Australian centre back Maxx Creevey has set his sights on winning an international cap with Thailand after rejoining Thai giants Buriram United.
Creevey, who was born and raised in Australia, has spent six years plying his trade in south-east Asia.
The defender first moved to Thailand as a fresh-faced 17-year-old and linked with Buriram, which has won six local titles in the past decade, in 2014.
Creevey was sent out on loan and over several years battled injuries, unfamiliar environments and club politics across Thailand’s lower divisions.
But at the start of this year he came back to the Thunder Castles, signing a three-year contract, and is determined to make an impact in the Thai League 1.
“I was on my way back from Amsterdam and I wasn’t really sure where I was going to end up. I came back, trialed at Buriram and after a week they offered me a three-year deal - I was blown away,” the 25-year-old told The World Game.
“After all those really bad years, all the hard work and persistence it’s started to pay off. The guys that I’m up against [at Buriram], pretty much the whole backline is national team players, so it will be very tough.
“But I’ve been training with them for the past eight months and I know I can definitely compete with them and can make the starting line-up. To me Buriram are the biggest club in Thailand.
“They compete pretty much every year in the AFC Champions League. That’s the target every year – to qualify for the Champions League.”
Creevey hails from Sydney and came through the junior system at the Sutherland Sharks. He was a childhood teammate of Socceroo Chris Ikonomidis and former Sydney FC midfielder Chris Naumoff before his move to south-east Asia.
The defender, who has a Thai mother, grew up wanting to wear the green and gold but now hopes to one day turn out for the War elephants, who are ranked 113th in the world by FIFA.
“That’s the dream,” he said.
“I always used to watch the Socceroos growing up, I was at the game in 2005 when they beat Uruguay. Now the dream is to play for Thailand and maybe one day play against Australia in a World Cup qualifier, that’d be nice.
“Football here is definitely improving. Especially with the national team, they’ve stepped it up a bit. We’ve been quite dominant in South East Asia and now we need to step it up and beat Korea, the UAE and try and have a real shot at qualifying for the World Cup.
Creevey’s time in Thailand has been a roller-coaster, with a spell at Khon Kaen United in 2016 ending in an off-field scandal that saw the club relegated. The Aussie also witnessed some curious practices at Samutsongkhram FC, where the professionalism of the squad was hardly ideal.
“I haven’t had the best luck,” he admitted.
“I’ve had a few injuries that set me back quite a bit and I’ve been at one team, I was there for about three months and then the team was banned from the league because apparently our president paid a security guard to beat up the referee after the match because we lost the match.
“This was Khon Kaen United. It was in 2016, we were in the second division. We had about 10 games left and the FA came in and said they had proof, they took all our points and kicked the club out.
“The politics, the unprofessionalism – when you start at Buriram and then you go out and see the other clubs you see how professional Buriram is, and how good they are.
“I was at one team called Samutsongkhram FC, and the players and coaches would smoke cigarettes before training, before games. In the evenings they would have barbecues and drink whisky every night and the next day they would come to training and put in a shift.
“I could not understand how they could do that to their bodies. I was thinking where on earth am I?”
But Creevey has persevered and been rewarded with a long deal at Buriram. The Thai League 1 season is set to resume in September after originally being shut down in March because of the pandemic.
The defender and his teammates have been training throughout the past five months and with the Coronavirus situation improving in Thailand, are looking forward to getting back on the pitch.
“It’s actually been OK. When the Coronavirus first started it got a bit out of hand,” Creevey said.
“I think now, compared to other countries, the rate of infection is very low. I’ve been here in Thailand the whole time. We had to keep training.
“Our president is a very good guy, he takes care of the community, but he kept us all here to keep training. We were the only team to keep training throughout the whole year.
“We’ve been training since December and training through the whole Covid period. We played the first four games of the season and then Covid happened, and then they postponed the season to April, then May, and now to September.
It’s been pretty hectic.”