The incredible story of Mitti Tiyapairat, Chiangrai United's ambitious chairman
Fireworks shot into the sky above Supachalasai stadium, celebrating Singha Chiang Rai United’s FA Cup triumph on the evening of 25 November 2017.
Among the overjoyed fans in the stadium, there was a 32-year-old man who rejoiced like his dream came true. It was almost as if he was having flashbacks to childhood memories.
But when it really happened in real life, there was simply no comparison to the feeling of pure joy
He had led his Football Manager sides to claim virtual championships a number of times. But when it really transpired to happen in real life, there was simply no comparison to the feeling of pure joy for Mitti Tiyapairat.
It had all started from ground zero for Mitti, who had established the club back in 2009, along with his father, Yongyuth Tiyapairuch, a famous politician hailing from the north of Thailand.
Mitti's fascination in football motivated him to start building a small club. He started by planting every seed of grass on the football pitch by himself, handing out hundreds of leaflets to offer some information about the then-unknown football side.
But just three years later, in 2011, he brought Chiangrai United to the first tier of the Thai Football League. His team has maintained their status as a first-division club ever since.
But Mitti was not yet done and decided to further revamp the whole landscape of Chiangrai United in mid-2016, pumping more money into the club.
“I thought it was the right time to do so. The league was now developed so we needed to invest in new players,” he told FourFourTwo.
Yes, we spent a lot. But we also planned for the future. You have to understand that every player has their own values. We can improve them
“There were some overlooked players from other clubs such as Bodin Phala, Thitiphan Puangchan (that we bought). We also admired Mongkhol Tossakrai since he was at Army United and he is also part of national team until now.
“Yes, we spent a lot. But we also planned for the future. You have to understand that every player has their own value. We can improve them. By the time they leave, they can make more with their new clubs. But since we always do things for the long run, we aren’t willing to sell any players.”
Mitti wanted his club to be the hunter, not the hunted.
After Bodin and Thitiphan, Australian striker Mark Bridge became the club's next recruit - and this increased the popularity of Chiangrai United among the regional media.
According to Australian sources, the forward cost Chaingrai United 50 million baht (S$2.07 million).
“We put much more effort into purchasing new players compared to 2015, one of which was Mark Bridge," noted Mitti.
“We expected a lot from him, after he was the key man for Western Sydney Wanderers in their AFC Champions League victory in 2014. He also had excellent finishing skills that we sought after for a long time. So, we thought that it might be a great deal for us and also to publicise the Thai League to the A-League fans."
When we have more money, there are also more pressure and expectation. But we must do our best to handle these things
After that transfer period, Chiangrai United became known as the "sugar daddy" side of Thai League. They boasted many big names such as Thitiphan, Bodin, Mongkhol, Wanchalerm Yingyong, Mark Bridge, Lazarus Kaimbi and Pratum Chuthong.
Yet splashing the cash did not mean immediate success. Chiangrai finished eighth in the league that season and were also eliminated early in the cup tournaments.
To make matters worse, Bridge suffered a significant injury ahead of the 2017 season, so the club had no choice but to terminate his contract.
"We did our best to spend the money right to a point. Some teams spent a lot but failed because they bought the wrong ones. We had to learn from those mistakes,” said Mitti.
Mitti admitted that it was a tough period for the club.
“When we have more money, there is also more pressure and expectation. But we must do our best to handle these things," he noted.
“At that time, we brought some new recruits, but their performances were below our expectations. However, those were just 20 per cent while the rest of them have been doing well.”
That lesson made the team stronger than ever and it was in the 2017 season when things really started to change.
To be continued...