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Ayutthaya United, the former capital with ambitions

As a relatively young outfit, Ayutthaya United has already managed to climb up to the 2nd tier of football in Thailand. The club, based in a former Thai capital, has the ambition to make the city a central football point and an attraction, as much as other tourism spots. mycujoo talked to players and the President of the club.

Huge crowd at the Ayutthaya United stadium

Scott McIntyre
From Japan

Every morning Tamphan Pojamansirikul wakes at daybreak and heads to his post as a soldier in the Thai army, completing his duties from eight o’clock in the morning until three in the afternoon. After that he heads across to the training ground of Ayutthaya United where he will complete his other duties – as the team’s starting goalkeeper – until the daylight fades.

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He receives special dispensation to play and travel on weekends and laughs off the lack of sleep. "No, it’s OK for me, I can sleep from eight or nine o’clock and wake up in the morning no trouble. It’s always been my dream to play football and even with another four years in the army I know I can keep balancing these two things and hopefully one day follow in the footsteps of my hero, the Manchester United goalkeeper, David de Gea", he told mycujoo.

For loyal followers of Ayutthaya United they are surely thankful that Tamphan was able to balance life in the army and between the posts because he played an integral part in the club’s successful 2018 campaign.

After having undergone several name changes and absorbed remnants of other teams, the club entered the T3 league – Thailand’s third tier – in 2017 where they finished a respectable fourth before setting their aims higher – and meeting them – this season.

With so many teams in the division, T3 is split geographically into 'lower' and 'upper' regions - each consisting of 14 clubs – with the top four progressing to the playoffs for a shot at promotion. At the end of that playoff series it was Ayutthaya United that emerged on top after a tense 2-1 aggregate win over Nara United and nobody was happier than their President Adisak Punjaruenworakul.

"It was an amazing feeling and an amazing atmosphere after we had secured promotion and there were so many fans gathering in and around the stadium and on the streets. There was a big party with music and food and drink from nine o’clock until very late and ever since that result all the people in our city are talking about the football team and what it means."

Whilst football is a relatively recent phenomenon the city of Ayutthaya is steeped in history, colour and vibrancy. For more than 400 years the region was the former capital of Thailand and is home to a treasure trove of historical artifacts, including Wat Mahatat – a temple complex that hosts an engraved image of the Buddha that has been overgrow by a tree with only the face peering out.

Now though it’s the local football team that’s also putting Ayutthaya on the map, as the owner Adisak explains. "What we have done is manage to bring the whole community together through football – we are not a big city with less than one million residents but we make sure we are a living part of it. The players regularly go to visit local schools and it always surprises me but the children all know their names and want to shake their hands, meet them and have an autograph. Already our team has more than half a dozen players from the city and we want to be the club that gives local players a chance."

Ayutthaya United players celebrating victory

Always looking for ways to innovate, the club actually found itself in hot water last year after they wanted to celebrate Mother’s Day by inviting the players onto the pitch alongside their mothers – but with the gesture not signed off by the Thai FA they were issued with a warning, not that Adisak sees anything wrong with trying to celebrate these bonds.

"We are always trying to attract more fans to our matches and it’s a good thing to celebrate the link between players and their mothers but what we really want is for people to know our history. For 417 years we were the capital of Thailand and even now in Bangkok many temples and other places try to copy the names of our famous temples and other places but when you come to Ayutthaya you can enjoy not just football but also history."

'Visit some temples in the morning and then watch good football in the afternoon' – it’s a great idea, no?

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Photos courtesy of Ayutthaya United