Kawin Thamsatchanan [1296x729]
Kawin Thamsatchanan [1296x729] (Credit: Pakawich Damrongkiattisak/Getty Images)

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After a glorious 17-year career littered with achievements, Thai goalkeeper Kawin Thamsatchanan on Monday announced his retirement from professional football at the age of 34.

His announcement came in the wake of Sunday's Thai FA Cup final, where his Muangthong United side suffered a heartbreaking 1-0 loss to BG Pathum United courtesy of a 98th-minute winner by Teerasil Dangda -- ironic considering the man responsible for the defeat in Kawin's final game was one whom he spent over a decade playing together for both club and country.

In a lengthy post on his official Instagram account, Kawin described his final game for Muangthong -- where he plied his trade for over 13 years across two spells -- as "a precious memory" while describing playing for Thailand as the realisation of "a dream of an ordinary boy who just wanted to be a footballer".

Hardly old, especially for a goalkeeper, Kawin could have played on but would have likely been aware that he was not too far away from the end of his career.

While he featured regularly enough this past season, also starting the FA Cup final at the weekend, Kawin did share first-choice duties with Korrakot Pipatnadda and last featured at international level in 2022.

Motivation to hang up his gloves likely would have come in the form of wanting to go out on his own terms.

Nonetheless, when he eventually looks back on his time in the game, he will be able to be proud of his many accolades that should see him go down as Thailand's greatest custodian -- even if he sits behind Sinthaweechai Hathairattanakool as the War Elephants' most-capped goalkeeper.

Playing in the one position where experience is often the greatest asset, Kawin established himself as in the Muangthong starting XI at the tender age of 18 and won his first Thailand cap two years later.

By the age of 22, he was No. 1 for both club and country. There was even talk that then-Thailand coach Bryan Robson -- a Manchester United legend -- wanted to arrange a trial for him with the Premier League giants.

In what was a golden era for Muangthong, where he played a pivotal role alongside others like Teerasil, Datsakorn Thonglao, Panupong Wongsa and Mario Gjurovski, Kawin would become a four-time Thai League 1 champion while picking up two winner's medals in back-to-back editions of the ASEAN Championship -- the region's premier international tournament.

Now regarded as one of the best goalkeepers not just in Southeast Asia but the entire continent, Kawin eventually earned a coveted move to Europe when he joined Belgian outfit OH Leuven -- where he enjoyed an extended spell as the club's first choice between the posts.

Thereafter, injuries would ultimately lead to his powers waning but his imposing presence -- both on and off the field -- always made him a valuable stalwart to have in the dressing room.

And if one of the best testaments to a player's influence is in the way they are regarded by their teammates, then a big statement was delivered -- amid sorrowful circumstances -- at the COVID-delayed 2020 ASEAN Championship.

By then, Kawin had to settle for a reserve role with the Chatchai Budprom and Siwarak Tedsungnoen ahead of him in the pecking order.

When he was brought on in the first leg of the final with the Thais holding a comfortable lead over Indonesia, it initially seemed merely a move by coach Alexandre Polking to ensure every member of the squad got onto the field.

But when he was mobbed with hugs at the final whistle, there was an inkling that there was more to it. Earlier in the game, Chanathip Songkrasin had also made a beeline to his longtime friend on the sidelines after scoring and broke down in tears while embracing Kawin.

It was later revealed that Kawin was mourning the death of his father and had flown home earlier, only to promptly rejoin the team in Singapore in spite of the fact he was unlikely to feature prominently in what would eventuate in the War Elephants' 6th ASEAN crown.

Even if just for the role he played as a teammate, Kawin's impact was undeniable.

Yet, the fact of the matter remains that he was -- at his peak -- truly at his most inspirational purely through his actual goalkeeping ability.

Steadfast, brave, agile and simply ever-determined to not let anything get past him, Kawin was one of Asia's best goalkeepers of the past decade.

And he should go down as Thailand's greatest goalkeeper until someone can surpass all that he achieved.