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Learning From Top Tier Thai Youth Football Teams

International Invitation Youth Cup in Bang Bo, Thailand

Written by:
Kegan Phang Jun
Alumnus, Football Academy

On 5 December 2022, 40 student-athletes from the Football Academy set off for Bang Bo, Thailand. They were invited to compete in the International Invitation Youth Cup. The competition was held at Buriram United’s training ground, which had many full sized pitches with top quality grass and it gave us a taste of what professional pitches are like.

There were three age groups in this tournament – U13, U14 and U15. Each age group plays three matches across three days. I played with the Secondary 3s in the U15 age group, and I played all three matches. Our first match on the first day was against the hosts, Buriram United U15 team. I still remember seeing them walk past us to the competition venue. Although we were similar in built, the one thing we could not match them was their football.

We discovered that they were so mature in their play. Tactically and technically disciplined, we found ourselves trying to track their runs. We were chasing shadows. It was a top class game, against top class players and we lost 4-1.

On the second day, we played against Bangkok United FC. It was a more physical game as their players were bigger than all of us. However, we did not let their size get to us. We learnt from the first game and tried to take the game to them. We kept the score even at 0-0 most of the first half, with plenty of chances from both sides. However, we conceded a goal at the very end of the first half. It was disheartening, but we moved on. Coach Shahrin always encouraged us. Unfortunately, in the second half, we lacked focus and let 4 goals get past us. It was a tough lesson but another good learning point.

On the third day, we played our final game against Chonburi FC. Coach Shahrin pushed us to the maximum and we were determined to get a positive result out of the match. In an intense first half with end-to-end football, we struck first to make it 1-0. I still remember the moment we came together as a team to celebrate, and told each other to keep our focus. These small moments are the ones I love and cherish the most. So, we kept going pushing till the end of the half. However, Lady Luck was not on our side and we conceded a goal at the end of half time. Once again, Coach Shahrin was there and kept encouraging us to play our game, play our football, be competitive and take the game to them.

Going into the second half, both teams were hungry for a goal, defensive blocks had to be made and shots had to be taken. The intensity was very high and we did not back down. The game ended in a draw. I gained a lot of experience playing overseas against these teams. I am thankful for this opportunity as it has made me grow as a player. The Thais were very nice and accommodating. They have a very strong mind and very good mentality. I would like to thank Coach Shahrin, Coach Isa, Coach Miur, Coach William and the Football Academy’s General Manager, Mr Gregory Tan, for making this trip a successful and an enjoyable one.

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