Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Worawi still fumes over allegations

Makudi has been cleared
of any wrongdoing
By Kitinan Sanguansak

Worawi Makudi, the caretaker president of the Football Association of Thailand, admitted his sense of outrage despite being absolved of David Triesman's accusations that he claims has severely damaged his reputation.

“I am still angry by the turn of events. The charges against me were very serious but groundless. It spoiled my reputation, globally. It also affected my family since they felt uncomfortable by the allegations," he said.     

“I never did what he [Triesman] had accused me of doing – asking for TV rights. The talks we had were just a direct conversation between two organisations. I gathered all documentary evidence, which include a letter from the English FA expressing its inability to send an England team to play in Thailand.

“We had no need to request for the TV rights since FIFA regulations clearly state that the rights belong to the host country.

The FAT caretaker chief, currently in Switzerland to attend the FIFA Congress, also said he would go ahead with his plan of filing a lawsuit against Lord Triesman in a British court to seek justice and salvage his reputation.

“After being cleared of any wrongdoing, I call on the Thai media to publish my side of the story and help protect my reputation and the country’s as well," he pleaded. 

“I also would like the media to examine Triesman’s background and why he had to resign from the post as the FA chairman. Last week, my team of lawyers sent a letter to the British parliament, asking for justice in the case.

“In the letter, I also asked Triesman to speak out in the public, which would give me a chance to defend myself. I want to take court action against him and would not let go until justice is done.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Thailand still has an eye on 2012 Olympics

Thailand in action against Palenstine in a
2012 Olympics Qualifier earlier this year
By Kitinan Sanguansak

Any hope of reinstating Thailand into the 2012 Olympic qualifiers was now hinging on the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s ruling said the caretaker president of the Football Association of Thailand Worawi Makudi late last week.
Thailand appeared resigned to accepting their fate after they had been booted out from the Olympic qualifiers for fielding an ineligible player in the home leg against Palestine in the preliminary round.
As a result of punishment, the Middle East nation, who were awarded a 3-0 victory for the game in question to secure a 4-0 aggregate win, took the Thais’ place in the second round against Bahrain.     
Previously, the Thai camp felt they had a chance of having the disqualification overturned since they thought the player in question had served his suspension in the Asian Games last year. The fact that the Asian Football Confederation never sanctioned the Games put paid to Thailand's hopes.
Thailand, though, received a lifeline after Worawi decided to make an appeal on the case with the CAS. If the court rules in favour of the Thais, they would be reinstated in the qualifying tournament for a berth in London next year.
“We already made an appeal with CAS. It should take around 10 days before we know the ruling. The AFC accepted the guilt on their part for not providing a list of suspended players for each participating team as well as the match commissioners.
“The AFC may not sanction the Asian Games but they have to sanction a game in the event. Why? Let’s think what would happen if a player committed a serious offense in the Games’ fixture. Will they let that player escape without doing anything?
“So, I think the player in question already served his ban in the Games. I raised this issue already in the discussion with the AFC and FIFA. Our fate is now hinging on the CAS ruling,” said Worawi.
Worawi also announced a new date for the FAT’s presidential election on June 17 after it earlier was postponed due to the duplication of the member clubs’ authorisation letters.
“We sent a letter to the member clubs, asking for information about the list of each club’s executives. During the previous election, we found that there was more than one representative from a club. We want to check out who is the head of each club.
“We hadn’t had an election with two candidates for a while so it was normal we faced the problem last time. We also informed SAT (the Sports Authority of Thailand) about the new date for the election,” said Worawi who came short of confirming whether there would be a new FAT president come the rearranged voting.
On the pressure on him after his FAT reign became a subject of criticism, Worawi, one of the four FIFA executive members who were alleged to ask for favour in return for the World Cup vote, lamented the unfair treatment he received.
“There has always been criticism during my time in the office. Someone might be jealous of the position I hold, domestically and internationally. I think there is a group of people who want to undermine me. It’s not fair for me,” said Worawi.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Setanta confirms J.League schedule for June

Setanta Sports Australia has released their schedule of J. League games for the month of June, and it's a bumper month for fans of the Japanese game.

With two midweek games being broadcast, there will be five games in total broadcast across the month, which is fantastic news given the first weekend in June is a FIFA date and therefore no J. League games will take place.

Five games in 14 days - who can't be happy with that?

