Untold Stories, Southeast Asian Clubs: Lanexang United
For more than three centuries before it became known by its current name, Laos was the Kingdom of Lan Xang; the land of a million elephants.
2014 (As Lanexang Intra FC)
Phanthachith Inthilath – The owner and president, he is the driving force behind the growth of the club and has an ambition to make it one of Southeast Asia’s best over the next decade
David Booth – A veteran English manager who has almost two decades of coaching experience in the region. He was catapulted into the coaching role just a week before the start of the current season
COLOURS Red and White
MOST SUCCESSFUL COACH
Eduardo Almeida – At a club that has gone through a number of coaches, the Portuguese tactician was the man in charge for most of the side’s run to a second-placed finish in 2015
HOME GROUND Lanexang Stadium
In a football sense it’s long been the land of a million struggles. Corruption and mismanagement – as it has in much of Southeast Asia – has plagued the local game.
There were claims last year of trafficking of young African players, coming at the same time the head of the Laos Football Federation was banned by FIFA for two years for bribery.
On the pitch, since the sport first arrived in the country, Laos has struggled to make any kind of an impact on the regional stage, let alone the continental or global ones.
The men’s national team has never qualified for the Asian Cup, nor have they ever progressed past the group stage of the ASEAN Championship. Despite some credible recent results under the tutelage of the vastly experienced Steve Darby, the side has long been regarded as one of the weakest in Asia.
One ambitious club though is aiming to change all that and after spending more than US$10 million (S$13.6 million) over the past two years, the side named after that ancient kingdom, Lanexang United, is certainly making a big splash.
All bar a handful of the 14 top flight clubs boast fairly basic facilities, but Lanexang are blazing a trail towards being one of the better funded and better run clubs across the entire region.
Last month, FourFourTwo travelled to the capital of Vientiane and saw first-hand just how ambitious the club is and just how rapidly those dreams are being turned into reality.
From dusk to dawn there are children running around with a football at their feet inside the club’s brand new training facility, many kitted out in replica Lanexang attire and often only heading home as evening arrives and the gates are locked.
Inside the new multi-purpose training and recreation facility you can do anything from having a swim to working out and even getting married – this is a club that wants to incorporate football into the fabric of everyday life in this city of a quarter of a million people on the banks of the Mekong.
The person behind the club’s vision is Phanthachith Inthilath, a businessman who has parlayed his childhood love of football into an organisation that he aims to place amongst Southeast Asia’s elite within a decade.
“It’s the dream of every boy in Laos to be a footballer, but when I was growing up things were difficult as we didn’t have many facilities,” he tells FourFourTwo from the stands inside Lanexang Stadium.
“So now after doing business for more than 15 years I have the chance to realise what was my childhood dream and be involved in football.
“I want to do something for the young people in Laos because I saw that all the children here have talent and want to play football, but no-one invests in the proper infrastructure for football, academies and these kind of things.”
What Phanthachith has done is invest in facilities at a rate never before seen in the country.
A state-of-the-art 10,000 capacity stadium is the jewel in the crown, but there is also both an indoor and outdoor training facility, a modern gym and swimming pool as well as a brand new administrative headquarters that sets the club apart from most others in the region.
“When I was a child I remember seeing just how popular football was,” he says. “Every time there was a World Cup people would gather together and watch the games and this is my life, my dream, to do something like this to allow children to fulfill their dreams.
“Now we have a lot of the facilities in place and, with football becoming more and more popular every day in Laos, we have the chance to really do something with this club.”