Untold Stories, Southeast Asian Clubs: Buriram United
A 3,000-kilometre motorbike ride through hazardous terrain, across what was once described as ‘pot-holed, bandit-infested mountain roads’, is not how you picture the owner of the biggest football club in Southeast Asia spending his off-season.
This is the same man who once went three months without speaking to his wife over a football match, who spends every waking day at the training ground, and who hasn’t worn a suit in more than half a decade, preferring to dress only in his club’s uniform.
Buriram United Factbox
FOUNDED: 1970 (as PEA, 2010 as Buriram PEA, 2013 as Buriram United)
- 5 Thai Premier League titles (2008, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015)
- 4 Thai FA Cups (2011, 2012, 2013, 2015)
- 4 Thai League Cups (2011, 2012, 2013, 2015)
- 4 Kor Royal Cups (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016)
- 1 Mekong Club Championship (2015)
MOST SUCCESFUL COACH:
Alexandre Gama (Brazil, June 2014-now):
- 2014 TPL,
- 2015 TPL, FA Cup, League Cup, Kor Royal Cup, Mekong Club Championship
- 2016 Kor Royal Cup
HOME GROUND: I-Mobile Stadium (Thunder Castle)
Buriram United’s Newin Chidchob is certainly not your typical club owner.
The man who drove Buriram from a transplanted regional club with the most basic of facilities to the continental juggernaut it is today has always done things his own way and is the single most important reason behind the rise of the Thunder Castles.
While he has grand plans for his club to become one of the five biggest across Asia and win the Champions League within the next decade, it’s his pursuits away from the field that also set him apart from most of his contemporaries in the region, starting with that epic motorbike ride.
“Ever since I was a young boy I’ve wanted to own a football club and I live and breathe this team, it’s my great passion and I rarely have time to relax,” Newin tells FourFourTwo.
“At night I stay awake tossing and turning, thinking why didn’t we win, or why didn't we control things better.
“So when we had a small break in the off-season, when all the players and staff were away, I decided to take this trip.”
His custom-made bike is a sight in itself, detailed as it is with the club’s logos and a special number-plate, and even though Newin admits he’s handy with fixing anything that may go wrong mechanically, it was a relatively trouble-free journey.
“With some friends of mine, we left Buriram, travelled north to Chiang Rai, across into Laos and then up towards our final destination in Yunnan, China; it took us more than a week and over 3,000 kilometres, but it was my one chance to try and take my mind off football,” he recalled.
“Fortunately there were no real accidents. I’ve been thrown off the bike occasionally but nothing too serious. It’s the same as with football where sometimes you pick up minor injuries, but it would take a lot for me to have to go to hospital and leave my club.”
Leaving the club is something he’s rarely done since he bought what was then PEA FC and moved them to his hometown of Buriram. That move led to the club using a local side’s training facilities while the new management group set about building a fledgling team from scratch.
There were no facilities, no staff, no players and, as Newin describes it, no real football culture; all this just six years ago.
“I’ve wanted to own a club for many years and after failing in several previous attempts I was thrilled to buy this team finally,” the 57-year-old explains. “Logically I thought I should move them to Buriram as it’s the town where I was born and where I am supposed to die.
“The challenge was, of course, a huge one but I don’t like to do small things – I’m not going to buy Manchester United because they already have fans and everything there. I wanted to build something from zero and even though I knew the first year would be tough, it was a chance to mould everything.
“At first we had absolutely nothing, really nothing. No pitch, no coach, not anything; we even had to educate people how to watch football.
“They were used to watching kids play in regional leagues, but the first year we played they’d still turn up to the games straight from the farm in all their farm gear.”
The leap from that season, in 2010-11, to now has been a quantum one.
[Continued on next page]