Inside Story : FAT has been made to look like paper tiger (October 10, 2007)


Kittiratt Na Ranong
Thailand got off to an auspicious start in their 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign when they hammered Macau 6-1 in the first leg of their preliminary round tie at Supachalasai stadium on Monday.

It was one of the kingdom's biggest wins in recent memory and they should have few problems when they meet Macau in the return leg next Monday.

However, the Thais must not get carried away by the massive win. For a team of Thailand's calibre to beat one of the weakest sides in Asia may mean next to nothing.

Thailand coach Chanvit Phalajivin still has a great deal to do to push Thailand to another level.

He had said that his team lacked firepower and the players proved he was right on Monday when they squandered numerous scoring chances.

Chanvit said some of his players were tired after playing in the Thailand Premier League on Friday. But one may wonder why there was a full programme of the Thailand Premier League just three days before the national side's engagement in a World Cup qualifier.

The Football Association of Thailand (FAT) wanted to re-schedule the programme but some big clubs preferred the original date and insisted they would play on that day.

BEC Tero, with seven national players, also insist they would play TOT in a league match on Saturday _ two days before Thailand's second leg against Macau.

This raises a question: which side is bigger and has the authority in determining the local league programme _ the FAT or the clubs? As it turned out, the FAT looks like a paper tiger.

Fortunately, Thailand's opponents in the first 2010 World Cup qualifying tie were Macau. A stronger side might have been eliminated them.

The road for Thailand to go to the 2010 finals in South Africa is still very long. They could face a tricky tie against the likes of Singapore and Indonesia in the second qualifying round which is also direct elimination.

If they manage to reach the third and final qualifying stage, they could meet the Asian zone's top five teams _ South Korea, Australia, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Iran with only four finals berths up for grabs plus a play-off spot.

Thailand are seeded 19th in the qualifying round. Although it is surprising that Palestine and Lebanon are seeded higher than Thailand, there may be at least a dozen nations that are better than the kingdom.

Apart from the big five, there are the likes of China, North Korea, Kuwait, Uzbekistan, Iraq n Thailand's way.

Thailand stand to get a huge bonus _ probably in the range of 100 million baht _ if they secure their first-ever World Cup berth. The team will get a seven-digit bonus from manager Kittiratt Na Ranong for the 6-1 win over Macau.

But cash incentive alone is not enough for a team to go to the World Cup if their players are not good enough.

Unless there is a long-term plan, it is not likely we will see Thailand in the World Cup in the near future.

In the meantime, Kiatisak "Zico" Senamuang bade farewell to international football when he played his last match for Thailand in a 1-1 friendly against the United Arab Emirates at Supachalasai stadium last Wednesday.

The game was also a testimonial for Kiatisak who represented his country for 15 years. It attracted around 10,000 fans _ a crowd which is considered big for such a warm-up match.

The UAE were invited to play Thailand in Kiatisak's last game because he scored his first international goal against the side in an Under-16 tournament.

Against the UAE in that junior tournament, Kiatisak netted his first two international goals. It was also the first time he did a back flip to celebrate scoring and it became his trademark.

Zico said he did not know how to celebrate so did a back flip. He performed it comfortably because he used to be a gymnast.

His nickname is "Go" but his friends started calling him "Zico" (pronounces "zi-go" in Thai) because when he burst into the scene the original Zico was one of Brazil's most prominent players.

It is good for the Football Association of Thailand to hold a testimonial for a player. They should make this a tradition for those who have played for the country for a certain number of games or years.