For Rattanawongswas Nawin, a futsal player from Bangkok, the decision to venture over 3,500 kilometers away to China’s far western region of Xinjiang was no easy feat.
Known for his exceptional vision, shooting prowess, and dribbling skills, the Thai international’s outstanding performances last year caught the attention of the Xinjiang Jinghong Sparta FC, of the Chinese Futsal Super League.
“I had never been to China before, and I didn’t know much about Xinjiang,” Nawin admitted. “I was quite nervous at that time, but I felt accepting the invitation would be a good opportunity for me.”
To the 31-year-old’s relief, his club teammate and long-time friend Aranpoowanart Panya also received an invitation from Xinjiang, making the decision more manageable.
“Initially, we both thought it was a joke from our manager,” Panya reminisced, still in disbelief. “I told Nawin, if you go, I will go with you.”
The duo’s friendship stretches back to their elementary school days, when they met during a local football competition. Their shared love for the sport nurtured a lasting bond. As they progressed into professional clubs, their partnership on the field grew more seamless, helping them to become an unstoppable duo.
While many Thais in China choose to work and live in southern regions like Guangdong or Guangxi, the prospect of venturing abroad to play football for the first time and settling in Xinjiang presented a significant challenge.
The region starkly contrasted with their familiar culture, with differences in climate, language, and cuisine posing hurdles that needed to be overcome.
“We did work and searched Xinjiang online, and we had anticipated some discomfort,” Nawin revealed. “But with the help of teammates, we quickly adapted to everything.”
Once integrated into the team, Nawin and Panya began to shine on the pitch, emerging as key players upon whom the team relied.
Nawin’s attacking prowess enabled him to consistently create scoring opportunities, significantly contributing to the team’s success. Panya, on the other hand, excelled in defense, rallying his teammates with commanding presence. Despite a sluggish start, Xinjiang clinched nine consecutive victories, transforming themselves into a formidable force in the league.
Nawin humbly refused to take sole credit for the team’s accomplishments, expressing his willingness to grow alongside his young Chinese teammates.
“Thailand’s futsal has a strong foundation, but China is rapidly developing, and they excel in organizing and managing events.”
For the duo, experiences in Xinjiang represents a defining chapter in their careers. Beyond the realm of competition, they explored Urumqi’s Grand Bazaar and other scenic spots together, immersing themselves in the local culture. They also developed an appreciation for the region’s culinary specialties, such as noodles and barbecue.
Panya took to social media to share his experiences in Xinjiang, delighting his friends with tales of extended daylight hours and the beauty of the region’s snowfall.
As they continue to embrace their time in Xinjiang, their remarkable journey serves as a testament to the power of seizing opportunities.
“This is the right choice for both our lives and careers,” Panya asserted. “Who knows if we’ll ever get the chance to play football in another country? This opportunity is truly precious.”