Image property of Takashi Morimoto
Erchim FC's Mönkh-Erdengiin Tögöldör has emerged as one of the brightest stars in Mongolian football. The 26-year-old is coming off a career season in which he scored 10 goals in 17 matches and won the Mongolian Male Player of the Year Award at the Golden Ball Ceremony in December. In addition to his club exploits, he has become a mainstay in the national team set up; was the second place scorer at the 2017 Tsunami Cup; and is only four goals away from becoming Mongolia's all-time leading scorer.
For these reasons and more, it should have been no surprise when news broke last week about Tögöldör being followed by the Uzbekistan Football Federation in hopes of luring the player to a big-money contract with an Uzbek League club. What should be surprising, however, is that he has not been signed by a team abroad already.
In actuality, the player's club experience abroad is slightly deeper when one scratches below the surface. Let's go back to late 2014 to learn about Mönkh-Erdengiin Tögöldör's forgotten trial in Thailand.
The story begins with Takashi Morimoto, a Japanese agent and scout who was associated with FC Deren and had the dream of getting Mongolian players professional contracts abroad. To fulfill that objective, he arranged for trials in Thailand for two Mongolian players.
Those players were Khürelbaatar Tsend-Ayuush and (you guessed it) a fresh-faced and blue-haired Mönkh-Erdengiin Tögöldör.
The story may sound familiar to fans of Mongolian football at this point. Yes, this was the same agent and a similar process by which Murun Altankhuyag made headlines and history when he signed for Krabi FC of Thailand the previous year.
Image property of Takashi Morimoto
Tsend-Ayuush and Tögöldör began training with Yingcharoen F.C. of the Thai Amateur League, the fifth level of football in the country. Both players participated in multiple friendly matches which were specifically held as an opportunity for scouts to identify potential signings for the upcoming season.
Tsend-Ayuush received mixed reviews and cited jet lag and the fact that the Mongolian league had been over for two months as the reason for some of his struggles.
Tögöldör, however, received very positive reviews from his coach, particularly after a 2-2 draw in which he scored the game-tying goal against JW Group FC, a professional club from the country's second division.
Following the match, Yingcharoen's coach said, "I'm very happy with Tuguldur's performance and goal. It's too early to decide something. Just a start. Tuguldur should work very hard" while the player reflected, "I tried my best for that match. Each match and training are very important. I will be fitter than today and I'll show better performance for next match on Friday. I appreciate support of Mongolian people!" He then went on to compete against Cholpratan FC.
For whatever reason, neither player was ultimately signed to a professional contract and returned to their respective clubs in Mongolia. While Tsend-Ayuush has now earned fourteen international caps and played for Khoromkhon and Ulaanbaatar University, he has not represented his country since 2015 and has seemingly switched his focus to futsal, a sport in which he has experienced much success. Conversely, Tögöldör's football career had been on a steady upward trajectory.
Although his trial in Thailand was ultimately unsuccessful, with his current form it is only a matter of time before clubs abroad take notice and he gets an opportunity to test his skills on a much bigger stage.