Buriram United FC
2010, as Biruram PEA
Mueang Buri Ram, Buriram Province. Population circa 28,000
Chang Arena, capacity 32,600
Existing only ever as a top team in Thailand, it was founded in 2010 after the prolific Buriram politician Newin Chidchob had taken control of Provincial Electrical Authority, a then Auytthaya-based club that had won the Thai Premier League in 2008(now known as Thai League 1), in late 2009 and moved the club to his hometown on the southern edge of the Korat-plateau ahead of the new season with a promise of running a free bus service to home games for the substantial fanbase in Ayutthaya. It’s safe to say, not too many were willing to follow their club to a new home a roughly five hour one-way trip away and the shuttle-buses are now long gone. The ultra-modern Chang Arena is rarely overflowing but that is to be expected when your stadium holds the entire population of the city and then some and the average numbers are among the biggest in Thailand. Buriram United do not suffer any shortage of fans with their kits being a familiar sight on the streets of most cities around the country. The club, whose crest depicts the ancient Hindu Khmer temple of Phanom Rung and is from a province holding a significant Khmer minority population, is a pillar in Newin’s apparent attempt to rebrand the City “the sporting capital of Thailand”, having secured a three year right to host a MotoGP race starting in 2018, and eying the possibility to host the Formula 1.
After moving to Buriram, PEA finished 2nd and 1st in both the Thai Premier League and League Cup in 2010 and 2011 respectively, and won the FA Cup in 2011, before completing its transformation and entering the 2012 season as Buriram United. The success has continued with the club winning another 5 league titles and never finishing below 4th place (twice, one of which was in the abandoned 2016 season). It has also racked up 4 more League Cups and 3 more FA Cups to date. The club has established a partnership with German giants Borussia Dortmund and made hefty investments in its academy, that has already produced a couple of senior Thai internationals already in Supachok Sarachat, and his younger brother Suphanat Mueanta who’ve become the youngest player to score in both T1 and the AFC Champions League ever and made his senior national team debut in this summer’s King’s Cup at only 16 years old. The big foreign names are skipper Andrés Túñez, former Venezuelan international and with many years of experience from Spanish football, Hajime Hosogai, a former key player for Japan and a long and successful career in predominantly the German Bundesliga, Nacer Barazite, a product of the Arsenal FC academy, and Rasmus Jönsson, with a couple of senior caps for Sweden and some experience from the German Bundesliga but with most of his career spent in Scandinavia. Buriram saw the most dominant player in Thai football history, Brazilian ace Diogo Luís Santo, leave for Malaysian giants JDT in the winter and Osvaldo Filho was supposed to pick up the slack but moved back to Brazil before the season started. Since then, there has been little patience in the hunt for a suitable replacement. Modibo Maïga was barely in the door before being shown the very same one, Pedro Júnior put up a few sterling performances but was still only given half a season due to inconsistency. It is simply a club that does not settle for anything but the best.