There are few countries that adore football as much as Thailand. The sport was first introduced to people in the country back in 1987, and now football games are aired throughout the year on both paid-cable television and local TV. As well as having a hugely popular local domestic league, fans across the country tune in throughout the season to watch huge matchups in foreign leagues, such as the Premier League and La Liga.
Meanwhile, massive competitions such as the World Cup and European Championships are also prominent in the country, despite Thailand having limited success in the prior mentioned competition.
Early Beginnings Of Football In Thailand
Thai locals were first introduced to the sport in 1897, as the sport was brought to the country by Siamese-English students when they were visiting the country. The popularity of the sport continued to progress to new heights as it was popular among the army and students. However, it wasn’t until three years later that the first official match was staged in the country, as an English team based in Siam took on a team of Ministry of Education professionals from Bangkok. The game was an entertaining affair, with the scores locked level at 2-2.
Its immediate success led to the first competition being founded in 1915, as the first edition of The Royal Golden Trophy was competed. This accolade would later be called the Kor Royal Cup, but it was removed from the calendar in 1995. Like many nations, Thailand formed a national side that could take on other nations from across the world, with the first registered international taking place in April 1930, with Thailand running out 4-0 winners against French Indochina.
Thailand National Team
The Thailand national team officially joined FIFA in 1925, and later joined the AFC in 1957. They have participated in a number of huge competitions, including the Olympic Games. Thailand made their debut at the prestigious event in Australia in 1956, before appearing on one further occasion in 1968. Despite having a tremendous love for the sport, Thailand are yet to officially compete at the World Cup, as they have never been able to qualify.
However, they have been able to get more positive results in the regional competitions that are held. Thailand finished third in the 1972 AFC Asian Cup, and reached the round of 16 for the first time since that year in the previous competition in 2019. The Thai national team also enjoyed a stellar run at the Asian Games, as they managed to finish fourth on two occasions. Thailand has also won the AFF Championship six occasions, including in the last held competition in 2020.
Most Popular Leagues
While the national team remains a popular way to watch soccer in the country, it’s the club competitions that keep fans engaged throughout the season. According to a poll, the Premier League is said to be the most popular competition in Thailand, with 31.16% of people watching games on a regular basis. Meanwhile, just over 29% of locals watched the Thai League 1.
Of the fans that said that they watched the Premier League, 17.33% said that they watch the product on a weekly basis, while 82% of fans said that they were most occasionally viewers depending on the fixture. When it comes to the most popular teams in the country, Liverpool were marginally better supported than arch-rivals Manchester United with 31% of the vote.
Other popular teams, according to the survey, were Arsenal, Chelsea, and Thai-owned Leicester City. The most popular club from the Thai league was Buriram United, as they picked up 32% of the vote.
Most Popular Thai Players
There have been some excellent Thai players throughout the history of the game. One of the most recognizable remainsKiatisuk Senamuang. The forward holds the records for the most appearances and most goals for the national side, as he scored 71 goals in 132 games. Since retiring, he has remained a prominent figure in the game, as he was head coach of the national team between 2014 and 2017, and now holds the position of manager at Hoang Anh Gia Lai.
One of the most famous players that is still playing to this day is Teerasil Dangda. The forward made his professional debut in 2005, and has scored 53 goals in 115 games for the national team. During his career, he enjoyed spells at Manchester City, Almeria, and Grasshopper II in Europe, with his most prolific period coming with Muangthong United. During his spell with the Thai club, he scored over 115 goals and won the Thai League on four occasions.
The popularity of soccer in Thailand looks set to continue for years to come, as new fans are enticed to the sport every weekend. However, those that follow the sport religiously will be hoping that the next step will see Thailand being represented at the World Cup in the future.