More Japanese football players are moving to Thailand to further their careers, a sign that the J.League, which is in its 22nd year, is expanding its presence in Asia.
About 60 Japanese football players, including former national team members Daiki Iwamasa and Teruyuki Moniwa, are now playing on teams in Thailand. This is an increase of 20 players from the previous season.
"In addition to the great improvement in pay and other treatment, Japanese players are well-received in Thailand," said Atsuo Ogura, a Japanese staff member for Thai powerhouse Chonburi FC. The team's new manager this season is Masahiro Wada, former manager for Vissel Kobe in the J.League.
Some foreign players are paid more than ¥20 million (S$284,000), attractive even when compared with what J.League players make, a source knowledgeable about Thai football said.
The J.League signed a partnership agreement with the Thai Premier League in 2012, the first official partnership with a foreign professional football league, allowing players to be transferred between the two countries. This encouraged the exchange of players and officials.
In addition to former Kashima Antlers centre back Iwamasa and former Cerezo Osaka defender Moniwa, Norihiro Nishi from Tokyo Verdy, Teruaki Kurobe from Kataller Toyama and Yutaka Tahara from Yokohama FC transferred to Thai teams this season.
"When the J.League was launched, [Brazilian legend] Zico and others taught Japanese based on their experiences. I imagine Iwamasa and other Japanese players [in Thailand] are expected to play such roles," one source said.
Kazuto Kushida, a midfielder who transferred in 2011 to Chonburi from Sagawa Printing SC of the Japan Football League, said Thai players are good at tackling and launching counterattacks, but are not so hot when it comes to tactics and coordinated attacks and defence.
This means that Thai football players are expected to try to emulate the technique and teamwork of Japanese players.