Thai footballer criticized for withdrawing from national team ahead of Asian Cup

By Hoang An   January 8, 2024 | 03:25 pm PT
Thai footballer criticized for withdrawing from national team ahead of Asian Cup
Ekanit Panya during the exhibition match between Thailand and Japan in Tokyo on Jan. 1, 2024. Photo by the Football Association of Thailand
Midfielder Ekanit Panya was slammed by Thai football fans after withdrawing from his national duty in the 2024 Asian Cup to train with his Japanese club Urawa Red Diamonds.

The Football Association of Thailand (FAT) announced on Sunday that they have immediately replaced Panya with midfielder Picha Autra.

"Ekanit reasoned that he wanted to join the pre-season of Urawa Reds for the 2024 J1 League," FAT said in an announcement.

"This club have just replaced coach Maciej Skorza with Per-Mathias Hogmo, so he wants to impress the new coach."

Panya, 25, is a member of the Thailand team that won the 2022 AFF Cup. He transferred to Urawa Reds on loan from Muangthong United last season, playing 11 games (mostly from the bench) and scoring one goal.

His chance of starting for Thailand in the Asian Cup this year is slim as he could not compete with the key players, which is the reason he decided to withdraw.

However, Panya’s decision was met with negative reactions from the fans. On the FAT fanpage, user Lovebigbrim commented: "Since when is playing with the national flag on your chest less important than playing for your club?"

Another account, Sitipon.Sihasen wrote: "If that’s his reason, I hope he stays out of the team for a long time."

According to Thai newspaper Khao Sod, coach Masatada Ishii had no choice but to call up Picha Autra and he did not convince Panya to change his mind.

Thai Post wrote: "Ekanit worried that he would lose his place in the club when there’s a new coach. Pre-season is an occasion for the coach to give his evaluation on the players."

Panya is the first Southeast Asian player to attend the FIFA Club World Cup, when Urawa Reds played this tournament in late 2023. However, he did not get to play a single minute in all three games.

The 2024 J1 League will take place from Feb. 23 to Dec. 8. Urawa Reds are one of the title contenders.

The 2024 Asian Cup will start on Jan. 12. Thailand are in Group F with Saudi Arabia, Kyrgyzstan and Oman. The group stage will end on Jan. 25, therefore if Panya attends the Asian Cup, he will miss the first few weeks of training under the new Urawa head coach Hogmo.

go to top