Setanta's schedule for June is as follows:

10 June - Gamba Osaka vs Shimizu S-Pulse (LIVE @ 7:55pm)
14 June - Nagoya Grampus vs Albirex Niigata (LIVE @ 7:55pm)
17 June - Kashima Antlers vs Jubilo Iwata (LIVE @ 7:55pm)
21 June - Urawa Reds vs Avispa Fukuoka (LIVE @ 7:55pm)
24 June - Ventforet Kofu vs Kashiwa Reysol (LIVE @ 7:55pm)

Together with this Setanta will continue to show the J. League Highlights Show each Thursday evening at 7:30pm.

Be sure to tune in and don't miss a minute of the action.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Kosuke Kimura - The Quiet Achiever

Kimura celebrates the winning goal
against FC Dallas in 2009
Say the name Kosuke Kimura to any fan of Japanese football and you’ll probably draw a blank stare. Kimura is one of the now many Japanese players plying their trade abroad, but his destination is unlike most.

While most Japanese players move to Europe, Kimura went east instead of west and ended up in a place as far removed from Japan as you’re likely to find – Macomb, Illinois in the USA where he attended Western Illinois University.

In his own words Kimura describes it as, “the middle of nowhere…all there is are corn fields.”

For a boy who was born in Kobe and spent most of his life in Yokohama it was a big change and it took some getting used to.

“The first time I got there I had no idea why I went there,” he told Asian Football Feast.

Whilst you might think his lack of English or distance from his family would be his toughest challenge it was in fact something a lot simpler – food.

“Obviously the food wasn’t impressive,” he says, recalling the early days where he had no kitchen.

“The first thing you see is fast food everywhere, the closest thing they had was a Chinese buffet.

“I was just struggling for the first few years actually because I was living in the dorm and I didn’t have a kitchen so I couldn’t cook anything.

“I was eating food at the cafeteria but they didn’t really have good food. So it was kind of tough for me to adjust to that. I can adapt easy so it was no big deal, but food was a big part of it.”

The USA wasn’t always in Kimura’s plans. Like most youngsters growing up, the J. League was what he strived towards.

Getting an opportunity to impress though wasn’t easy, especially as he came from a family that wasn’t well off financially.
Kimura in action for
Western Illinois University

“In Japan if you want to really play soccer you have to join the academy system and it costs so much money and my parents didn’t have enough money for that,” he admits.

“Usually it’s only for rich people.”

But there are other ways, and Kimura’s chance came in the form of an open trial for Kawasaki Frontale where more than 800 budding footballers turned up.

The odds were against him, especially after the club announced they would only select three players to join their squad.

Kimura was one of those three.

He recalls that moment: “When I was 14 I took the test and I made it and it made me so happy and I told myself “This is it. For the next three years in high school I’ll give everything I have to make that level””

His time with the Kawasaki youth set up was going well, he even jokes, half seriously, “the coach loved me.”

But there would be a twist.

Kimura developed stress fractures in his foot and he was given two options – have surgery, which was only a 50-50 in terms of a full recovery, or take 10 months off and let it properly heal.

He chose not to risk the surgery and instead opted for 10 months on the sidelines. The time off worked and his foot recovered, but missing 10 months of Football put him right behind the eight ball.

Then in another twist, Kawasaki Frontale was relegated to the second division and costs were cut across the board. Kimura, along with others, were let go.

It was a crushing blow.

“Obviously that killed me because I thought it was my only chance to go pro,” he said.

Kimura wasn’t ready to give up on his dream just yet though.

One of his good friends received a scholarship to attend a College in the USA and play Football and urged Kimura to do the same.

He did.

Kimura in action for Colorado Rapids reserves
Kimura, who spoke almost no English, began writing to various Universities across America with what little English he had. Whilst he received some responses, none offered scholarships. A few did offer tryouts, including Western Illinois University.

Kimura spoke to the coach who advised him that he could come, only if he agreed to take an ESL (English as a Second Language) class. Two weeks later Kimura was on a plane bound for Illinois.

He attended the Football team tryouts with a Kuwaiti he met in his ESL class, immediately impressing the coach who told them, “you guys have to come, you guys have to help us.”

And that they did.

Western Illinois University would win three of the next four conference championships and made the prestigious NCAA tournament. Kimura was also named in the All-Conference team in three of his four years.

His coach described him as an “inspiration” to his teammates.

