Navy FC’s Nattaporn Phanrit demands Thai League survival after good start

Kelvin Leong Kelvin Leong

Captain Nattaporn Phanrit has warned Navy FC teammates to keep their feet firmly on the ground after their superb start to the 2018 Thai League season.

With more than 70 games for Navy FC, captain marvel Nattaporn Phanrit is not reading too much into the team’s unbeaten start and wants his teammates to focus on keeping the club safe from relegation instead of getting ahead of themselves.

Navy FC emerged with a 1-0 victory over Ubon UMT on match day one to eradicate a six-year streak where they have never won a Thai League season opener.

They continued the good form with a 1-1 draw in their second match against local rivals Chonburi FC and are sitting in fourth spot, their best start ever.

Despite looking like a solid outfit in the first two matches, Nattaporn wants his team to stay focused on the key objective.

“In the world of football, anything is possible,” he told FOX Sports Asia. “Who would have known that Greece would be Champions of Europe?

“But first thing on my mind is I don’t want us to go down to Thai League 2.

“If we manage to do that, and with a bit of luck, finishing in the top nine will be an amazing achievement for myself and the team.”

Into his 18th season in the Thai League, a career that has seen the 36-year-old play in more than 400 domestic matches for the likes of Muangthong United, Chonburi FC and Bangkok United, Nattaporn reckons Thai football is on the rise.

Local players like Kawin Thamsatchanan, Chanathip Songkrasin, Teerasil Dangda and Theerathon Bunmathan have all gone on loan to J-League clubs and Europe, a testament of the strength of the Thai League.

He said: “Every game I play in makes me happy no matter what age I am. In football, every single minute is a new challenge and I like to continue pushing myself to see how much more I can give.

“I’ve been in the game for so long and have seen how the Thai League has developed and grown from strength to strength.

“With Thai players going to Japan and Europe, it helps with the marketing of the Thai League and gives us players a better chance to make a career out of it.

“When marketing improves and more fans come to the stadiums, sponsors dare to invest and it helps the clubs get stronger.”

While the Thai League has lost luminaries like Kawin, Chanathip, Teerasil and Theerathon, the introduction of the ASEAN player quota has seen a slew of Southeast Asia’s best footballers ply their trade in Thailand this season.

Kyaw Ko Ko (Chiangrai United) and Aung Thu (Police Tero) are the notable names from Myanmar while Michael Falkesgaard and Mark Hartmann form the Philippines contingent.

Indonesia has Terens Puhiri (Port FC), Ryuhi Utomo (PTT Rayong) and Rudolof Yanto Basna. The Vietnam brigade consists of Michael Nguyen (Air Force Central), Hoang Vu Samson (Buriram United), Huynh Kesle Alves (Krabi).

Singapore have Hassan Sunny (Army United), Izwan Mahbud (Nongbua Pitchaya) and Baihakki Khaizan (Udon Thani), Zulfahmi Arifin (Chonburi FC) and Navy’s Gabriel Quak in T1 and T2.

Quak, who signed for Navy FC just days before the opening game against Ubon has already left a good impression on Nattaporn, although the seasoned veteran refused to pass judgement until the Singapore international has more games under his belt.

“It is way too early for me to say if he is good or not after just two games. He joined us very late into pre-season but has trained well and is already fitting into the team well,” Nattaporn added.

“Every foreign player who comes to the Thai League has a desire to succeed, not just the Southeast Asians.

“But for Navy’s sake, I really hope Gabriel will be the ASEAN player to succeed and be a huge hit in the Thai League!”

Navy entertain Bangkok Glass at home on Saturday with hopes of continuing their unbeaten run as the Thai League heads into the third round of games for the season.