Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder
by Absolute Thai Football
So the Thai Premier League season staggers to a shambling close, already merging with the next via the King’s Cup followed by World Cup and AFC qualifiers. Games scheduled for January 28th make this a 49 week season for an 18 team league. Oh, and it expands next season; presumably to hoover up those missing three weeks for the full 52. Perhaps the Thai word “season” has been mistranslated to “aeon.”
Only Chonburi completed this season in a calendar year. Of course no one would think it strange in England with our August start, but Chonburi played their first game on February 19th. The devastating floods have clearly been a big challenge but,despite their horrendous tsunami experience, the J league finished virtually on time. Their 18 league team needed 42 weeks, just shy of two months less than Thailand, and Kashiwa Reysol get an 11 week break before playing Buriram on March 6th. Some Buriram players get five weeks off, but not their key personell. Who will be most prepared?
As football addicts, constant fixes may sound like paradise, but Thai football increasingly needs to synch with other AFC leagues. How are we helping Buriram represent the country when many of their players will need to peak for their club and country? When Muang Thong reached the semi finals of the AFC a farcical fixture pileup caused mind numbing travel, like Spinal Tap on their Break Like the Wind tour. Hello Syria on Wednesday, Samut Songkran on Friday, TOT on Sunday and Indonesia six days later. Before the Songkran game, I saw one player at breakfast fall asleep while he reached down for his cereal.
It is not a matter of resting or playing. The danger of players being “undercooked” is just as harmful to AFC progress. A carefully structured rotation of squads by big clubs should offer key players intense training, but targeted first team action. This is understandably difficult to coordinate when the fixture list is a constant work in progress. Rather than playing your main rivals for the title next week, you could be up against relegation cannon fodder. You could also be playing tomorrow.
The rhythm and momentum of a working week, a watching weekend and a clearly structured season are central to keeping us engaged and passionate. Clearly EPL teams do not only play on Saturdays, but in a seven day period we can compare their performances. When there is an international, lower league teams continue playing, benefitting as fans migrate to their local clubs. In Thailand we have lurched from constant games to a pause in the orbiting of the footballing world in profound hush for the Coming of a National Game.
There is no need to reinvent the wheel. There are twelve months in the year and the earth is round. Coordinate a planned programme that dovetails with other leagues in the AFC and stick to it The rest, our FA sages, is up to you.