ASEAN needs Teerasil to succeed in Japan more than Chanathip

John Duerden John Duerden

John Duerden argues that Teerasil’s success in the J.League is more important for the ASEAN region than that of his compatriot Chanathip.

The Winter Olympics that are just finishing in South Korea have been dominating the sporting landscape in East Asia. It has been a fascinating February but as the month comes to an end, football is elbowing its way back into the spotlight. And the story so far is Teerasil Dangda.

The J-League was the first to get started with China and Korea getting going on Thursday and Friday. On the first day of action, Thailand fans were all watching as Teerasil’s Sanfrecce Hiroshima took on Chanathip Songkrasin’s Consadole Sapporo. Hiroshima won 1-0 and guess who scored the only goal of the game? Millions in Thailand know. He is the first Thai to score a goal in the J-League.

The Thailand striker arrived at Sanfrecce Hiroshima from Muangthong United. He is, of course, following in the tricky footsteps of Chanathip who arrived in the Land of the Rising Sun last year.

Before ‘Messi Jay’ there had been a number of Southeast Asian stars that have tried in Japan and failed to make a mark. There was much pressure then on the slight shoulders of the diminutive playmaker in 2017 and he delivered. His first season for Consadole Sapporo showed that ASEAN players can go to one of Asia’s best leagues and shine.

It helps that the J-league has been actively seeking to recruit players from the region in a bid to develop and grow new markets and fans. It helps to create a welcoming atmosphere but still, the player has to perform far from home.

Chanathip’s achievement wasn’t just the skills he showed, and the assists but his general level of consistency. Some may say that the second season is more difficult but that remains to be seen.

While Chanathip has eased the way, it could well be that Teerasil’s time in Japan is more important.

There was always likely to be one success. One talented Thai does not mean that attitudes have completely changed in Northeast Asia. Nobody would deny that there was never going to be any player from the region not capable of shining in Japan.

It was not the first that was important then but the second. The one after Chanathip has to show that there is a consistent supply of talent coming from Bangkok and other capital cities such as Hanoi, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta and more. If Teerasil, who all know is one of the best players in Southeast Asia, can replicate the success that Chanathip had in 2017 in 2018 then things start to get serious.

If Teerasil bombs then the doubts may well resurface and the debates starts again. Those who know the region well will have to resort to arguments to attempt to persuade the doubters. But when the players come and succeed then no words are necessary.

And then there is also the fact that Teerasil is a striker. If he finds the net on a regular basis, then it becomes easy to show anyone that the talent is there. The evidence will be there in black and white. On any website or any newspaper in the world, a decent goals per game ratio tells its own story.

Which is why it is great that Teerasil scored on his debut. Not only that, he scored the only goal of the game.

Just before the half-hour he headed home Yoshifumi Kashiwa’s cross.

“I want to thank Kashiwa and everyone else on the team for working really hard together,” Teerasil said after the game. “Kashiwa put in a really good cross and I’m happy I was able to score from it. I’m glad I could contribute to this victory with my goal.”

Teerasil was not satisfied however. “Other than the goal, I didn’t do anything good that I could point to.”

These are admirable sentiments but for a striker, it doesn’t really matter. He scored. His name is in the headlines and those headlines have already been flying around Asia. Teerasil can drift in and out of games but, again, if he scores it doesn’t matter.

The 29 year-old can become the poster boy for Southeast Asian players in East Asia. If he can continue to score regularly then the goals column next to his name will provide all the argument needed to show that ASEAN stars have what it takes.

Anyone who has watched Asian football in recent years know the talent that exists but there is nothing likes goals flying into Japanese nets to prove it.