Tristan Do, Telling It Like It Is: Football, FIFA and finding my ethnic identity

In our latest ‘Telling It Like It Is’, Thai superstar Tristan Do opens about the confusion he felt growing up due to his diverse background, his lack of heroes and who he likes to play as on FIFA…

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It was difficult for me growing up because in France I was always the Asian guy, but now in Thailand I’m seen as the foreigner.

This is the life for people born from different backgrounds where I can’t really say that I’m 100 per cent French or that I’m 100 per cent Thai, so it’s always been a bit confusing – even for me!

If you gave me the choice between watching football or spending time with my friends, I’ll chose my friends 100 per cent of the time

The advantage though is that you get to experience many different cultures and languages. As well as French and Thai I can also speak English and Spanish, so that’s definitely an advantage.

There’s been a bit of confusion about my background as I grew up in France, but my family on my father’s side is from Thailand.

There were some Vietnamese journalists who said my family was from Vietnam. That comes from my surname which is a Vietnamese-sounding name, but that was a long time ago, many generations ago, when they were in Vietnam. The only real connection I have is to Thailand.

Friends & FIFA before watching football

I grew up in France and I became a fan of PSG and I watch some of their games, but I’m not actually a huge fan of watching football. I just love to play the game so if you gave me the choice between watching football or spending time with my friends, I’ll chose my friends 100 per cent of the time.

In my free time I guess I do what a lot of football players do and that’s spend a bit of time playing video games with my friends – and with my football friends that can get quite exciting.

With the national team I usually room with Charyl Chappuis and we always make sure that we bring the video games with us. It means we don’t need anything else!

Tristan has had great success with Muangthong United

When I’m with Muangthong I’ll usually room with my teammate Adisak (Kraisorn), but with Thailand it will be myself and Charyl, and that’s where we get the chance to play FIFA. At the last Thailand camp we kept it all together with both Charyl and Adisak!

Charyl and I, we’re always playing FIFA and we stick to the same teams; if it’s a club game I’ll be Real Madrid and he’s Barcelona or if we’re playing national teams I’m Argentina and he’s Brazil, but to be honest he’s not really that good and I’m always winning those games.

Back to matters on the pitch

After a game I’m always my harshest critic and I’ll think about how I played, whether we win or we lose, and I always know if I have played well or not.

I’ll be the first to criticise myself but that’s the way you have to be to improve and always try to get better as a footballer.

Growing up in France I played literally everywhere – I played as a fullback, I played as a winger on the right and I played striker too.

I was a professional in France as a right-winger and now I see myself as a right-back; I like to have a midfielder who can cover me and give me more freedom to go forward, so I’m an offensive player in some ways too.

In modern football the right-back and left-back are now very offensive and it’s the kind of football I like to play.

When you play with three centre-backs you mind a little less about going forward and on almost every action you have to go up directly, but with four defenders if the ball is on the left then you have to stay back a little bit more and then wait for the game to come to your side.

So it’s different but I try to play with a midfielder that can cover me so I can have the same liberty whether I play in a back-three or a back-four system.

He is a regular member of the Thai national team

I don’t have football heroes

I don’t have any heroes or anything like that in football, but certainly in my position there are some players who have really defined how my role is played and I enjoy watching those kinds of players, starting with the Brazilians like Cafu and more recently there are big players like Dani Alves or Hector Bellerin.

It’s difficult to give a time frame on when Thai football can reach the next level, but right now we’re on the right track

I like both attacking and defending because I also like to fight and with some players I certainly enjoy that aspect of it.

I don’t often get to score though; last season I didn’t score at all, but because I play quite high sometimes I’ll have chances, but for me it’s just as exciting to provide the assist for others to score and last season I think I had 12 assists, so that’s not too bad.

In terms of the national team, it’s difficult to give a time frame on when Thai football can reach the next level but right now we’re definitely in a good place and on the right track.

It’s a big chance now with both the club and the national team to take that next step and go beyond just doing well in Southeast Asia.

So while I can’t say in how many years Thailand will make that leap, it’s definitely getting close.