Crystal Balls 2019: Chiang Mai FC


In our latest Crystal Balls piece, we welcome new boys Chiang Mai FC to the wonderful world of T1. Yes, Thailand’s second city finally has a team in the top flight, so we asked Chiang Mai fan Richard Keyworth (who runs Chiang Mai FC English Fanzine) for his thoughts on their debut season…


How did your team perform in 2018? Where do they need to improve?

Well it finally happened, after watching the club in the regional leagues and then division 1 since 2009, we finally got promoted to the big league after a tense end to the season which virtually came down to a winner takes all (well a draw in our case) game away against Khon Kaen, we drew 2-2 and that was it, great end to the season after it looked for so long that we would as usual just miss out.

Transfer window – which new signings are you most excited about? Which departing players are you sorry to see go/happy to see the back of?

It was a quiet affair for so long but over the past few days the signings and loan deals have come to fruition, David Bala is an interesting signing and I hope he can get to the form he had in the lower leagues with Lampang, in his brief spell at BG last year in T1 he proved he can score goals so looking forward to him scoring for CMFC. For the past 2 seasons we have not had an out and out striker (which makes last years promotion all the better) so the addition of Eliandro and Bala gives us a lot more options up front. The best player of last season in my opinion up until his injury was Mustafa Azadzoy, so to have him fully fit and ready to go for the season is yet another boost, if he can get to the form he was at until his injury it should be another good season on the wing. I was sorry to see that Hiziel Soares was sent out on loan to the little fake Chiang Mai club (JL) as I thought he did enough last season to keep his place, but with foreign player places being limited, I can understand why he was perhaps the guy to make way, he got injured at the weekend in the first league game so I hope he recovers fast. In regards to Thai players a major plus happened yesterday (Feb 13th) when we again got Ekanit Panya on loan from Chiangrai United. He was solid last season in T2 and I expect him to be the same this season. Players that I’m not upset have left, well Lenny wont be missed put it that way.

Happy with your club’s coach?

I must admit, when I had driven all the way to Trat from Chiang Mai last season and saw us lose in the 4th game of the season, that gave us a start of 2 losses, 2 draws in the first 4 games, I though he was a goner, I said at the following home game if we lose he will be sacked. But he went on to only lose 2 more games all season. He seems to have a good relationship with the players and is always approachable to the fans, at the end of the game in Khon Kaen when we got promoted he ran straight to the fans across the field, that meant alot to the fans who had traveled, he also joined us in the pub for a pint later that night.

He seems to understand the nitty gritty side of Thai football and seems to avoid the politics (if that is possible) he is the youngest coach in T1 and that will probably give him something to prove, I just hope he gets supported if things go slow to begin with or if we are in a relegation scrap towards the end. Having a Grandad that has won the World Cup as Manager of Brazil may come in useful when times are tough. In Carlos we Trust!!

What are your realistic ambitions for the 2019 season?

To win the league and then go on to be Asian Champions!!

I think a realistic goal would be survival this season, hopefully without the last 3 week panic, a midtable finish would be nice, but there are some very big sides in the league and its all new to us. Im happy with the squad and if the strikers put the ball in the net I cant see why a midtable finish will be beyond us.

I really hope that we dont become a yo-yo club between T1 and T2, we had it for a few years between T2 and T3 as it is now and yes it was nice to win T3 and have a trophy presentation but it was not so good the following season when we lost every week or so it felt.

I think we need to take a look at Sukothai and how they did when they got promoted, for me they are the most improved side (including stadium, foundation etc) in Thai football in the 10 years Ive been watching it.

Even though I am thankful for recent events in CMFC history I believe until someone independent buys CMFC and they are taken from beneath the wing of the BG, Chaing Rai clubs and are completely independent then I doubt we can ever become one of the big boys in this league which is a shame as we were averaging 10,000 fans at home in T3, so a midtable finish is about as much as I can hope for.

Which teams will be in contention for the title? Which teams will struggle to survive?

As I have said above I will be happy with midtable but we could quite easily get dragged in to a relegation battle, I think most people are looking at us, Trat and PTT to go straight back down along with possibly Chainat. As last season showed though one of the bigger sides can always go.

In regards to the other end of it, I cant see it going any other way than Buriram although they have lost a big player in Diogo Santo and need to replace his goals, I still think they will again rule Thai Football.

Bangkok Utd now have to be classed as their main challengers as Muang Thong have lost a lot of players over the past few seasons and haven’t really replaced them in my opinion. Chiang Rai are capable of beating anyone on the day day but I think they will be 3rd overall and possibly win the FA Cup again for the third year running.

Tell us your very favourite, and your absolute least favourite, things about following your club

Without doubt my favourite thing is the travelling to different parts of the country under the excuse of football. Since starting to watch Chiang Mai in 2009 I have been to over 30 away grounds (many on more than one occasion) to go to places as far away as Trat (2200 KM return trip drive last season) and Songkhla watching football is a great way to see the country, CMFC fans are always pleased to see you and a lot of the home teams fans cant believe that you are there supporting CM, I have made a few good friends both Thai and Farang through watching CMFC but I have to say usually 90 minutes of football spoils the weekend though!

The negative side of Thai football that I hate is all the politics involved, I will never like that but no doubt it will always be there.

Hope everyone has a great 2019 season and hope to see a few of you at the grounds.


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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