Gainare Tottori)

Adul moved from his hometown, Pattalung, to Chulabhorn Science High School Chonburi when he was in senior high school, before going on to join Chonburi FC as an 18-year-old.

Nobody knew of him, but his qualities and ambition began to show on the pitch. Three years later, Adul helped his side claim their first-ever league Thai League title in 2007.

Continuing to excel on the pitch, Adul soon caught the eye of Witthaya Hloagune, who was appointed head coach of J.League 3 side Gainare Tottori that same year Chonburi clinched the title.

Witthaya wasted little time in recruiting the then-21-year-old Adul on loan, making him the first ASEAN player to ply his trade in the J-League since it was established in 1993.

A hard worker on and off the pitch, Adul impressed many with his work ethics. He was always on time for training and was a regular for the club. Many believed Adul could play a key role in getting Gainare promoted.

However, homesickness began to affect the midfielder and it eventually affected his performances. As a result, Adul began to see lesser playing time and Gainare eventually finished fifth.

With the completion of the one-year loan, Adul opted to return to Thailand, where he became a legendary figure among Chonburi fans.

He would break their hearts by making a shock move to Buriram United last season, but his stint only lasted six months and he returned to his boyhood club on loan later in the year.

While he is a legendary figure for Chonburi for making the fourth most appearances for the club, were it not for his homesickness, many wonder till this day whether he could have been a Thai legend for excelling in the J-League.

IRFAN BACHDIM (Ventforet Kofu and Consadole Sapporo)

The Dutch-Indonesian player, nicknamed ‘Indonesia’s Beckham’, was a high-profile player during his time in Japan.

Starting his career at Ajax’s youth academy alongside ex-Liverpool winger Ryan Babel, Irfan subsequently made moves to FC Utrecht, HFC Haarlem and SV Argon.

On 2010, Bachdim flew to his dad’s country, Indonesia, to have trials with Persib Bandung and Persija Jakarta, before siging with Persema Malang.

He played for Persema Malang for three years, and then moved again for a new challenge in Thailand. BEC-Tero gave him a trial but Chonburi signed him before anyone else could and sent him out on loan to Sriracha FC.

While with Sriracha, J-leagues teams Vegalta Sendai and Ventforet Kofu somehow got to know of the player and they offered him trials in December 2013.

Evidently, Irfan impressed enough to earn a move to Ventforet Kofu, making him the first Indonesian to play in Japan’s top league.

However, he spent only a year there and played two matches before moving to Consadole Sapporo, a J-League 2 side.

Irfan managed only eight matches in all competitions for Consadole in 2015 but a serious injury curtailed his involvement in the following season and restricted him to only two matches in 2016.

Lê Công Vinh (Consadole Sapporo)

Here is one of Southeast Asia’s biggest name, Le Cong Vinh. Well feared for his striking prowess, Le Cong Vinh was originally playing in Portugal with Leixoes in 2009 before his move to Japan several years later.

After his exploits with Portugal, Le Cong Vinh had initially moved back to Hanoi FC, but turmoils within Hanoi resulted in him seeking for greener pastures.

He was offered a trial by Consadole Sapporo, but Le Cong Vinh opted to sign for his boyhood club Song Lam Nghe An and instead went on loan with the Japanese side in 2013.

During his five-month loan, Le Cong Vinh made nine appearances in total, providing two goals and as many assists.

However, he did not extend his stay and returned to Song Lam Nghe An, before moving to Becamex Binh Duong, with whom he won the V-League title in 2015.