Absolute Thai Football

Looking Deeper into Thai Football

Month: March, 2012

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Reverse Alchemy: FAT Chance for Thai Football

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Subject: March 8th 2011. A great opportunity

Son I have a job for you. How about running football? All you do is welcome the sponsors in (the TV contracts are already signed) and plenty of European clubs are keen as mustard to work with us. Sorry I can’t be around for the Olympic qualifiers, but you’ll easily beat Palestine; they haven’t played a home game in their history! I’ll book the tickets for London 2012 while I’m away and make sure we get good seats.
I know you have it in hand (I saw the Post It on your desk) but just make sure that Sutjarit Jantakolin doesn’t go to Palestine. I know FIFA have probably forgotten the red from 2008, but it’s better safe than sorry. I know he played in the Asian Games last year, but I’m pretty sure those games weren’t sanctioned by them. Imagine if we won the game and a three nil defeat was put on our record! Sorry to nag, but that’s dads for you.
Take care son. This is the best gig ever.

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Don’t forget to ask the guy who checks your desk to ask the guy who writes your report to check that player!

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Subject:: March 10th 2011. Booted Out of the Olympics!

Blimey son, what happened there? Don’t worry. I’ve launched a pointless appeal with my friend Mohammed Bin Hammam (he’s been really generous with the FIFA Goal grants for the piece of land at Nong Jork that I don’t own.). I’ll tell the AFC Sutjarit was in the Thai squad at last year’s Asian Games but didn’t play. I know it’s weak, but if you keep losing your Post Its what else can I say? By the time that’s done the SEA games will take the heat out of the situation. We’re bound to do well there and the little Olympic oversight will be a thing of the past. If things get a bit tricky I’ve promised England my vote for their World Cup bid. I know I’m not going to vote for them, but they’ll play us next June and, by the time they realize I voted for Spain and Qatar in December, it should be too late to change. If they win the vote they’ll forget about my promise anyway. One vote shouldn’t make any difference.

May 6 . Still in business.

Things got a bit tricky with the FAT President vote. I was about to lose and then I realised: I am the President. I can stop the election whenever I like! All this nonsense about a slump for the national team and poor organisation gave me a great idea. Agree! I told them the election wasn’t organised properly, giving me just enough time to strong arm a few votes before the next election and I’m back on the gravy train. Even better than that, technically I wasn’t even the President as my term had expired, but no one dared tell me: they’d have to deal with me once I got back in. Peachy! Have to say though, I was pretty gutted that the election had more than one candidate. I don’t know what Pichate Munkong thought he was doing standing against me. That is duly noted the next time Thai Port need our help.

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Daddy Cool Saturday May 14th 12:22 2011 :
Get Triesman! Can’t believe he used his immunity in the House of Lords to say I wanted TV rights for the England game to vote for their World Cup bid.

Daddy’s Boy Saturday May 14th 12:23 2011 :
I thought you did?

Daddy Cool Saturday May 14th 12:22 2011 :
I absolutely deny that and have never taken part in anything illegal. Now get off the computer and call me on the secure line.

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November 3rd. Let’s finish the year on a high.
SEA is a great way to bury the other bad news. Just get through the group stages and then I’ll dampen expectations with the floods and the extra Toyota Cup matches ( don’t tell them they were my idea.) Malaysia and Singapore will be tricky, but one win is realistic and Singapore and Cambodia are both beatable. Nine points will get you through, so three wins will do us fine.

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November 17th. Don’t talk to anyone.

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December 2nd. We’re back on track

Son: I called the English FA earlier in the year checking they’d still play us if I didn’t vote for them. They said they would, so not only will I vote for Spain and Qatar, but when England get through the first stage I’ll have a public rethink. My vote will be gold dust.

20120302-143156.jpgDecember 3rd. Everyone sold England down the river. 50% of their votes was their own!

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December 4th. England have cancelled the match next June. Where is their honour?

March 1st. We need some good news!

Son – I noticed the four Buriram lads weren’t on the Oman flight. With all the injuries we really can’t do without Siwalak, Suchao, Jakrapan or Jiwarat. I was glad to hear that Sompop Nilwong had his passport, but I forgot to register him with the AFC. Maybe if you ask them nicely he could play? Tell them we promise not to do it again. I’m getting some grief from the coach just because we forgot to book the friendly match with the UAE and replaced them with The Maldives. He’s just bitter because only five players turned up for training and he had to pay for the 20 actors to make up the squad photo. He is so ungrateful. I might change coaches for the finals in Brazil.

