PATRICK KANYUKA: "YOU CAN'T WALK INTO ANY TEAM IN THAILAND. YOU HAVE TO PROVE YOURSELF"
In Part Two of this exclusive interview Patrick Kanyuka talks about playing in Thailand, recovering from a bone tumour, and football in Myanmar.
"The standard of football in Thailand is higher than you think," says Patrick Kanyuka as we are having a chat in a restaurant on the outskirts of Yangon, Myanmar.
"You can’t just walk into any team in Thailand and think you will be starting every game.
"You really have to prove yourself from the start. I made that mistake when I moved there. But I realised straight away how hard I needed to work to get into the first team."
Kanyuka, 29, played for Thailand’s Roi Et United from 2013 to 2014, winning promotion to the First Division in his first season.
In his career he has played for 12 clubs in four different countries and is now going into his second season at Shan United in the Myanmar National League.
The Londoner has seen a lot in his colourful career but as our conversation continues the subject of Thai football keeps popping up.
"My time in Thailand was very special," says Kanyuka. "I played my best football at Roi Et so it was one of the best times in my career.
"Winning promotion was outrageous because the club had been trying for five years to move up and we did it in our first season.
"I remember the fans going absolutely mental. Thai football fans are unreal. They will support you until the very end whether you win or lose.
"They make English fans look really bad. Thai fans love every player in their team and really they show it both inside and outside the stadium."
Unfortunately for Kanyuka, his time in Thailand was cut short after he discovered a bone tumour in his right leg.
He underwent surgery midway through the 2014 season and spent the next ten months in rehab in Bangkok.
"That was one of the hardest periods of my career," he says. "I was stuck doing physiotherapy every day and taking strong medication.
"I couldn’t go back home for a long time because of the rehab. I was really down at that time, I didn’t even want to think about football."
Kanyuka returned to the field the following July when he signed for Irish Premier Division side Limerick FC until the end of the season.
The team were destined for relegation as they sat bottom of the table having failed to win a single game.
But then The Blues started picking up wins and by the end of the season they secured the relegation play-off spot.
The great escape was one step away from reality after a 1-0 win in the first leg at home to Finn Harps but that dream was crushed after a 2-0 defeat in extra time in the second leg.
Kanyuka decided to take some time off after departing Ireland but it would not be long until he found another club.
"After Limerick I went on holiday to Thailand to get a break," says Kanyuka.
"Then all of a sudden I got a call from a friend asking me if I wanted to go play in Myanmar. Then I said: ‘Where on earth is that?’
"I had never heard of the country so I started reading about it online before I went there for a pre-season trial."
Kanyuka signed for Shan United in January 2016 and he immediately cemented his place in the heart of their defence.
His presence in the back four was crucial to his side conceding just 13 goals in 22 league games despite finishing fifth in the table.
When asked to reflect on his first season in Myanmar’s National League he says he feels settled and happy in his new surroundings.
Kanyuka is particularly looking forward to next year as he feels the club can challenge for the league title.
And although he is more cautious when asked about the level of football in the country’s domestic league he remains positive.
"Football in Myanmar is very young," he says. "Players here are very aggressive and competitive but they are less technical compared to Thai footballers for example.
"Thailand were in the same position a long time ago but they have improved so much since then and now their national team is competing at the highest level of World Cup qualifiers in Asia.
"I think for Myanmar to reach those heights they first need to invest in better facilities and develop a style of play from top to bottom.
"But I believe football this country is heading in the right direction and they will be challenging the best teams in Asia in the future.
"There is so much love for football here and their desire to be noticed and successful is strong."
Just as we are about to finish our long conversation one last question pops up into my mind: "What personal ambitions do you have left in your career?"
"I have no such ambitions, that’s the truth," says Kanyuka. "I’m happy to have played at different levels in my career and experienced so many different things already.
"I think football is taken too seriously all over the world so I think it’s unnecessary to get too stressed about it.
"I just want to enjoy playing football and make the fans I play for happy. That’s what is important for me."
To view Kanyuka's player profile visit: www.mnmcoaching.com/single-post/2016/10/04/CO-OP-PLAYERS-COACHS
To view his Fan Page visit: www.facebook.com/kanyuka/