After Bangkok Glass were relegated from the Thai League (T1) on Sunday, one person watched from a distance and sympathy was in short supply.
Croatian striker Stipe Plazibat’s career at the club was over before it had begun when he was not included in the Glass Rabbits’ T1 squad after his move from Home United in Singapore.
Plazibat first came to Asia when he had spells at J2 sides FC Gifu and V-Varen Nagasaki. From there, he went to Singapore and at this time last year, he was one of the hottest strikers in Southeast Asia.
His prolific scoring was one of the main reasons for his side’s impressive run in the AFC Cup and solid season in the S League.
This form caught the eye of clubs in Thailand and when Bangkok Glass made an offer, Plazibat jumped at the chance to test himself at a higher level.
“After two seasons in J2, I went to Singapore where I played for two clubs, Hougang United and Home United,” Plazibat told ThaiFootie.com.
“In these two seasons, I scored 53 goals and had 19 assists. 2017 was an especially prolific season when I scored 37 goals and made 14 assists for my teammates.
“We reached the AFC Cup zonal final and finished third in the S League and the Singapore Cup. Even before the end of the season, Bangkok Glass management contacted me and we started negotiations. We actually finished everything in one afternoon.
“I was happy that a big club from the region recognised my effort. I didn’t even ask for big money because I wanted to make an impact there first and help the club to achieve their goals and after that consider a better salary.”
However, Plazibat never did get the opportunity to ask for a better deal as he fell foul of the limit on foreign players when his new club decided to buy Mario Gjurovski from Bangkok United
The 29-year-old had sensed that something was wrong and then found out that his new employers had signed the Macedonian playmaker.
“From the first day there, I didn’t feel comfortable,” admitted Plazibat. “I saw that the coach didn’t use me in the first XI and that made me anxious.
“But I didn’t think that they wanted to change me. My first sign of that was on 29th January after I saw the Facebook announcement of Mario’s signing.”
It was not the ideal way to find out that his dream move was turning sour and it was left to head coach at the time, Josep ‘Coco’ Ferre to communicate the bad news to the player he had yet to use in a competitive game.
“Coach Coco invited me to coffee to try to explain to me why they did it,” said Plazibat. “It wasn’t his decision he said. They said that they had the opportunity to sign Mario and they couldn’t miss that chance so they decided to sacrifice me.”
Frustratingly for the Croat, he never really understood why, having signed him, they changed their mind without having given him a chance.
And to add insult to injury, there was not even an opportunity to find another club or to take a loan deal somewhere else.
“I really don’t know the real reason,” he added. “I went there after 37 goals in a season, I trained well in preseason and slowly adapted to Thai football style.
“I was very confident that I would be ready to continue my form from the last year once the season started, so I can’t say what the reason was.
“There were no alternatives so that was one very stressful period for me. The transfer window closed and all clubs had already signed foreigners. I was in front of a wall without a solution. So, I stayed until June and trained with the team to keep up my fitness.
“I am very sad that even though I earned a contract in Thailand, I didn’t have the opportunity to show what I can do on the pitch.”
Ironically, Gjurovski was cut from the squad in mid-season as Ariel Rodriguez returned from a loan spell and another striker David Bala arrived.
But despite improved form in the second half of the season, one point from the final three games saw Bangkok Glass relegated due to an inferior head-to-head record against Chainat.
Plazibat was as surprised as anyone that the side that finished fifth in 2017 could end the year in 14th. But he suggests that the main reasons for relegation came from what was happening off the field.
“The squad is good, and there are some really quality players there,” he said. “I don’t think it [relegation] is because of them. The guys at the top need to take responsibility for their actions because they changed too much.
“They made some really, really bad decisions and they are the reason why BG have been relegated.”
Given the experience he had, Plazibat would advise any potential new players at the Glass Rabbits to think carefully before putting pen to paper.
“If anyone asked me, I would tell them that BG is one very good and organised club with very good conditions for training and very good supporters.
“But I would advise players to take a very good lawyer with them to make a contract and protect them as much as they can because those people don’t care about players like human beings. For them, running the club is like playing play station. They have so many things to learn.”
Nevertheless, Plazibat is not ruling out a return to Thailand. He is now playing in Croatia’s second tier but is already planning to give it another shot on the continent where he spent several happy and productive years.
“I am in NK Solin now,” said Plazibat. “That is a club near my house in Croatia. I needed some time with my family after all the stress I had this year.
“My plan is to come back to Asia in the next transfer window. Here I have two training sessions every day – in the morning with a personal conditioning coach and with the team in the afternoon.
“I am in very good shape and can’t wait to go back there to show my full potential. And, of course, I would come back to Thailand. I like the lifestyle there and the football is good. I don’t think all Thai people in football are bad just because I had this bad experience.”