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The Thai journey of footballer Patrick Deyto
Patrick Deyto in action for Suphanburi FC

The Thai journey of footballer Patrick Deyto

Rick Olivares (Philstar.com) - June 21, 2021 - 1:13pm

MANILA, Philippines – The 74-year-old stadium was rocking. It was filled to its 15,000 capacity with many more standing up. The massive crowd urged its football team forward, prayed to the high heavens for a win, and cheered them on madly.

It wasn’t Panaad Stadium in Bacolod. Nor was it the sprawling Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan. And it wasn’t the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium in Manila. 

It was Suphanburi Provincial Stadium, formerly known as Suphan Buri World War II Stadium and is home of Suphanburi FC, which was locked in deadly battle with Sukhothai FC in the very last day of the 2020-21 season of Thai League 1 — the top-flight division of football in Thailand.  

Bangkok Glass Pathum United had been crowned champions three weeks earlier. All the remaining matches were just to improve the standings of the remaining 15 teams. Trat and Rayong were already relegated, and the last slot for relegation was going to be the loser of the Suphanburi-Sukhothai match. 

Suphanburi started the season well but their good fortune ended as they went on a horrifying 0-11 tailspin that saw them from a top-side to one in danger of getting relegated.

At the center of it was Suphanburi’s Filipino goalkeeper Patrick Deyto. Not only was he fighting for his team to stay alive but also for a new contract in Thailand.

“The season was so erratic with COVID-19 happening. We were no. 4 at one point and talking about Champions League slots. In a few weeks, we were in the relegation zone,” shared Deyto. “It was my second year fighting to stay alive. It is difficult enough to compete in the league but add the pressure of staying up with the consequences of relegation, it gets even harder. I really thought we’re not going to make it.”

Suphanburi won its second to the last game, a 2-1 — a nail-biter against Chiang Mai United last March 24. Four days later, staying alive was going to depend on the outcome versus Sukhothai. 

Suphanburi had an 8-3-18 record going into that match as opposed to Sukhothai’s 8-4-17. 

“When we went on a losing streak, there were times when I did not want to get up and go to training,” related Deyto, who had never experienced a losing side in his entire amateur and professional football career. “There were days when I was telling myself that I couldn’t do it anymore because I had given everything. Except you have to keep going. When those things happen, you look at this opportunity given to you as well as your life outside football.”

Fortuitously, Deyto’s fiancée, former La Salle women’s footballer Natasha Alquiros, visited in January of 2020, and her presence helped re-energize the frustrated goalkeeper. 

“I had someone to go home to,” noted Patrick. “Having her there made me not to bring football matters at home and allowed me to relax.”

Home.

Deyto always thought that he’d just play professional football in the Philippines, having suited up for Pachanga, Green Archers United, Global Cebu, Davao Aguilas and Stallion Laguna. 

He was also the first homegrown goalkeeper after Michael Casas to play for the Azkals with 17 international caps to his name.

“When clubs started to fold in the Philippines, I started to think about the possibility of playing abroad,” Patrick recalled. “But I didn’t know how to go about it because I didn’t have the contacts or even an agent. There was no concrete passage for me to go out. So playing abroad was not a realistic target until all these clubs started folding.”  

“I was playing for Stallion Laguna in February 2019 when an agent messaged me from out of the blue with an offer from Thailand,” he related. “It wasn’t the first offer I got and yet nothing ever came of anything so I didn’t pay too much attention to it. And then the agent gave me a call and explained the offer.”

The problem was, Deyto had a live contract with Stallion. 

“I had to ask permission from our head coach Ernie Nierras. I told him of this once-in-a-lifetime offer. At the same time, I said, ‘I signed a contract with you and I plan on honoring my contract if you want me to stay.’ I didn’t want to be a person who does not know how to honor a contract.

Except the longtime Stallion head coach understood and knew of how big an opportunity it was so he let Deyto go. 

Nierras’ only request was for Deyto to play one more game, which the goalkeeper fulfilled.

“Then we put in the release papers with the club after which the Philippine Football Federation had to approve the International Transfer Certificate. I had this fear that it would not be approved but it was and the PFF forwarded the release papers to Thailand,” said Deyto of the process of moving across borders.

“I was scared of moving,” conceded Deyto. “That is one reason why I told Ernie, ‘if you don’t want me to go, I will stay and honor my contract.’ I was looking for an excuse for myself. I was going out of my comfort zone and have to prove myself. What if I fail? I was scared. But Ernie said yes and now I had no excuse to stay.”

The moment Deyto got to Thailand, he knew he made the right decision. 

Suphan Buri is a little over 100 kilometers away from Bangkok, Thailand. It’s a quiet and yet ancient town that dates back to the 9th Century. The site has it fair share of sacred battlefields and has many memorials as there are parks and wildlife preserves. However, it’s an agricultural area in a suburban setting. But football is the town of under one million people’s pulse.

“I love it, he exclaimed. “I belong here. I can thrive here, and can play here. I just needed that nudge.”

One of the big reasons for the move — aside from it being an offer he couldn’t turn down — was to save and provide for my future family. 

Another was an opportunity to find himself. 

“I grew as a person outside the pitch. Living alone was entirely new. I can speak conversational Thai — just enough to get around. Now I know how to cook and do the home chores from cleaning to laundry to paying all the bills and buying groceries. The real things in life, man,” said Deyto. “This made me mentally tougher than before.”

In his almost three years in Thailand, Deyto has taken an interest in sports psychology and has started meditating.

“I have come to the realization that the mental side is more important than the physical side,” said Patrick. “And I have since taken it very seriously. To thrive in this league is something I never knew I had in me.”

And the fans in Suphan Buri have taken to liking their Filipino goalkeeper. Deyto gets recognized on the street or in the malls or coffee shops with fans routinely asking for selfies and autographs.

At the Suphanburi Stadium, it’s even better. “It’s a great atmosphere that I hope the Philippines gets to experience week after week,” he said. “Packed stadiums. A roaring crowd. The fans getting into the game on the pitch, off the pitch, and in everyday lives. It’s incredible.”

And it came down to the Sukhothai match that fortunately, Suphanburi won, 1-nil. The team was staying in the top-flight Thai football league.

Deyto didn’t have too many saves. But it was his marshalling the defense, ball distribution, and leadership that was also on full display.

“It was a great feeling all of our hard work paid off. Our never say die attitude helped. The fans were happy and I played well too. It was a good way to repay the club and the fans for their faith in me. It was one of my best games (he had another outstanding match when he was named Man of the Match in a 2-1 come-from-behind win over Chiang Mai United once more although during the 2019 season). 

And so Suphanburi rewarded Deyto with a contract extension that will keep him in these parts for this season that kicks off this July 31.

“And that is why you go one. There are bad days but the good days are even better. I am happy to be here playing professional football while saving for my future family. And of course, making a name for the Filipino football player. It’s been a great journey so far.”

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