Soccer team looks to SEA Games after Olympic disqualification (19/05/2011)

With the faint hope of overturning the team's disqualification from the Olympic qualifiers all but extinguished, Thailand's Under23 team manager Kasem Jaliyawatwong has now fixed his sights on reclaiming the SEA Games title in Indonesia later this year .

Thailand were punished for fielding an ineligible player in the home tie against Palestine in the preliminary round of qualifying for London 2012. As a result the Middle East nation was awarded a 3-0 win and a ticket to the next round at the Thais' expense with a 40 aggregate victory.

The Thai camp felt they had a strong case against the disqualification since the player in question earned his suspension while playing in the Under20 Championship three years ago. They believed he had already served the ban in the Asian Games last year.

However, it was revealed that the Asian Football Confederation had never sanctioned those Games, meaning the player's suspension remained effective.

Worawi Makudi, the caretaker president of the Football Association of Thailand, who last week met the AFC chief Mohamed Bin Hammam to discuss the subject, yesterday decided to call off a press conference initially scheduled to address the issue.

Kasem, already resigned to his team's fate, wants his players to shift their focus to the SEA Games campaign. Hosted by Indonesia in November, the tournament will give Thailand the chance to restore some pride after their embarrassing exit at the group stage two years ago.

"We need to wait for confirmation that we're out of the Olympic qualifiers. If we are eliminated, I want the team to continue their training programme with the SEA Games in mind," said Kasem.

"These days, the SEA Games is no longer an easy competition. We need to prepare the team as best as we can. We paid a high price with our Olympic disqualification. However, it's no use to moaning about it, as we have the [SEA] Games to look forward to ."

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