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 By Paul Murphy

Singapore international Zulfahmi Arifin joins Chonburi FC

Home United midfielder Zulfahmi Arifin
Zulfahmi Arifin leaves S.League side Hougang United to play for Thai club Chonburi FC.

Zulfahmi Arifin has become the latest Singapore international to head to Thailand after signing a deal with Thai League (T1) side Chonburi FC.

Zulfahmi, 26, leaves S.League side Hougang United to follow goalkeepers Hassan Sunny and Izwan Mahbud, who have joined Army United and Nongbua Pitchaya in Thailand's second tier.

Chonburi are a more prestigious club, having been Thai champions in 2007 and runners-up on no fewer than five occasions in the last 10 years.

However, their performances have been slipping in the past three years, and 2017's seventh-place finish under former S.League star Therdsak Chaiman was their worst since 2006.

Zulfahmi joins after a successful trial period, but the club are still without a head coach following Therdsak's resignation at the end of the 2017 season.

"Playing in Thailand is going to be a big challenge for me, but I am familiar with Thai football, having played against the national side many times," Zulfahmi said. "Thai players are usually technically very good.

"My first target is to adapt to Chonburi's style of play and then to playing in the Thai League."

The creative midfielder brings with him considerable international experience, having won 33 caps for Singapore. He has also played in a different league as he was a part of the now defunct Lions XII, which competed in the Malaysian Super League (MSL), between 2012 and 2015.

Zulfahmi won the MSL title in 2013 and spent three years at the club before joining Home United in 2016 and then switching to Hougang United at the beginning of this year.

He is just the latest Southeast Asian talent to join a Thai club in this transfer window after the addition of a squad quota for players from ASEAN countries.

In addition to the Singaporean contingent, Myanmar striker Aung Thu has joined Police Tero, while Vietnam winger Nguyen Van Quet has repeatedly been linked with a move to champions Buriram United.

While it may be a good career move for Zulfahmi to play in the top league in the region, it is another blow for the S.League, as it sees another of its top talents disappear.

Midfielder Hariss Harun has returned to Malaysian champions Johor Darul Ta'zim and another Singapore midfielder, Safuwan Baharudin, has moved from one Malaysian club to another, joining Pahang from PDRM FA.

Lions defender Madhu Mohana also moves to the MSL, leaving Tampines Rovers for Negeri Sembilan.

And the talent drain also sees Croatian Stipe Plazibat -- the S.League's last season's top scorer from last season -- quit Home United for the likely destination of Bangkok Glass in T1.

Bangkok-based Paul Murphy has lived in Asia for a decade, writing for ESPN FC since 2014. He is a former Daily Express sub-editor. @PaulMurphyBKK

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