Thailand's Buriram United FC were crowned champions of the Toyota Mekong Club Championship (TMCC) 2016 tournament.
While Buriram United FC emerged victorious, Lanexang United FC put up a good fight, with their goalkeeper – Soukthavy Soundala – given the Most Valuable Player award for his excellent skills and exemplary sportsmanship. The finals consisted of two matches, on 4 January in Laos where Lanexang United FC emerged the winner; and 8 January in Thailand where Buriram United FC won.
Taking the average score of the two matches, Buriram United FC emerged the winner and was presented with the championship trophy by Kyoichi Tanada, managing officer of Toyota Motor Corporation and president of Toyota Motor Thailand in Thammasat Stadium.
“Our victory today is because we played as a team. The first game didn’t go well, but that is what made our players so eager to do their best for the final match. Starting from the kick-off to the final whistle, we were playing strong. I told my team that we have to score at least one goal so that way we can start to set the pace. Everyone responded well to the strategy, and played a great game,” said Ranko Popovic, Head Coach for Buriram United FC.
He added: “I wish the best for Lanexang, that they continue to build their impressive record. I hope they have even more success in the next season where, hopefully, we can meet again.”
Head coach of Lanexang United FC, Leonardo Vitorino reflected on the final match: “We have lost only one game this entire season, and it was to Buriram United FC. It is hard to explain how I feel now; however, there is no doubt that I am very proud of all my players. Nobody knew of us before the victory we had against Buriram in the first game, and that gives our country something to look forward to. I believe that Lanexang United, and Lao PDR football are on the right track.”
“I would like to congratulate Buriram United FC for winning the championship, but I would also like to show our appreciation towards the other teams – all of whom played well and contributed to the excitement and success of the Toyota Mekong Club Championship 2016,” said Kyoichi Tanada.
“The importance of teamwork in football illustrates the principle of teamwork in the Toyota Way philosophy. Through football, we also hope to continue contributing to the communities in the Mekong region,” he added.
In its third year now, the annual TMCC tournament has developed a strong following of fans over the years and an ever-growing turnout. To cater to the growing enthusiasm, Toyota modified the format of the finals this year. From just one match last year, the finals this year featured two matches – one in each of the host countries of both finalists – which attracted over 20,000 spectators, collectively.
In total, Toyota’s Mekong Cup Championship drew a record total of 72,800 spectators this year – which has only spurred it on to continue contributing to the communities in the Mekong region through football, and support the sustainable development of each of the five countries.