Lost Boyo in THAILAND (Muangthong United, BEC Tero Sasana, Bangkok FC, Suphanburi FC)
Other Clubs: Cardiff City (youth), Bryntirion Athletic, Neath, Afan Lido
After spending the early part of his football career in Wales, Bridgend-born Mika Chunuonsee took the decision at 20 years old to try his luck in the land of his father: Thailand. There, he spent time with two of Bangkok’s bigger clubs in Muangthong United and BEC Tero Sasana, before Mika took the decision in 2012 to drop outside of the Thai Premier League with another team based in the Thai capital, Bangkok FC.
The 2012 season had its ups and downs. The team spent a short time in the relegation zone and spent a large part of the season in a fight to avoid relegation. However, the team were never without goals- only two teams scored more than Bangkok FC and their English striker Lee Tuck ended the season as the division’s top-scorer- and a strong finish saw them eventually finish safely in mid-season.
Mika’s own form was good enough to see him elected to the league’s team of the season and earn a transfer to Division 1 runners-up Suphanburi FC, meaning he will be returning to the TPL in 2013. Lost Boyos got in touch with Mika recently to ask about his most recent season, his transfer, and life in Thailand.
Lost Boyos: Bangkok FC avoided relegation fairly comfortably by the end of the season, but things looked to be quite tough at times. How do you feel the season went for the team and how happy were you with your own form?
Mika Chunuonsee: I’m sure none of us really thought we would be down there at the start of the season. I think with the managerial change half way through the season and also the number of players moving in and out during the transfer window played a big factor in why we was down there fighting to stay in league. We never really had a settled team and that showed in a lot of the games. Luckily we managed to go unbeaten in the last six or seven games to climb up to tenth which was a good finish to a disappointing season. On a personal basis, I thought I did well. I played the last 10-12 games of the season as a make shift centre half rather than at right back and I was happy overall with how my season went. Because of my versatility I had a number of teams interested and I also made the league top 11 Thai Players of the Season Team which was a good ending to a mixed season.
LB: You played at two of Thailand’s bigger clubs before joining Bangkok FC. Why did you decide to drop down a division?
MC: Many factors. Before I moved to Bangkok FC last season I played in over 30 league games for BEC Tero the season before and even though the club wanted me to stay the contract negotiations broke down. Bangkok FC had made an offer for me which was eventually accepted by BEC tero, and after speaking to Bangkok FC I was excited about the project they had in mind and believed that we could get promotion with the players they had. With that in mind, I thought it would be a great challenge for me to move to Bangkok fc.
LB: You’ve already agreed a move to Suphanburi for 2013. How did the move come about and what attracted you to the club? What are the club hoping to achieve next season?
MC: I had a few offers to go back to the Thai Premier League after Bangkok FC failed to get promotion. I think five clubs made an enquiry about me, but I didnt really expect to leave as I had a three year contract with Bangkok FC and the club had told me already that I was not for sale. A week after the season finished Suphanburi FC made a bid that was accepted and after speaking to the club I was really impressed by the whole set up they had and also by the fan base. The fact that they will of course be in the TPL next season was probably the major factor because after a year in Division 1 I knew I wanted to be back in the TPL. With my old coach from BEC now in charge at Suphanburi I knew it was the right move for my career. I think a top half finish in our first season in TPL will be our target.
LB: In terms of facilities and set-up, how does football in Thailand compare with what you experienced back in Wales?
MC: In all fairness the league in Wales doesnt really compare to Thailand. Thailand now would probably be rated as highly as the A-League in Australia and not far behind the J-League in Japan or the Chinese Super League. I would class the set up of the league as maybe a low Championship to top League One standard back in UK. Most of the teams in the TPL have a fan base of 10000 minimum and the facilities and set up year by year is getting better and will soon be up there with most championship sides in the UK, I feel.
LB: Muangthong had an excellent season in 2012 and Buriram United made an excellent start to the 2012 AFC Champions League; Thai football is on the up, right?
MC: Muangthong and Buriram can compete with most teams in Asia now, I feel. The top teams in thailand are not far behind the best teams around Asia and I feel a few more years and they will challenge in the AFC Champions League. Chonburi FC this year was also in the semi final of the AFC Cup (Same as Europa) so Thai football and the league in general is definitely on the up.
LB: Who are the current players to look out for in Thai football?
MC: There are many players in Thailand to look out for, both local and foreign. The Thai players to look out for are Terrasil Dangda number 10 from Muangthong United and also Teerathon Bunmaton, the number 2 and left back from Buriram United. Foreign players would be Mario from Muangthong and Cleiton Silva from BEC Tero.
LB: Given your background, did you always plan on playing football in Thailand at some point in your career? Do you have any plans to return to Wales/the UK in the future?
MC: It was always an option to come back and play in Thailand if I didnt make at a high level back in UK. Looking back it was the right decision as it could not have gone better. I hope to come back to play in the UK one day, but when that will be right now I’m not too sure.
LB: Thailand is an incredible country. Football aside, how much do you and your girlfriend enjoy living there?
MC: Its a great life in terms of weather and also the pace of life. We are never stressed because we have everything we need here and also the beach is never to far away. My girlfriend though doesn’t like the Thai food so much but that isn’t a problem as their is a lot of European food in Bangkok. Apart from missing friends and family back in the UK, we are both happy with life at the moment.
LB: In many of the pictures that you post on Twitter, you are mainly socialising with the foreign players. How does the social side of football differ from the UK in Thailand?
MC: Not so much. Thailand is a tourist country so the social life is very much same as in the UK. We often go to the famous Khaosan Road after games for food and drinks. There are many travelers and therefore it is like a home from home on the social side. All of us boys come from many different countries and cultures, but it’s good to stick together and that makes everything more homely.
LB: You played youth football for Wales with many of the stars of the current international set-up? Who was the best and is there anyone you are surpised didn’t make it?
MC: I played with a lot of good players who have made it like Aaron Ramsey at Arsenal, Gareth Bale at Tottenham, Chris Gunter at Reading, Darcy Blake at Crystal Palace, Neil Yaylor at Swansea City, James Wilson at Bristol City and lots more. The player I thought was the best at that time was Aaron Ramsey. Being two years younger than all of us he was playing two age groups above his age and was still standing out at that level. I have been surprised by a lot of players who I played with that haven’t made it, but thats football. Some of us are very lucky to have made a good living from football and I’m glad to see many of my mates made it all the way to the top.
LB: Do you still have international ambitions with either Wales or Thailand in future?
MC: I was involved with Thailand last year in the training squad, so I would love to play for Thailand one day, but in terms of Wales I think that would be very difficult and not something I think would happen unless I was playing back in the UK at a very high level. Hopefully one day I can make my full international debut for either country because that would be the dream of any player.
The Thai Premier League is expected to start in March and the Lost Boyos would like to wish Mika all the best for 2013. You can follow Mika on Twitter @Chunuonsee16