Worawi must make an impression (March 21, 2007)

Worawi Makudi was elected president of the Football Association of Thailand (FAT) on Sunday replacing Vijitr Getkaew who quit earlier this month. Reports claimed that an ''undercurrent'' would send a challenger to test Worawi's power but they proved untrue as Worawi was the only candidate.

The election was so dull that Worawi was unanimously elected by the eligible voters in just 45 seconds after he was nominated by one of his associates.

Worawi, 55, looks the most suitable choice as he knows everything in the association having been secretary-general for 12 years since Vijitr became president in 1995.

As a Fifa executive member, Worawi is also well-known on the international stage. He has good connections with international football supremos including Fifa president Sepp Blatter and Franz Beckenbauer, who could be the next Fifa boss.

Worawi is a Muslim and studied in Kuwait so he is close to top football officials in Middle Eastern countries _ the most powerful group in Asian football.

Being FAT president and with his good relations with powerful figures, it should be easier for the kingdom to get foreign support in terms of personnel and financial assistance.

As Thailand's football chief, reports say Worawi could become a Fifa vice president and Asian Football Confederation president.

There are several tasks awaiting Worawi on, and off, the pitch.

Thailand will host three international events this year _ one of the four first-round groups of the Asian Cup in July, the World University Games in August and the SEA Games in December.

Having been in Thai football for a long time, Worawi knows that everybody wants to see Thailand secure their first World Cup berth sooner rather than later.

After being elected FAT president, Worawi vowed to take Thailand to appear in the 2014 World Cup. He will map out a development plan for Thailand to reach the goal.

But seven years may be too short. What is needed is a long-term step-by-step strategy to achieve the feat, say, in 20 years.

It took wealthy Japan much longer than seven years to win their first World Cup spot in 1998. The Japanese are reportedly looking forward to winning the World Cup in 50 years.

It is much tougher for Thailand to take part in the World Cup now that Australia have joined the AFC, who were seemingly accepted due to political reasons.

Apart from initiating our own development plan, Worawi, as a Fifa executive member, should also push for increased World Cup slots for Asia as the continent appears to lose one spot to Australia.

Asia got four and a half slots for the 2006 World Cup. South Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Iran represented Asia in last year's finals with Bahrain missing out after losing to Trinidad and Tobago in a play-off.

Vijitr said after Worawi got the nod to succeed him that he stepped down because he felt enough was enough after more than two decades in football management.

But it was reported that Vijitr quit because he was fed up with a power struggle and conflict among FAT executives.

Whatever Vijitr's reasons were, one of Worawi's immediate tasks as FAT president is to appoint a new board.

Some critics believe Vijitr will not wash his hands of football politics and could be pulling the strings behind Worawi. He is likely to be appointed an honorary executive member.

Worawi has to prove that he is nobody's puppet to silence his doubters.