In slightly more than a year and a half, Thailand will be hosting the 7th FIFA Futsal World Cup. Towards making sure that everything is up and running well before the November 2012 tournament, the FA of Thailand (FAT) have taken every measure possible.

Just the previous week, the inspection panel from world governing body FIFA gave the thumbs up and was satisfied with the infrastructure available in the Kingdom, confident that they will be ready for the meet.

The man under the spotlight at the moment is none other Thailand’s Mr. Futsal – Adisak Benjasiriwan, the Chairman of the Thai Futsal Committee.

With his roots in Chonburi province, Adisak had studied at the University of Dallas where other than being responsible for development of Futsal in Thailand, he is also Chairman of the Rattana Bundit Football Club.

Adisak revealed this week that Chiang Mai has withdrawn as one of the cities to host the tournament which left Bangkok, Nakhon Ratchasima, Suphanburi, Phuket and Songkhla as possible venues.

Currently there are only three venues which meet FIFA’s requirements – two arenas in Bangkok (Hua Mak and Nimibutr Gymnasium) and one in Nakhon Ratchasima.

The biggest project to be built for the Futsal World Cup will be the new arena in the east of Bangkok – Nong Chok. Once completed, it should hold up to 12,000 spectators.

A total of BHT1.3 billion are provided by the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority (BMA) with BHT300 millions allocated for the venue, while the remaining money is scheduled to improve the current infrastructure to connect the sports complex with the airport and Minburi.

The venues in Suphanburi and Phuket need to be renovated while in Songkhla, a new arena will have to be built. A final decision on the venues will be made only after another FIFA inspection in September this year. Can you tell us why Chiang Mai has withdrawn and what is the current state of preparations of the other cities?

Adisak: Provincial governments are responsible for the budget for venues and infrastructure. The government in Chiang Mai did not want to support it. After our internal inspection, we came to the conclusion that other than Bangkok, only the stadium in Nakhon Ratchasima meets FIFA requirements. In Songkhla a new arena must be build. There is a new stadium in Phuket but it is a bit too small and must be renovated alongside the arena in Suphanburi. But at the end of the day, FIFA will decide where the matches will be played. We heard that marked-out routes are already in the plan for cars to Nong Chok.

Adisak: I believe it is but it will not be in time for the Futsal World Cup. For the World Cup, there will be some sort of a Park and Ride system where the visitors are to be transported by buses on a fast track bus-line to Nong Chok. Can you tell us about the promotional activities planned and how you hope to engage interest of the local fans?

Adisak: Officially we will kick off our promotional campaign in June 2011. Thai FA president Datuk Worawi Makudi is trying to bring Pele and Franz Beckenbauer to the opening ceremony as guests of honour. In addition, there should also be a game between Thailand and Spain or Brazil.

In the last week of June, we are also planning a match between the Thai national team and the World All Star selection. Currently, we are attempting to bring in Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal FC) for this match. He used to play Futsal earlier in his career.

Then, we will have the Bangkok Intercontinental Cup from 24th of August – 4th of September 2011 with six teams taking team. Other than Thailand, the other teams are Iran, Japan, Argentine, Italy and Spain.

We also planned a three-day event called the ‘Midnight Futsal’ at the end of the year. It will take place at Sanam Luang (between the Grand Palace and the Khao San Road). Our plan is that 1000 teams from all over Thailand will take part.

All this will be done under the slogan ‘Road to Futsal World Cup 2012’. Will there be some special events planned for kids?

Adisak: Yes, of course. Should Fabregas confirm his attendance, we will arrange for him to have a clinic with the kids. We are also trying to arrange kids’ clinic with other players as well. And through our close collaboration with BMA, we are also planning to bring several projects for schools in Bangkok with the aim to make Futsal as part of the educational programme in schools. We will provide the teaching materials and hand them out to schools. Can you give us some clarification on the qualifying round of the FIFA Futsal World Cup and when the draw for the tournament proper will be made?

Adisak: The only thing which I’m aware of the qualifying round is that in Asia, it will start in May this year. The draw for the final tournament normally takes place around four months before the competition which means that it should be around June 2012. The official draw will be held in Bangkok of course. What about television broadcast? And ticket prices?

Adisak: That is directly under the control of FIFA. In this respect, I can’t say yet who will be given the rights and who will televise the matches in Thailand.

We have to discuss ticket prices with FIFA and of course, it will be adapted to the prevailing economic conditions here. For the AFC Futsal Championships, ticket was priced between BHT100 to BHT300 Baht. Admission fee for Thai Futsal League is BHT50 Baht. So, I believe that for the FIFA Futsal World Cup, it will not be substantially more than around this range. How has the cooperation with the several local authorities been so far?

Adisak: Up to now, they have been very cooperative. Everybody knows what the tournament is all about and they try to commit to their duties accordingly. In which areas do you still see problems?

Adisak: There will always be problems in whatever you do. What I can see at this time is perhaps keeping to schedule. As such, we have to pay a lot more attention to ensuring good management of the several deliverables. We would like to organise the best ever FIFA Futsal World Cup. Finally one more question regarding the Thai Futsal League. There are now more teams from the provinces taking part in the league. Can we expect more matches to be played outside of Bangkok?

Adisak: Yes, if a team wants to play at home, they can do so. However, the rest of the games will still take place in Bangkok as usual. Moreover this year, we want to introduce a sort of provincial league which lasts between four to six months.

NOTE: For the first time ever, 24 teams will be taking part in the 2012 FIFA Futsal World Cup.

The breakdown between the continental associations are as follows – AFC 5 (Thailand included), Africa 3, South America 4, Middle and North America 4, OFC 1, UEFA 7 .

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