On the face of it, Chonburi seem an unremarkable club, spending most of their time bobbing about in mid-table in Thailand’s top flight.
But for the past two seasons, they’ve reportedly had the world’s richest footballer on their books. While Lionel Messi’s net worth is about £500 million and Cristiano Ronaldo a paltry £400m, Chonburi midfielder Faiq Bolkiah has been described as being worth closer to £16bn. How?
Well, he’s the nephew of the Sultan of Brunei, one of the globe’s wealthiest royals. Bolkiah was actually born in LA, before relocating to England – he was educated at Bradfield College in Berkshire, beginning his football career with the mighty Woolton Hill Argyle, then moving on to AFC Newbury as a junior.
“He became a fantastic goalscorer with amazing pace,” former coach Paul Morgan said.
In 2009, Southampton's academy snapped him up – sadly, the winger didn’t become the next Gareth Bale, heading off for trials with Reading and Arsenal, prior to joining Chelsea aged 16. There, he featured for the under-18s and received advice from boss Jose Mourinho.
“When our youth team played the senior team, he pointed out that sometimes I’d be in the wrong position,” Bolkiah said.
He soon switched position all the way to Leicester, signing a three-year pro deal via a trial at Stoke – his family were known to be friends of the Foxes’ Thai owners and the British royal family.
He appeared for the Premier League outfit in the UEFA Youth League, made six appearances for the Brunei national team and even penned a one-year contract extension at the King Power Stadium, keeping him there until 2020, but departed to Portuguese side Maritimo without getting near the Leicester first team.
“I had three or four offers,” he later revealed. “Maritimo told me, ‘Come here, you’ll play’, but that didn’t happen. I feel like there were a lot of politics to do with why Maritimo wanted me.”
Instead he joined Chonburi in Thai League One, the country’s top division (to be fair, it makes more sense than England’s League One being the third tier). Regular games finally came as his new club finished seventh last term – he netted his first goals this season, putting Chonburi… seventh again.
Said to be on modest wages, don’t expect him to emulate Messi and Ronaldo on the field any time soon. Is he, however, the only former Woolton Hill Argyle junior ever to line up for the Brunei national team? Er, yes, he probably is…
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Ryan is a staff writer for FourFourTwo, joining the team full-time in October 2022. He first joined Future in December 2020, working across FourFourTwo, Golf Monthly, Rugby World and Advnture's websites, before eventually earning himself a position with FourFourTwo permanently. After graduating from Cardiff University with a degree in Journalism and Communications, Ryan earned a NCTJ qualification to further develop as a writer while a Trainee News Writer at Future.