By Jintana Panyaarvudh
The season finale of the country’s largest seven-a-side competition was the first time a Thai football amateur league showdown had been played in Britain.
Sakkarat Chuatoaluang, Flick’s player-coach, said playing at Stamford Bridge had been awe-inspiring.
“I’m thrilled. To play the final and be crowned the champions here [at Stamford Bridge] is dream come true,” he said.
The Flick players are students from the Faculty of Education at Chandrakasem Rajabhat and Srinakharinwirot universities, aged from 19-24. Ikkyu-San comprises young footballers from Nonthaburi province.
“We got this fantastic opportunity thanks to Singha Corp. It is once-in-lifetime experience for local boys like us. Lifting the trophy here will stay in our memories forever,” Sakkarat said.
Sakkarat put the success down to his players’ “lionhearts” and dedicated training.
“We won today because we never gave up hope. So I want to tell other Thai kids that if they want to achieve something like this, dream high, spare no effort, and you can make your dreams reality,” he said.
As well as leading his team to the trophy, the 25-year-old coach fulfilled an emotional vow.
Sakkarat’s elder brother, an avid Chelsea fan, passed away five years ago. Ever since, Sakkarat has carried a picture of his sibling and vowed that one day he would take “his brother” to visit the home turf of his beloved Blues. He finally made good on that pledge this week.
This year’s competition was hailed an unprecedented success by Wilailuck Chaturaprasert, Boon Rawd Trading marketing manager for food and beverage.
“After launching the league seven years ago in Thailand we have finally realised their [players’] dream of playing on an international stage. We created history for Thai football by bringing them to play here,” said Wilailuck.
The two teams had battled through the competition since October to make it to the final, she said.
Former Premier League champions Chelsea, as Singha’s global partner, have supported the Singha Football League since 2012, sending their coaches to conduct football clinics in Thailand, she added.
“They [Chelsea] saw an opportunity to help develop young Thai players as well as to build their fan base in Thailand,” she said.
Chelsea FC official Edward Connock welcomed the Thai players by reminding them that Stamford Bridge was founded for more than 100 years ago and has played host to many legends of the game since.
“You should be very proud that you worked so hard to be able to play at the Bridge. This is an amazing opportunity,” he said. He added that, two days after newly crowned Premier League champions Leicester had played Chelsea at the Bridge, the Thai teams had an opportunity to play on the same pitch as representatives of Thailand.
Wilailuck pledged next year’s competition would be even better and promised a surprise.
She added there might be other partners for the Singha League next season but declined to elaborate.
Singha currently sponsors four Premier League teams – Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City and new champions Leicester.
The Singha Football League has been a springboard for several young players to move into professional leagues in Thailand, Wilailuck said.
In addition to a sightseeing trip in London and tickets for Leicester’s last match of the season, against Chelsea, Flick received the winner’s cheque of Bt100,000 while Ikkyu-San took home Bt50,000.