Top 5 Southeast Asian footballers to play in Japan

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Witthaya ‘Heng’ Laohakul (Yanmar Diesel: 1977-1978, Matsushita: 1986 -1987)

Witthaya Laohakul was a legendary player for Thailand in the 70s and 80s with over 60 caps for his national team. He left Bangkok-based club Raj Pracha for Japan’s Yanmar Diesel, the predecessor of Cerezo Osaka, in 1977. The Lamphun-born Witthaya was a complete midfielder with great technique and scoring ability, netting 14 goals in 33 matches for the predecessor club of Cerezo Osaka.

After becoming the first Thai player to ever play in Germany, Witthaya returned to Japan in 1986 when he jointed Matsushita, who would later become J.League co-founders Gamba Osaka. Following the conclusion of his playing career, he managed Matsushita/Gamba for five seasons in the late 80s and early 90s as well as JFL (third division) side Gainare Tottori from 2007 to 2010.

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