Time To Build A New Thai Football Team
Back in his English homeland, his compatriots frequently lament the many years of hurt that have followed their national team’s success at the 1966 FIFA World Cup™ finals but Peter Reid is set to encounter a far greater depth of disappointment in Thailand. Despite football’s immense popularity across the kingdom, Thailand have never earned a place at the FIFA World Cup™ finals, which is something their authorities are desperate to put right- If Reid plots a way to the game’s biggest stage, the new national manager will be guaranteed legendary status.
It was with that Holy Grail in mind that the Thais decided Reid was worth a £1 million annual salary over the next four years on account of his experience. He will, however, face an immense task given the country’s poor performances in the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ qualifiers. Reid, recommended by The Football Association, will also be asked to establish provincial youth programmes to develop future international-calibre players, but initially he will work with players from
the kingdom’s semi-professional league, including some who boost their income
with other jobs.
“I want to give him time to build the team and take them to a higher level,” said Worawi Makudi, President of the Football Association of Thailand and a member of FIFA’s Executive Committee. “This won’t be easy and that’s why we have offered him a long contract. We have wasted time before, but this time we want to give ourselves the best chance.”
Reid’s predecessor, Chanvit Phalajivin, resigned after Thailand collapsed in Asia’s third qualifying round for 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ when they earned just a solitary point in a draw against Bahrain while suffering defeats at the hands of Japan and Oman. That came after Macau were beaten 13-2 on aggregate in the opening round before Yemen were overcome in the second. It all illustrated how far behind their neighbours Thailand – averaging 75lh in the FIFA rankings and currently 112th between New Zealand and Botswana – have fallen since their hat-trick of ASEAN Football Federation
From left to right: Peter Reid, Suwat Liptapanlop and Worawi Makudi.
Championship trophy successes and their dozen South East Asian Games gold medals. They started playing football in Thailand back in 1897 but its development gathered momentum in 1916 when King Vajiravudh founded “The Football Association of Thailand under the patronage of His Majesty the King”. Even though Thailand’s best known footballer is probably Withaya Loahakul who played for Gamba Osaka in Japan and Hertha Berlin, the most familiar football face has to be that of ex Manchester City owner Thaksin Shinawatra. The former Prime Minister has done his bit to bolster the game in his homeland by launching the Manchester City Academy in Thailand for youngsters keen on a career in football and his club also signed three of his young compatriots – full-back Suree Sukha, centre-back Kiatprawut Saiwaeo and striker Teerasil Dangda.
Only 5,000 spectators
Whilst millions watch English Premier League football on television, the average crowd for club games in the Thailand Premier League – won by Chonburi last season – and the Provincial League (Pro League) is just 5,000, although that figure represents a healthy rise on recent years. Thailand’s first football stadium, Suphachalasai Stadium, was built in 1935, and but now the jewel in the crown is the 65,000-capacity Rajamangala National Stadium, which was built in 1998 and played host to the final of the FIFA U-19 Women’s World Championship 2004. Both figured when the Thais co-hosted the 2007 AFC Asian Cup when the national side showed their own potential thanks to goal from Sutee Suksomkit (of Tampines Rovers Football Club in Singapore) in a 1-1 draw against eventual champions Iraq.