|Withe's dismissal another own goal by officials|
|By. Wanchai Rujawongsanti Bangkok Post|
It's unfortunate that
the Football Association of Thailand (FAT) has ``suspended'' Peter Withe,
the most successful-ever coach of Thailand, from the job of coaching the
The move came last month after Thailand were eliminated _ as expected _ from the Olympic qualifying competition by the United Arab Emirates, who defeated Withe's men 4-1 in Dubai and earned a 1-1 draw in Bangkok.
The ``suspension'' of the former England international, who steered Thailand to two consecutive semi-finals at the 1998 and 2002 Asian Games, was not at all surprising, however.
For a long time it was clearly just a matter of when _ not if _ the English coach would face the axe as it seemed that everything pointed towards his dismissal.
During the Busan Asian Games last year, when Withe steered Thailand to fourth place, there were rumours that a Middle Eastern country was offering him a lucrative contract.
However, Thai team manager Thavatchai Sajakul was quick to bury the speculation by saying that the FAT would offer him an improved deal.
But a few months later, a number of FAT bosses, including president Vijitr Getkaew, said they preferred a Brazilian coach to a English one _ reasoning that the Brazilian style of play was more suitable for Thai players, who are a similar size to Brazilians, than the English style of the long ball.
Withe looked set to be shown the door when Thailand had unimpressive results in the early stages of the Tiger Cup, or the Southeast Asian Championship, last December.
Fortunately, Thailand overcame a shaky start to win the tournament _ Withe's latest success in a series of achievements with Thailand which also include another Tiger Cup victory in 2000, one SEA Games title in 1999, a King's Cup crown in the same year, and more importantly guiding Thailand to the final stages of the Asian zone's World Cup qualifying competition in 2001 for the first time.
Although the FAT finally handed Withe a new one-year contract earlier this year, it also hired Brazilian coach Carlos Roberto Carvalho to look after Thailand's junior squads _ a move apparently designed to put pressure on Withe.
Later, the FAT even appointed Carvalho to share the responsibility of overseeing the senior and Olympic sides. However, the FAT then backtracked from that decision _ probably because it knew too well that Thailand would be knocked out by the UAE and it would then not have a good reason to dismiss Withe.
When Thailand were defeated by the UAE, the FAT had a ``legitimate'' reason to get rid of the Englishman and replace him with Carvalho with two important competitions drawing near _ the Asian Cup qualifying round next month and the SEA Games in Vietnam in December.
Although the ``suspension'' was a bit harsh for the former European Cup winner who has a long list of achievements to prove his coaching ability, coaches anywhere in the world can be sacked at any time for any reason.
In Withe's case, it seems that he has never been liked by Vijitr, who even objected to him wearing shorts while on duty.
Instead of giving him a ``suspension,'' the FAT should terminate Withe's contract which expires at the end of next month and pay out his remaining salary. There is no point him working with the FAT in another capacity while he is not liked by certain officials.
The FAT probably does not intend to pay him the remaining sum and wants him to quit so it can save money.
The FAT bosses, some of whom seem to have a licence to stay in office for life, should also look at themselves for the reason why Thailand are still miles away behind some Asian countries.
The law governing sports should be amended to eradicate monopolies in overseeing sports associations. Under the law, elected presidents of sports associations are allowed to be in office for two years, and cannot be re-elected unless they get three-quarters of the votes.
But if you get such support, you can be there for as long as you want. This is why some presidents of sports associations have been re-elected time and time again _ because they control almost all eligible voters.
For Carvalho, he should know that he, too, can be sacked any time when his honeymoon period is over. Carvalho himself faced the same fate Withe is suffering at the moment. Over a decade ago he led Thailand to fourth place in the Beijing Asian Games in 1990 only to be fired when Thailand lost in a penalty shootout in the SEA Games final the following year.
Carvalho's first task is to take Thailand to the finals of the Asian Cup _ and that is not too tough a job. Thailand are grouped with Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Hong Kong, with the first-leg tournament to be held in Uzbekistan early next month and the second one in Bangkok shortly after that. With two teams advancing to next year's finals, it would be a disaster if Thailand failed to progress past the qualifying round.
Even if Carvalho fails, he will certainly remain as Thailand's head coach as the FAT chiefs have thrown their weight behind the Brazilian, saying he needs time to gel with his players.
Is this another example of double standards in this country?