The 2021-22 Thai League season has drawn to a close, with the nation’s most successful club Buriram United clinching the title after two years of falling short.
The Thunder Castle wrapped up the league title a few weeks ago, but finally had their celebrations last night. Their loss to already-relegated Suphanburi makes the final standings look tighter than the run-in ever felt. Their head coach Masatada Ishii, who replaced Alexandre Gama midway through the season, became the first Japanese manager to win Thailand’s biggest footballing accolade.
Last years’ champions BG Pathum United have to settle for second place, as their late run of form under new coach Makoto Teguramori wasn’t enough to close the gap on the league leaders. They returned from AFC Champions League action to beat Chonburi FC 4-1 and end the campaign on 60 points.
Bangkok United managed their highest finish since 2018, coming third and sealing a playoff spot for the 2023-24 AFC Champions League. Just below them Muangthong United edged a hotly contested battle for fourth over Chiangrai United, Chonburi FC and Nongbua Pitchaya FC after beating Prachuap 2-1 on the final day. They could still join their fellow greater-Bangkok clubs in the continent’s premier competition, if arch rivals Buriram go all the way in the FA Cup.
Nongbua Pitchaya are arguably the league’s biggest over-performers this campaign, having gone toe-to-toe with the big boys in their debut T1 campaign. Head coach Tawatchai Damrong-Ongtrakul deserves a ton of credit for his side’s ascent this season, as does leading marksman Hamilton Soares who took home the competition’s golden boot.
Fellow promoted side Khon Kaen United also had a highly respectable season, defying the odds as ‘relegation favourites’ to end the season in a comfortable 10th place with 37 points. However, their third counterpart Chiangmai United were not as lucky, finishing bottom of the league and 12 points adrift from safety, returning directly to T2 after one season in the big time.
Along with them, long-time T1 regulars Suphanburi FC and previously exciting up-starts Samut Prakan City will also be playing in the second division next season. Prachuap FC looked nailed-on candidates for the drop in mid-season, but an excellent run of form under new boss Issara Sritaro helped them secure their safety on the final day.
Despite their poor league form, Suphanburi FC still have an FA Cup semi-final against Buriram to look forward to later this month. The other semi will be contested between Nakhon Ratchasima and Police Tero, both sides who managed to pull clear of the messy relegation battle before the final weeks of the season.
That leaves Port and Ratchaburi, both participants in the 2021 AFC Champions League, who finished 8th and 12th respectively. Given the investment made in both squads, they will be aiming for much better campaigns next season.
The league campaign may be over, but there is still plenty to look forward to on the Thai football calendar. Domestically, the fate of both cups is yet to be decided, and the final participant in next years’ T1 season will be determined by the promotion playoffs this month as well. On an international front, the War Elephants are set to compete in Asian Cup qualifiers next month in Uzbekistan, while the U23 side have both the Southeast Asian Games and AFC Asian Championships to look forward to as well.