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March 2nd. Problems solved: Let’s host the World Cup!

We’re aiming for 2026 or 2030. It is so important that everyone gets behind the bid and that no one makes any accusations of corruption or unprofessional conduct. If they do, they will be the ones to blame if the bid fails. Sometimes I just love being me .

Dead End: The Dark Side of the Football Dream

Last month’s suicide of nineteen year old Cameroonian footballer Eric Dzetzam from Sawan FC whilst trialling at fellow regional league team Kamphaeng Phet highlighted the vulnerability of young men as economic migrants. The player had told other foreign staff that he only had forty Baht to his name and was having problems with his last landlord. He felt he had nowhere left to turn.
The glamour of football success suggests their plight is less traumatic than a sweatshop slave or trafficked sex worker, but players are just as powerless. Like an imported “hostess” forced into a massage parlour, lying to proud families back home is as painful as the truth that you play to a handful of people for a pittance in a regional league. The amount of money sent back to support the family masks the fact that this is all there is, not a percentage for the folks back home. Another phase of vulnerability sees choices continue to narrow.

Players coming to Thailand, particularly from Africa, often give everything to their families before they arrive. Any money they have, mobile phones, even clothes are often left behind making them open to poor treatment, but unable to buy a flight back home. Three years ago I gave an old pair of boots to Yaya, now playing for KAA Ghent, because he had nothing to wear. They were far too big for him, but he had no choice. Now he has boot deals and a good living in the Belgium top league, but the line for him then was very fine indeed.
Players arriving on spec are the most vulnerable, but contracted players from Africa receive the worst treatment in poorly run clubs. One Thai team had them sleeping on a mat in a rifle range and, when a player’s wife and child joined him, was told they would also stay there. He was lucky that his ability allowed him to leave and join another club, but he is a rare breed.
Last week the Thai FA openly admitted there are no sanctions for clubs who don’t pay their players. Even after due diligence, a contract and the correct visa, there is no pay guarantee and no right of recourse. Returning home with the shameful sting of failure makes him feel compelled to agree if they tell him to join a lower league club on the other side of the country.
So what can be done? Having the same foreigner ratios as the rest of the AFC should make it easier to compile a database of foreign nationals in all the leagues. Overseen by the players’ home embassy, a minimum standard of treatment needs to be drawn up in line with the J and K Leagues. As the status of Thai football continues to rise within the AFC, players should not be able to arrive on a wing and a prayer. For a UK visa players must have played at least 75% of his home country’s senior competitive international matches (where he was available for selection) in the previous two years for a top 70 FIFA ranked country or he won’t even get into the country.

Thailand needs to apply the same foreigner rule to academy teams as the senior set up so that the filtering process of talent is more based in a player’s country. If a club brings someone over who has no chance of a career in the game, they have used up a valuable space. Once an academy player has been selected and brought over, he should be given a two year contract to settle, learn Thai and show his abilities rather than being sent home in short order if the potential for stardom is not spotted immediately. The English FA foreign player rule ensures that a “home grown” player may be foreign, but they will have received plenty of support and an education that gives them other options in the future:

“irrespective of nationality or age, {they} have been affiliated to the FA or Welsh FA for a period of three seasons or 36 months prior to {their} 21st birthday”

In England, a Tier 5 (from teams that must play in the FA Vase rather than the FA Cup) player doesn’t need to show English skills, but they can only move up to Tier 2 once they have passed an English language test. If, after 12 months, he can’t meet the English requirement, he must return home and reapply for Tier 5. So there is a clear process rewarding players for getting the skills needed to assimilate more easily into the country.

We are all economic migrants, moving to where the work is, protected by labour law and embassies, able to get visas that protect our interests and supported by employers. Unfortunately, the safety net of protection and legislation is enjoyed by an articulate minority whilst the voiceless majority have only the choice between a rock and a hard place. Many of us have the added support of a union. The Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) is a trade union with 4,000 members that has a long history of staunchly supporting the rights of players. As well as helping injured and former players gain training and employment, they collectively bargain agreements to ensure the best deals for the often forgotten players in lower leagues who undertake potentially short careers earning less than the average wage.

The glamour of football is a heady brew. In Thailand the top players are famous and command salaries even higher than leagues like Australia and Singapore. But below this glamorous, glossy surface are players hungry for a chance. The African regional league player sleeping outside the team hotel when Muang Thong travelled to Buriram last season was, as a father, the saddest sight to see. There has to be a better way to help the talented foreigners succeed, but also stop the dreamer sleepwalking into a situation that becomes a nightmare.

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