Despite this, it was still regarded as a shock when Colorado selected Kimura at pick 35 in the 2007 MLS Supplemental Draft.

By virtue of that fact he became the first Japanese player to play in the MLS. Kimura felt a responsibility to represent his nation and do it well.

“I felt pressure because as the first Japanese guy, I have to be the good example to the next Japanese player to come into MLS in the future,” he told Asian Football Feast.

“I felt that responsibility and I think I’ve been doing well.”

Only one thing was on his mind when he was selected, and that was winning.

“When I joined the Rapids, the first thing you think about is winning a championship,” he said.

Championships would have to wait though; his first job was breaking his way into the first team. In his first year he made his debut against Real Salt Lake and was a member of the Rapids’ reserve division championship winning team.
Kimura in action for the Rapids in 2009

That placed him on a solid grounding and 2008 was a breakout year for the defender, playing 18 games and starting 17 of them, helping the Rapids become one of the best defences in the league.

Kimura has only grown since, playing more games in 2009 (26 games, 21 starts) and scoring his first MLS goal against Real Salt Lake, ironically the team he made his debut against.

By the time 2010 rolled around, Kimura had cemented himself in the side. Whilst stress fractures returned, this time in his left ankle, forcing him to miss six games, he managed 23 games and 21 starts, helping Colorado make the playoffs where he would play a pivotal role.

He would start all four post-season games, but his biggest impact came in the Eastern Conference Final against San Jose. Receiving the ball on the right hand side from a throw in, Kimura whipped in a dangerous cross that found its way into the back of the net.

Despite initially looking like Omar Cummings had got the final touch on it, the goal was awarded to Kimura. Never has he scored such an important goal.

It would prove to be the game winner, enough to see Colorado advance to the MLS Cup against FC Dallas.

Finally the moment Kimura had been dreaming of had arrived, a chance to win the Championship.

Kimura with the
2010 MLS Cup

Kimura started on the field and was a part of the team that came from 0-1 down at half time to win 2-1 after extra time to clinch their first MLS Championship.

Kimura was over the moon.

“It took me four years but still I got there and it was a little different than anything else,” he recalled.

“I’ve won many other championships, but this was not just a championship. It was a national championship. And when we won that it was great and it was great to be a part of it.”

2010 also saw Kimura rewarded for his tireless work off the pitch, named Colorado Rapids Humanitarian of the Year for his work in the community. Kimura visited sick children in hospital, attended schools, conducted junior clinics and despite his limited English would read books to children, stressing the importance of a good education.

Kimura would even volunteer to help out at clinics and visits when he wasn’t scheduled to do so, so great is his desire to help in the community.

“It is important to help kids, and to be a good role model,” he says.

“Showing them to work hard, to stay on the right path, and just guide them to it. And who knows, maybe some will take my advice, example, or guidance. But either way, it feels good to be able to try to help.”

Despite all his success in one of the world’s fastest growing leagues, there is still one thing missing from Kimura’s CV, and that is a national team call up. It is still something Kimura desires.

The Copa America presented a fantastic opportunity for players on the fringe, like Kimura, to get selected and show their potential.

With a host of regular national team players unavailable, Kimura was very much in the frame.

Kimura during a hospital visit in 2010
“I heard they put me on the list, so if they call me up I’ll go,” he said.

“The tournament will start at the end of July so from now until then they told me they’d come watch my games some time. So I have to keep playing well and see what happens.”

Unfortunately for Kimura that dream is now dashed, with Japan officially withdrawing from the Copa America over the last few days.

That won’t deter Kimura though; he will keep forging a career in America and keep working hard until that call-up arrives.

It’s the only way he knows.


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Worawi rejects bribery claims

Makudi and Lord Triesman
By Kitinan Sanguansak

Embattled Worawi Makudi believes the accusation against him made by former English FA chairman Lord Triesman that he sought bribes for his vote in the World Cup bidding process was just a political ploy before FIFA’s presidential election next month.

Triesman, the former chairman of England’s 2018 World Cup bid team, accused Worawi and the other three FIFA  executive committee members, Ricardo Teixeira, Jack Warner and Nicolas Leoz, of asking for favours in return for their support during the parliamentary inquiry into why the bid failed.

Worawi, the caretaker president of the Football Association of Thailand, was alleged to have requested for TV rights for the country’s friendly with England in Bangkok, which originally was scheduled to take place next month before the English FA cancelled the fixture later.

