Mr Blue Thai: The Story of Teerarep Winothai’s Journey

by Steve Zocek

Like many football-mad teenagers, Bangkok-born Teeratep Winothai dreamt of goals, cup finals and stardom. Unlike most boys of his age, Teeratep was able to live out that dream. In fact, from the age of fourteen, he was already attracting the attention of clubs in his homeland and abroad and had represented Thailand at under-17 level. Then, a fantastic opportunity to study at Brentwood School in Essex led to an excellent sporting experience at Crystal Palace who were the first English club to offer him a trial.

He had already represented his country’s under-17 national side in the FIFA World Championship in New Zealand in 1999 where Thailand was grouped with Mexico, Spain, and Ghana which meant that the young Teeratep crossed paths with Michael Essien who went on to have a great career with Chelsea, Real Madrid and AC Milan gaining 59 international caps in twelve years for his country. It was a fantastic honour for Teeratep that, while representing his country at such a young age, he was also the youngest player to participate in that tournament.

Sadly, Thailand finished bottom of their group losing all three matches to Mexico 0-4, Spain 0-6 and finally Ghana 1-7, but his participation in the tournament was a brilliant experience.

His education was, of course, something not to be neglected and his time at Brentwood School led to a very important opportunity in his career. Having arrived a couple of months before term started to improve his English, Teerateep enjoyed success on the pitch with his schoolmates. Then he got a big break.

‘Whilst I was there, I met a Thai who knew one of the coaches at Crystal Palace youth team. He dropped my name to the coach. They were interested enough to offer an invitation to attend a session where I would train for two days undergoing a trial which I came through successfully. It led to three weeks, then six months ending with a scholarship with the Selhurst Park club. In my time there I played for the under-15s, under-17s, under-21s and the reserves. I stayed at Palace until the age of 19 then had to return to Thailand. I wasn’t able to sign a professional contract because as a person from outside Europe, I had to play in 75% of the games. Unfortunately, not having the chance to play for the first team, I did not meet the criteria. The only other way for me to stay in the UK was to marry an English girl.’

However, the Palace experience was not his last in English football. Teeratep picks up the story in his own words:

‘One of top managers of the newspapers in Thailand (Siam Sport) had an idea to send Thai footballers with potential to advance their career to England. He sent Chinese, Japanese and Korean players out to get assessed in Europe. He had connections in Europe with journalists who could report the news back to Thailand. The players would get a scholarship, commencing with the school team. Like anywhere else, at a school match, there would be scouts from football clubs looking for talent.

An interesting opportunity arose once more as Everton were sponsored by the famous Thai beer – Chang. There was a project from the sponsors where they required players to go out and train with the Everton Academy.

Three or four coaches came to Thailand looking for suitable candidates. The search was extended to Bangkok and other surrounding areas with only three players selected to go to Everton. Fortunately for me, I was one of the lucky ones chosen to experience Everton. We were supposed to be there for a season, but the duration that I actually stayed was for four months. I decided to leave and return once more to my homeland as I was required to play for my national team.

My time there was memorable and feel very honoured to have had that experience. We had an opportunity to meet a lot of people with a great football knowledge to further our careers.

Since Chang sponsored the project, I had to do some TV commercials with the first team squad for the TV station back home. Rubbing shoulders with the likes of Tim Cahill and Thomas Gravesen was a dream come true because they were big names and well-known players. 

Teeratep Winothai holds the trophy after winning the final of the Football Asean under-20 Youth Championship 2002 in Bangkok, 3 February 2002. Thailand beat Myanmar 4-0. (Photo by Pornchai Kittiwongsakul/AFP via Getty Images)

We were, of course, invited to watch the first team play at Goodison Park which was fantastic! We also had the pleasure of walking out onto the pitch where the announcer over the PA introduced us to the fans. We were invited to work with the Everton community programme which is very well respected. This was another great experience for us. We had to go and visit people in the area, we had a class that studied with us, too. 

In the Thai national side, Teeratep played from the age of 19 until he was 33-34. When he recounts the highlights of his career, he talks about his moments as a very young teenager where it all began, particularly the highlight of playing for the Thai under-23 team in the Asian tournament in 2001 in Malaysia. South East Asia (SEA) Games usually consist of 10 teams. They are similar to the Olympics, but only for that region. His introduction to the 2001 tournament was spectacular. He scored after just ten minutes of Thailand’s first group game – a 7-0 rout of Cambodia. Next, he notched the only goal in the 1-0 win over Singapore in a group stage where Thailand achieved maximum points. The start to the tournament was a dream come true, but the personal highlight for Teeratep was still to come.

