Bright young guns – 7 AFF under-19 rising stars
1. Sansern Limwatthana
Club: Buriram United, Thai Premier League
Undeniably, 19-year-old Sansern was one of the best players in the competition, finishing with three goals, including two impressive 30-yard thunderbolts. His performances came as no surprise as Sansern has had plenty of high-level playing experience.
Back when he was just 16, Sansern’s football talent was discovered by former Werder Bremen striker Wynton Rufer. On a trip to Thailand, the former New Zealand international was impressed by Sansern’s talents, giving the youngster a full scholarship along with a trial opportunity in New Zealand.
Sansern performed well in New Zealand’s under-19 league before he was promoted to the senior squad of five-time domestic title winners Waitakere United. He played a total of nine games and scored one goal playing alongside New Zealand international midfielder Jake Butler. Yet homesickness drew him home and he’s now under a professional contract with one of Thailand’s biggest clubs, Buriram United.
2. Worachit Kanitsribampen
Club: Chonburi FC, Thai Premier League
Thailand’s under-19 captain was widely expected by the local media and fans to be one of the key players in the tournament, as the 17-year-old was already excelling for his club Chonburi FC in the Thai Premier League this season.
He has only recently been handed some playing time but he did not let anyone down, etching his name into Thai football history by becoming the youngest player ever to score a goal in Thailand’s football top flight.
Worachit’s strongest attributes are his pace, dribbling and finishing. More than capable as a midfielder, he is also comfortable playing as a striker, proven by his six goals in the AFF Under-19 tournament – including two in the final – to finish as the competition’s top scorer.
Given his tender years, it is fair to say he has a lot of room for improvement. Under the guidance of one of the finest academies in the country, Worachit undoubtedly has a very bright future.
3. Saringkan Promsupa
Club: Rayong, Thai Division 2
Considering some of his teammates’ reputations and the fact he’s playing with Rayong FC in the lowest professional league in Thailand, Saringkan may look a little out of place in this company. But a reliable defence was just as important to Thailand’s title charge as goalscoring and plenty of that credit is owed to their 18-year-old centre back.
Saringkan was the only player to play every minute of every match for Thailand and his tireless marking and well-timed tackling were the rock of Thailand’s defence. His impressive performances will surely have caught some attention from the country’s best teams.