Founded in 2009, Chiangrai quickly climbed the ranks in Thai football with three successive promotions, before establishing themselves as a comfortable but unglamorous mid-table side for most of the decade. However, an unexpected cash injection in 2017 saw them become one of T1’s powerhouse clubs, spending lavishly to bring in top players and coaches in order to prep for a title charge. A League Cup and two FA cups followed under coach Alexandre Gama, before Ailton Silva led the side to the league title as major underdogs last season, despite the investment beginning to dry up by then. Now their youthful squad is coming into their prime with a host of trophies under their belt, and could soon be looking at moves abroad.
Head coach – Masami Taki
An extremely left-field appointment for the defending champions due to his lack of experience as a head coach, Masami Taki will have to convince the doubters this season. He has held various other managerial and administrative roles in Thailand and Japan, most recently at Thai Honda FC in T2 and Fujieda MYFC in J3. The 48-year-old Japanese coach will be tasked with keeping the side competitive despite limited investment, and could even face significant departures abroad if the club’s title winning crop continues to perform this season.
Phitiwat Sukjitthamakul (Midfielder) – Phitiwat had an incredible campaign in 2019. After being hardly considered for the Thailand national team at the start of the year, the energetic box-to-box midfielder captained Chiangrai to their first ever Thai League title win, and became a regular starter for the War Elephants under Akira Nishino.
Siwakorn Tiatrakul (Midfielder) -After struggling to make his name as a right winger, Siwakorn underwent a tactical transformation last season under coach Ailton Silva, becoming one of the best midfield playmakers in the division. The midfielder holds a level of responsibility within his teams’ system which is rare for a local player, and was on an excellent vein of form before the league break.
Ekanit Panya (Winger) – One of the hottest prospects in Thailand, Ekanit played his first T1 campaign last season and was undoubtedly the biggest breakout star. Returning from a loan deal with Chiangmai FC halfway through the season, the then 19-year-old added pace and flair to Chiangrai’s attacking setup and played a crucial role in pushing the side over the line. His performances have already earned him a place in Akira Nishino’s senior Thailand squad and he has attracted plenty of interest from abroad.
Notable former players
William Henrique, Tanaboon Kesarat, Thitipan Puangchan, Vander Luiz, Everton Goncalves, Teerasak Po-On
What’s to like?
Chiangrai United are the only team in the upper Northern region of Thailand currently in the top flight, and have a strong sense of community with the area.