Right-Back At Ya! The Sandpit Meets Nitipong Selanon

 

Since his relatively unheralded signing from Buriram in 2015, Nitipong Selanon has steadily improved year on year to the point that he is now undoubtedly Port’s most consistent player – a fact recognised by our readers who voted him the Sandpit Player of the Year for 2019, and by the Thai national team who gave him his first cap last season. Both fully deserved rewards for a player who trains like a demon and quietly gets on with his job, never letting the team down and always putting in a full shift week in week out.

 

 

Yet despite being one of Port’s longest-serving players, little is known about Nitipong. Unlike some of his club and international teammates he has a very low social media profile and shies away from the limelight. So to find out more about one of Port’s most popular players, we met up with Non, as he’s known, for a coffee and a chat, and discovered a young man who lives, breathes and eats football – in fact after the interview finished he hung around and talked football with us for another hour!

 

The Early Years

When I was a kid, the only team I knew was Chonburi – I come from Ratchaburi but I didn’t even know there was a team there. I didn’t follow any English clubs, just Chonburi. I really liked Leesaw. And I’ve always liked Phillip Lahm – he can play in several positions, and he’s 100% a footballer, he’s not famous for anything else, just football.

I started off at Chonburi’s academy, and at first I played on the left wing – a right-footed left-winger, cutting inside & shooting. At Buriram and Saraburi I also played on the wing. I was still a winger when I joined Port, but then in 2016 Bas (Pakorn) arrived to play on the right wing, and he’s better! But I wanted to play every game – that’s why I left Buriram for Port – so I spoke to the coach and told him I could change to right-back. Also there are a lot of good wingers in Thailand but not many good right-backs, so I thought it would be good for my career.

 

 

The Port Years

Before I came to Port I didn’t really know the club but I’d played there with Saraburi, so I knew the atmosphere was special and the fans were crazy. Buriram wanted to recall me from my loan with Saraburi mid-season, but I wanted to go somewhere where I would play every game and I knew that wouldn’t happen at Buriram, so I moved to Port – on loan at first.

I’ve been at Port for five years because I’m happy, I get to play every game. It’s not too far from Ratchaburi – my family can come to watch every home game. And it’s a friendly club, and the fans are great! Whether we win or lose, even when we were relegated, the fans come to cheer us. That relegation was the worst moment for me.

The best moment for was winning the FA Cup last season, but we were lucky – Ratchaburi’s goal was fine. I don’t like VAR…but I liked winning the FA Cup! I was also very happy to play for Thailand – now Port are doing well I will get more chances I think.

 

Teammates & Opponents

The best players I’ve played with at Port are Suarez, Pakorn and Siwakorn. And in training, Go Seul-Ki. He even trains as hard as me! And opponents? Diogo, and also Suarez when he was at Songkhla. (What about John Baggio? Ed) YES! Baggio. He’s fast, great control, very difficult to play against. I don’t worry about any other left-wingers, just Baggio! Madame Pang – please sign Baggio so I don’t have to play against him!

The best coach I’ve played under was Gary Stevens. He treats everyone equally. With Gary, if you play well and train hard, you get picked. If you don’t, you don’t play. Very simple, everyone understands. Jadet’s an easy-going guy; Choke is very flexible. Zico was unlucky, he joined at a bad time.

 

 

Thai Referees

Haha! They’re…not good. They need to let the game flow better and understand genuine 50-50 challenges rather than giving a free kick every time. They give too many soft free kicks. Dolah has problems here as every challenge he makes the referee awards a free kick against him. Referees in AFC and international games understand the game more and let it flow.

 

The 2020 Season

Port’s ambition for 2020 is to win the league. We have a good squad, and a lot of young players who will be good for the future – it’s important that we give our young players opportunities. Chiang Rai have been very good at that, they’ve stuck with their young players for the last three years and it’s really worked out. That’s what Port should do – we need to give more chances to our youth team rather than just signing big names.

 

 

Life & Ambitions

Outside football I like drinking coffee…and more training! I don’t spend a lot of time on social media & I don’t really read comments from fans. If you read everything on social media then the negative comments can upset you and distract you from your job as a footballer.

I’d like to play in Japan, J1 or J2, like my close friend Chanathip. I’m still only 26 so I have plenty of time. I just signed for two more years at Port, so maybe after that. But I can’t speak Japanese yet! When I finish playing football…I can’t really think about it. I have a long time to go so I just want to focus on my career at the moment. I’m not crazy about money or changing clubs every season, and I don’t even have an agent…I just want to play football every week.

 

Thanks to Dom and Nig for their help with translation, and to Mark at Phu Chai Coffee for his hospitality. And most of all thanks to Non for giving up his afternoon to talk to us!

Photos by Tim 

 

Tim Russell

Tim Russell

The founder and editor of The Sandpit, Tim has been in SE Asia since 2003 and in Bangkok since 2012, where he runs a travel tech business. Tim has followed Port FC since 2014, and is also a fan of his hometown club Coventry City, and French club AS St-Etienne. He has written for the likes of Football365, ITV.com, NME and The Quietus, and is a regular contributor to God Is In the TV. He's a keen photographer and his work can be seen on his website.

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