Thailand football coach Milovan Rajevac has named Chalermpong Kerdkaew of Nakhon Ratchasima FC as Thailand’s captain for the AFF Suzuki Cup, which starts on Thursday.
The Serbian has also picked two Bangkok Glass midfielders, Thitipan Puangchan as and Tanaboon Kesarat, as vice-captains for the biennial soccer event, which Thailand have won five times in the past 10 occasions.
The 31-year-old centre-back Chalermpong was first given the captain’s armband during last month’s friendly with Hong Kong, which Thailand won 1-0.
“We chose Chalermpong because he is like the eldest brother of the team,” said the 64-year-old Rajevac. “He has extensive experience and has leadership skills. We believe he can lift the younger teammates well.”
Thailand, who are seeking a hat-trick of Suzuki Cup titles, are in Group B with Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore and Timor Leste.
The Kingdom’s first game is against Leste at the Rajamangala National Stadium on Friday.
“Thitipan and Tanaboon also have long experience in the national team. So in case the first captain cannot perform his duties, either of them can take charge,” Rajevac added.
Chalermpong said: "This is the greatest honour for a football player. It's hard to describe my feelings. This is the highligt of my career."
The coach has also whittled down his squad of 27 to 23 – Kwanchai Suklom, Rattanakorn Maikami, Anon Amornlerdsak and Thai-Italian Marco Ballini were the unlucky four who did not make the cut.
“I picked the best 23 players I believe can deliver the best results. It’s not an easy decision to make as I’m happy with how all players have done so far,” Rajevac said.
He also said he had done some research on his Cup opponents but stressed that at the end of the day there was nothing more important than to play his own players to find their own style.
By choosing Mongkol Tossakrai, Thitiphan and Nurul Sriyankem, Rejavac’s midfield is regarded as the strongest part of the team but he says doing well will all come down to good teamwork.
“I personally believe in every department of my team. It’s very important to have all areas covered by quality players. I have faith in the ability of my players but to win we will have to have good teamwork,” he said.