Kiatisuk Senamuang: Thailand's Own Zico
The southeast Asian country of Thailand is not known as a great football nation.
However, this hasn't stopped the country.
They are a dominate force in Asian football and the national team has won the ASEAN Football Championship three different times in 1996, 2000, 2002.
Thailand doesn't have many players abroad because most of them would rather stay in Thailand and play in the Thai Premier League. Those players who do decide to play abroad tend to come back to Thailand.
One of those players that followed this path is Thailand's greatest footballer, Kiatisuk Senamuang.
Known as Zico to Thai people, Kiatisuk Senamuang is a legend in this football-mad country.
Born in a relatively poor town, Kiatisuk was originally a police officer. He played for three different local teams from 1989-1998 during his time as an officer. During his early years, Kiatisuk scored 142 goals in 197 appearances.
In 1998, he quit his job as a police officer and joined Perlis, a football club in Malaysia. During the 1998-1999 season, he scored 13 goals in 17 appearances for the club. Before he knew it, he was headed to England.
In 1999, Steve Bruce brought Kiatisuk in to play for Huddersfield Town. However, he did not make any first team appearances for the club and went back to Thailand at the end of the 1999-2000 season.
When Kiatisuk came back to Thailand, he joined Raj Pracha, a club he had played for almost 10 years earlier. In his 26 appearances for the club, he scored 18 goals.
His stay in Thailand did not last too long.
He was soon sent down to play for the Singapore Armed Forces for the 2001-2002 season. There he scored 15 goals in 20 appearences. Once again, he moved to a different club.
In 2002, Kiatisuk moved for the final time to the Vietnamese club, Hoang Anh-Gia Lai.
There, he gained star status with the club and fans. He helped the club win the V-League and Vietnamese Super Cup two different times. In his 75 appearances, he scored 59 goals. He remained with the club until he retired in 2006.
While his club accomplishments are talked about many times here in Thailand, he is best remembered for his international career.
Kiatisuk made his international debut in 1993, when Thailand defeated Sri Lanka 1-0 in a World Cup qualifier. Since then, Kiatisuk made 130 appearances for his country and unofficially scored 85 goals. According to FIFA, however, he scored 65 goals.
His international awards include four medals from the SEAS Games and several Tiger Cups and King's Cups.
In 2006, Kiatisuk retired from playing football. Throughout his club career, he made 335 appearances and scored 234 goals.
He is now the head coach for Chula United, a club in the Thai Premier League.
As I said before, not many Thai players go abroad. Currently, 14 different Thai players compete abroad. Of those fourteen, one plays in the J-League in Japan, three play in the V-League in Vietnam, six play in the S-League in Singapore, and four play in England.
Thai people have yet to see a player that can be considered the next Kiatisuk Senamuang.
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