At just 19, Kevin Deeromram has the world of Southeast Asian football at his feet – already a full international for Thailand he’s now also a SEA Games Gold Medalist after playing an integral part in the nation’s success this week in Kuala Lumpur and is regarded as one of the best young defenders in the region.
Although he didn’t start in the knockout stage matches at the SEA Games he certainly caught the eye during the group stage with his insistent energy playing as a left-sided wingback for the team where he was involved in the their attacking forays in a way not dissimilar to a mainstay of the national side in Teerathon Bunmathan.
FOX Sports Asia caught up with the Stockholm-born star for an exclusive chat this week where he touched on that Gold Medal-winning campaign, his belief that Thailand are now an emerging force in Asia, and why he can’t afford to look up to players in the national team that he’s competing against for starts.
FOX Sports Asia (FSA): Kevin, thanks for speaking with FOX Sports Asia and congratulations on winning the Gold Medal at the SEA Games – what does it mean for you and what was the whole experience like?
Kevin Deeromram (KD): “Thank you, this was my first time with the team so to win this title is something that makes me so happy and of which I’m really proud.
“The whole experience was amazing and made you feel like you are a real professional when you have everything that was at the competition with the huge crowds and all the security and as a player that’s exactly what you want to play in front of with crowds like this.”
FSA: Heading into the tournament there was a great deal of pressure, as there always is with Thailand, to not just do well but indeed to simply win the title. Did you feel this pressure and at what point of the competition after that slow start where you drew with Indonesia did you feel that you could win?
KD: “Honestly, we didn’t feel any great pressure; the games we played there was always a lot of fans but no real pressure and we always thought right from the start that we could go to the next round.
“Even against Vietnam when we needed to win that match we had the belief and we did it and after that match in the semifinal with Myanmar even there we had to wait a long time to score (the winner coming in the 94th minute) but there was always the belief right across the squad that we could win everything and with no doubts from our team.”
FSA: Tell us a little bit about your background – you were born in Sweden with your mother originally coming from Thailand and have represented that nation at both U17 & U19 level so it was a big decision I imagine to move to Thailand, no?
KD: “I was born in Stockholm and joined one of the biggest clubs (Djurgardens) there when I was 14 and I then had the opportunity to move on loan to Germany with Werder Bremen where I stayed for seven months.
“After that I returned home and was involved in the first team back at Djurgardens and then I moved on loan to the second division and played all year there.
“Both clubs offered me contracts but after thinking for a while I decided to move to Thailand because I had heard great things about what was happening there and that the football was going up and getting better and better so I decided to move and try there.”
FSA: Has it met those expectations?
KD: “To be honest, it’s better than I expected; I was thinking that I was going down a level but now I’m here I can see that it’s a level up and I expected it to be much worse than it was.
“Technically the local Thai players are really good and also the foreigners are good so it’s been a great experience so far.”
FSA: You’ve been used in several positions on the left at national and club level; do you feel more comfortable as a left fullback or as a wingback and where do you see your best position and qualities?
KD: “I see myself as a wingback and I like to be very offensive.
“My defence is not the best, more in the offence and I always like to be involved and make assists.
“For the national team in Sweden I also played as a central defender and right defender but on the left is my best position.”
FSA: Both your position and your style of play is similar to one of the stars of the national team in Teerathon Bunmathan and there are also several other good left-sided players in Thailand – do you look up to any of those players?
KD: “I’m playing against them and I see myself as competition against them. I want to play in the national team and do my best to make it happen so I can’t look up to them because they are my competition.”
FSA: In terms of the bigger picture, how do you feel Thailand compares to some of the nations that you saw in Europe and do you think that one day you will be able to see yourself playing for the country at a World Cup?
KD: “I’m seeing now that Thailand is getting better and better day by day and I think it’s not far until we see the country as one of the best in Asia – maybe it’s a little way away and it’s a very big difference from Europe, but I think the only real difference is that the Thais need to be faster in their thinking during the game otherwise the Thai players are very good.
“In my time maybe it’s possible to go to the World Cup but I haven’t seen every team in Asia but in my time I think so yes.”
FSA: Finally, things look to be pretty good at club level with Ratchaburi with the team having a fairly steady season and sitting seventh with nine games remaining, what is the target for the rest of the season?
KD: “The target is to get as high as we can because we didn’t start so well and there were some games that we should have won that we didn’t so all the players have spoken of wanting to really do our best in these last games and we’re trying to finish as high as we can.”