‘At the age of 16 I had to return from the UK to have a trial for Thailand with many other players for this tournament. I made the squad of 23. I wasn’t confident because of my age that I would be fortunate to be selected, but the first game of the group stage I was selected and remained for the following two group matches. I found the net twice in three games. I scored the golden goal in the semi-final against Indonesia. I was brought off the substitutes bench after the 90 minutes were up, to begin 30 minutes of extra time which had to then be decided by the golden goal rule. That goal took us to the final which we won earning myself a gold medal. That was my first time winning such a personal medal and I repeated that success in the next three competitions in 2003, 2005 and 2007.’

Thailand’s Teeratep Winothai celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the group A football match between Indonesia and Thailand at the 24th South East Games (SEA Games) in Korat, 7 December 2007. Thailand was leading 2-1 at half-time. (photo: PHILIPPE LOPEZ)

The second part of his journey towards four gold medals in the SEA Games took place in 2003 when Thailand conquered hosts Vietnam in the final with a golden goal from Nattaporn Phanrit on 96 minutes. Thailand had been grouped with Vietnam, Indonesia, and Laos. Thailand topped the group with Vietnam second, level on points but Teeratep’s country had a vastly superior goal difference. Teeratep had a less spectacular impact on this tournament, scoring just one goal in the group stages.

The 2005 SEA tournament took place in the Philippines. Grouped with the host nation, Cambodia and Malaysia, Thailand won the group claiming maximum points. They came up against Indonesia – runners-up of group B – in the last four and won easily, 3-1, with Teeratep scoring a brace including a penalty on 17 minutes.

The final was held 4 December 2005 at the Panaad stadium in Bacoclod, Phillipines. In a repeat of the 2003 decider, Thailand beat Vietnam with ease and a hat-trick from Winothai earned him his third successive gold medal and a place in Thai football history.

In 2007, the tournament was hosted by the reigning champions, Thailand. Group A consisted of the hosts plus Cambodia, Myanmar and Indonesia. Like the previous tournament in 2005, Thailand topped the group convincingly, taking nine points from their three games. They were clearly developing a winning habit.

Teeratep Winothai celebrates after scoring against Bahrain during the Asia World Cup 2010 qualifying match at the Rajamangala stadium in Bangkok on 2 June 2008. Thailand and Bahrain were 2-2 at half time. (Photo PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL/AFP)

The semi-final saw Thailand paired with group B runners-up Singapore. A 3-0 scoreline for the hosts and favourites took them to their eighth successive final. 

The romantically named ‘80th Birthday Stadium’ in Nakhon Ratchisima with a 20,000 capacity was the venue for the final and it was no surprise that the host country won comfortably, 2-0 versus Myanmar. To add to Teeratep’s joy at winning his fourth successive SEA Games gold medal, he was on the scoresheet again, scoring his country’s second goal after 38 minutes.

In January 2013, he was asked by Jun Tan of to name his most memorable moment playing for Thailand. His answer referred to an occasion in a full international match versus Japan:

‘It would be the Asian World Cup qualifying round away game against Japan in 2008. Their team boosted with players like Yasuhito Endo, Naohiro Takahara and Yuji Nakazawa and yet I managed to score a cracker from nearly 25-30 yards out beating Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi (goalkeeper). It’s not easy to score against the strong Japanese but I’m delighted that I did it.’

Terratep’s final club match took place in November 2022 and his standing in the nation’s game led to a farewell international match in December of that year. Nowadays, he has his own media company to cover many sports including football. 

Teeratep felt his game developed physically in England. Diogo Luis Santos of BG Pathum (L) is tackled by Teeratep Winothai of Police Tero FC (R) during the Thai League 1 match at Boonyachinda Stadium 6 February 2021. (Photo by Pakawich Damrongkiattisak)



Wikipedia interview with Jun Tan January 2013


Many thanks to Fran Hickey of EFCHS for his help in proofing and editing this article

By Steve Zocek

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