their first international beach soccer tournament and with little
experience in that brand of football, Thailand finished an impressive
fourth in the eighth World Championship in Brazil on Sunday.
people gave Thailand a chance of making any impact in the Sao Paolo
tournament after they were thrashed 6-0 by Brazil in their first match.
But the Thais staged a brilliant comeback, beating Eric Cantona-led
France and European champions Spain to reach the semi-finals.
then narrowly lost to defending champions Portugal in the semi-finals
and to Uruguay in the third-place playoff. The achievement must be
a big relief for Thailand's French coach who got a cool 500,000 baht for
the one-month job of coaching the side. The success will surely act as a
major boost for concerned parties in Thailand who hope to make the sport
a hit in the Kingdom.
Beach soccer is still a very young sport in Thailand. It was introduced
here only last year when Cantona and his French team-mates played an
exhibition match against a Thai team featuring former national star
In fact, the sport itself is still young _ professional beach soccer was
born in the United States only in 1992.
man who should get much of the credit for putting Thailand on the beach
soccer map is Prapuet Kamlang-ek of Pro Beach Soccer Co, which was
established to market the sport in Thailand.
It was Prapuet who brought Cantona to Thailand last year. Boosted by the
Thai team's fine performance in the World Championship, Pro Beach Soccer
Co plans to spend around 20 million baht to organise a high-profile King's
Cup international beach soccer tournament later this year.
The firm also plans to bid for the right to stage the Under-21 World
Championship here next year. While the Thai team's success in Brazil
will help people here to find out more about beach soccer, it remains to
be seen whether the sport will become popular here.
soccer may look like an inexpensive sport to play as players do not need
footwear, but it is quite difficult to find a sandy pitch to play
outside the seaside areas. Making a sandy pitch is not cheap. When
Cantona played in Bangkok last year, organisers had to invest a huge sum
to turn the Muang Thong Arena into a beach soccer pitch. This is unlike
normal soccer which you can play anywhere _ on the street, in paddy
fields or in any space you can find.
Many people find beach soccer exciting. According to the official beach
soccer website: ``The sport of beach soccer is spectacular. The sand
adds another element to the sport, putting aerobic strength, teamwork
and individual skills to the test.''
However, several people who watched the World Championship on TV said it
lacked continuity as the ball often went out of bounds with just one
Many see the sport as purely a venue for former soccer stars or lesser-known
players to make money.
Cantona knows all about this only too well!
the Thai squad for the World Championship comprised a former national
team player _ goalkeeper Wilat Nomcharoen. It also contained Yutthana
Polsak, who has played for the national sides in normal soccer and the
five-a-side team. Organising international events here is a good idea
and will help promote tourism in Thailand.
But encouraging Thai kids to start
playing beach soccer is likely to be a difficult task. After all, most
youngsters are likely to see proper soccer or five-a-side football as a
better choice _ both in terms of finance and fame.