Tourism fallout: Zhejiang and Buriram United match ends in mass brawl (video)

Photo via Twitter/ @GaryKLH

The government’s plan to attract Chinese tourists may have suffered another setback following a physical altercation between players from China’s Zhejiang FC and Thailand’s Buriram United during an AFC Champions League.

Zhejiang FC hosted Buriram United at the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Centre in Qiangjiang New Town, China, on Thursday, November 29, and emerged as 3-2 winners. After the game, an unexpected altercation broke out between players from both teams, with the video of the incident going viral on social media.

According to the Thai media, a Zhejiang player approached Buriram United left-back, Theerathon Bunmathan, and insulted him resulting in a clash between the two players. Another player from the Thai team, Leon James, reportedly intervened and tried to break up the incident but was unsuccessful.

PPTV HD reported that James was punched in the face and fell to the ground. Buriram United’s Azerbaijani player, Ramil Sheydayev, was also involved in the altercation and suffered a group attack before fleeing the scene as the clash turned into a mass brawl between both sides.

There have been no reports detailing the resolution of the fight but Thai media indicated that the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) referenced potential sanctions for the incident, suggesting that Zhejiang FC may be subject to a severe penalty.

Social media war

In the aftermath, a social media war ensued between both sides, with Sheydayev daring the Zhejiang players to confront him, further escalating tensions online. Sheydayev shared a video of the incident on his Instagram account, @ramaa15, daring the Zhejiang players in the caption.

“@zhejianggreentow I am still here, just send me the location!”

The two parties continued to argue online. Buriram United’s official Facebook page shared several videos of the incident.

“This is how football matches at the Asian level go to? Come to the football field or come to the battlefield?”

Zhejiang FC responded to the complaint by sharing a picture of Buriram United’s Vice President, Karuna Chidchob, raising his middle finger during the altercation. The account also shared a video of Sheydayev choking their player.

“When your Changsuek captain says f*ck Chinese, when your Caucasian hero shows his manliness, here’s the consequence. LOVE and PEACE. #buriramunited.”

The figure referred to as the Caucasian hero in the caption was anticipated to be Sheydayev. The anticipated captain of Changsuek was expected to be Threerathorn, who serves as the captain of Thailand’s national football team. Changsuek, meaning war elephant, is the colloquial term for the team.

Thai-Chinese relations and tourism

Despite the AFC’s pending announcement on potential punishments, the dispute has already cast a negative light on Thai-Chinese relations, at least among Chinese football fans. And this conflict seems to have worsened Thai tourism strategies to win back Chinese visitors.

Throughout the year, the Thai government launched several campaigns to attract Chinese tourists to the country. The government also offered Chinese citizens the privilege of free visas but the strategy appears to have been unsuccessful.

All the measures were set back by security concerns after a spate of kidnappings of Chinese nationals hit the headlines. Security concerns were later heightened by the death of a Chinese woman in a shooting at Bangkok’s popular Siam Paragon shopping mall.

To address these concerns, Thailand planned to invite Chinese police officers to collaborate with Thai police, aiming to reassure Chinese people about the tight security measures.

However, the recent conflict arising from the football match may further impact the number of Chinese tourists choosing Thailand as their destination.

China NewsSports NewsThailand News

Petch Petpailin

Petpailin, or Petch, is a Thai translator and writer for The Thaiger who focuses on translating breakingThai news stories into English. With a background in field journalism, Petch brings several years of experience to the English News desk at The Thaiger. Before joining The Thaiger, Petch worked as a content writer for several known blogging sites in Bangkok, including Happio and The Smart Local. Her articles have been syndicated by many big publishers in Thailand and internationally, including the Daily Mail, The Sun and the Bangkok Post. She is a news writer who stops reading news on the weekends to spend more time cafe hopping and petting dwarf shrimp! But during office hours, you can find Petch on LinkedIn and you can reach her by email at

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