BANGKOK: Thailand's national goalkeeper Kawin Thamsatchanan is on his way to Europe after completing a move to Belgium's second tier club Oud-Heverlee Leuven.
The former Muangthong United captain is the first Thai goalkeeper to join a European club, and the third Thai national to play professionally in Belgium.
Two Thai outfield players - Eakachai Phonthongnin and Teeratep Winothai - have featured for Belgian sides Union Saint-Gilloise and Lierse respectively.
Kawin's contract with Oud-Heverlee Leuven is for five years, with Thai media reporting that he will become the club's highest paid player.
Speaking to the Associate Press (AP) on Wednesday (Jan 10) in Bangkok where he officially announced the move, Kawin said he is ready for the challenge of Europe and hopes the experience will make him a better player.
Led by former Leicester City manager Nigel Pearson, Oud-Heverlee Leuven are currently fifth in the eight-team play-off round of Belgium's second tier league.
According to the AP report, Leuven chairman Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprapha expressed hope that the addition of Kawin will help the club's push for promotion to the Belgian First Division A while also serving as an inspiration for other Thai players dreaming of playing in Europe.
Both Leuven and Leicester City are owned by Thailand's King Power Group, which helped facilitate the goalkeeper's transfer from Thai club Muangthong United.
The 28-year-old Kawin won two AFF Suzuki Cup Southeast Asian titles in 2014 and 2016 for Thailand while also helping the War Elephants claim the gold medal at the 2013 Southeast Asian Games.
While at Muangthong United, he won four Thai League 1 and four League Cup titles.