Mr. Football

Thirty years on from the release of “Mr. Baseball” in 1992, CMFC have found our own Mr. Football. Jun Fukuda lives and breathes football. He probably also dreams it.

Fukuda-san and CMFC general manager Bubet Suppipat sat down with CMFC English for 90 minutes on Sunday in Ranong. They give the impression that the club is in very capable and quietly ambitious hands.

Fukuda-san has an air of quiet authority. Thoughtful. Very comfortable with where he is right now.

His reach is global. Play football and see the world. He grew up in Japan but his playing career, as a goalkeeper, took him from Japan to Brazil, France and Thailand. Fluent, or near-fluent, in Japanese, English and French and happy to chat in Portugese, Italian and Spanish.

CMFC’s Mr. Football is a man of the world. A thoroughly modern manager based in a city steeped in history and tradition.

Retiring from playing football at 37 he had one aim – to coach. His UEFA A Licence was earned in France. Appropriate given that his favorite player and goalkeeping inspiration is Fabien Barthez.

Fukuda-san wanted to be a head coach and opportunities started to present themselves in Asia. He spent three years in Mongolia as manager at FC Ulaanbaatar before moving to Laos Toyota as manager and taking them to three successive League titles from 2018 to 2020.

At that time, Khun Bubet was Marketing & Media Director of the Lao Football Federation. Their connection would eventually lead Fukuda-san to CMFC.

In 2021 Fukuda-san joined up with Masatada Ishii at Samut Prakan City initially as their Academy Manager. They moved together to Buriram before Fukuda-san was offered the head coach position with CMFC. 

Buriram is a great place to learn Thai football – not just managing a squad of players but also managing the presence, ambition and involvement of an ever-present club owner. There can be few better preparations.

Inevitably given the recent history of CMFC there was some discussion of the role of BGPU. It should be reassuring to CMFC fans. Loan players are expected to be with CMFC for the full season. Fukuda-san picks his own team. Everyone involved with the club wants to see CMFC in League One.

He had read my T2 preview for the season. “You gave us 4th place,” he quietly snorted, “I was angry.” I justified it as my reaction to three seasons of disappointment.

Longer term gets interesting. The focus will be on building a CMFC academy supporting local player development both in football and life skills. With less dependency on loan players from BGPU; more on building a sustainable club with a clear northern identity.

Asked who he thinks are the teams to beat in T2 his simple answer was that he does not worry or think about other teams. His concern is getting the very best from his CMFC squad. He will look at other teams in the days leading up to match day. That is sufficient.

Fukuda-san’s coaching style is based upon possession – his influences are French, including red wine! Do not expect to see long balls thumped optimistically upfield. That said he understands that some of the T2 pitches are not ideal for his preferred style. It is one reason why, for the pitch and facilities, the club would ideally like to return to the 700th anniversary stadium for home matches.

That will mean improving relations with the local office of the Sports Authority of Thailand; CMFC have filled the stadium before and can do so again. That has to be good for Chiang Mai’s football fans.

A sports fan, Fukuda-san follows baseball, Yomiuri Giants, and most martial arts. His favorite music is Brazilian; his favorite food is global; his favorite holiday destination is unknown as he has no recollection of having had a holiday.

He does play golf – but has yet to explore Chiang Mai’s courses – even Alpine GC where CMFC train! This needs to be fixed.

All he has seen of Chiang Mai is the Municipal Stadium. This also should change. But in time.

CMFC are at home to Nakhon Pathom on Sunday 21st August at 7pm. Fukuda-san knows that football is not football without the fans. His hope – that you come out and cheer, sing, drum and party. He and the players will give their best for you.