J-League and Thai imports – A win for all involved

Thailand – currently considered the best football team among ASEAN nations evidenced by being the only country from the region to be represented in the final round of World Cup Qualifiers. At the same time, Thai clubs have been performing well in the Asian Champions league in recent years, with Buriram United and Muangthong United becoming regional powerhouses.

This is something that hasn’t gone unnoticed at Japanese clubs, the J-league was once the pinnacle of Asian football but have been surpassed by the big spending Chinese Super League. With the J-league being unable to compete with the amount of cash flying around on transfers they’ve had to think of ideas ‘outside of the box’ to ensure the league’s level still attains a high standard.

And that out of the box idea is in my opinion a brilliant one. Thailand’s star on the world stage is rising, as long as they can stay on the same trajectory. Japanese clubs have already imported some of the best talents from the Thai league. Before this latest influx of Thai imports, previously the region’s biggest stars have flopped in Japan – Vietnam’s Le Cong Vinh and Indonesia’s Irfan Bachdim have struggled to make any impact in previous years.

This all changed with Thai national players in particular when Consodole Sapporo bought Chanathip Songkrasin from Muangthong United. The skillful playmaker has won many fans in Northern Japan and has opened the floodgates for other Thai players by becoming a success in the J-League. He has now been followed to Japan by Teerasil Dangda and Theerathon Bunmathan both of whom are stars for the national team.

The J-League also sees commercial benefits off the field too, by signing South East Asia’s biggest stars they are tapping into a market with a population of 600 million people who are crazy about football. Broadcasting deals have already been signed with much of the ASEAN market enabling fans of star players to still follow their progress while allowing the J-League to expand its reach.

Japanese clubs and the J-League aren’t the only ones to benefit from this situation, Thai football and the Thailand national team benefit from sending their best players to play in one of Asia’s top leagues. As the best talent from the East Asian region – namely Japan and South Korea – find their way to European clubs and improve, the same can be said for Thai’s and Thailand. The gap may be too big right now for players from Thailand to move directly to Europe, but that time will eventually come.

Both sides will be hoping that the influx of top players from the ASEAN region to the J-League will continue to be beneficial for the foreseeable future with J-League sides picking the best South East Asia has to offer and in turn the South East Nations getting their best players the chance to play in a higher standard league, with the aim of improving their national sides.

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