Triesman’s accusation could hardly come at worse time for Worawi, who last week made a controversial decision to call off the scheduled election for the FAT’s new president.

Worawi, who is currently in Qatar to meet with Mohamed Bin Hammam, the president of the Asian Football Confederation, gave a telephone interview with Reuters, saying Triesman’s claim was untrue.

“I have never discussed with Lord Triesman the issue of TV rightsl If the match takes place, FIFA regulations will apply.”

Worawi maintained his stance on the issue when speaking with Thai media, saying he had nothing to do with the TV rights of the game.

“The rules stated clearly that there needed to be a company to take care of the business about TV rights. If not, there was still FIFA regulations to follow. Any individual has no right to acquire the TV right. I never asked him to get the TV rights.”

Worawi went on to question the timing of Triesman’s revelations which came only few weeks before the election for the head of the world football’s governing body.

“There will be a FIFA election on June 1. We’ve seen in the past that stories like these often came out during this period. I support my Asian fellow, Bin Hamman, to succeed Sepp Blatter this time. I don’t know whether this has something to do with what went on at the moment.”

Worawi also dismissed suggestions that the England fixture was part of the deal he had with the English FA in return for his support.

“If I got anything from the visit of the England team, I should do everything I could to ensure the game would go ahead as schuduled. But, I didn’t do anything after the cancellation of the game,” said Worawi, who further revealed he was preparing to take legal proceedings against Triesman.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

McKinna on a mission in China

McKinna on the sidelines in one of his
first games in charge of Chengdu
When Kevin McCabe joined the Central Coast Mariners board in 2009, little did Lawrie McKinna know that it would eventually lead to him coaching in China.

At the time McKinna was head coach of A-League side Central Coast Mariners, and had been since the inception of the A-League in 2005, and McCabe owned Sheffield United in the UK and had stakes in Chengdu Blades in China Ferencvaros in Hungary.

Despite moving upstairs at the end of the 2009/10 A-League season to take on the position of Football Operations Manager, McKinna still maintained a burning desire to coach.

“There was no specific time that I thought I wanted to get back into coaching as my role at the Mariners was working well…(but)… you could say there was always a thought about getting back into coaching if the right opportunity came along,” explained McKinna.

That opportunity came along in the form of Chengdu Blades in the Chinese Super League.

McKinna explained to Asian Football Feast how that came about.

“I keep in touch with Sheffield through Scott McCabe, the son of the owner (Kevin McCabe), and I have said many times if anything came up in China I would be interested,” he said.

“I got a call from him around the beginning of March to say Sheffield had let go of 80% of their ownership of Chengdu and the new owners might want a Western Coach and would I be interested.

“I said yes.

“On the Tuesday (15th March) I got a call to say the Chengdu coach had left and they would be getting in touch with me through Kevin McCabe’s business associate in Hong Kong, Peter Ko, who looked after Chengdu when Sheffield owned them.

“We spoke about terms briefly, but had not agreed anything, and over the next day got it sorted and I was on the plane on the Friday 18th of March and that’s how quick it was.”

McKinna was literally thrown in the deep end.

When the previous coach left the position he took his entire coaching staff with him and there were issues within the club that needed to be sorted.

All of this just two weeks before the club’s first game of the CSL season.

“Our preparation was terrible,” McKinna remarked.

“(I had) basically had 2 weeks to get the team together…our first pre season game was our first league game in Shandong , that’s how bad thing were.”
Lawrie enjoying a lighter moment
at training with his coachew
Despite that, Chengdu has made a respectable start to the CSL season, with three draws and a win from six games, far more than most experts were predicting at the start of the season.

The club’s aim for the year is simple – don’t get relegated, with the players and staff set to be rewarded with big bonuses if they can achieve that feat.

Despite being the new kid on the block, Chinese football isn’t new to McKinna as he explains.

“I have been coming to China since my days at Parramatta Power as an assistant and have always enjoyed the different culture,” he said.

“I had always fancied China for some reason.”

Not only that, but he had some experience, albeit brief, with Chengdu two years ago during Central Coast’s AFC Champions League campaign.

“I had been to Chengdu two years ago when we (Central Coast) were in the ACL and we played Tianjin.

“I came to visit the club then,” he said.

So how does McKinna rate the Chinese game, which is often regarded as the ugly cousin of the three major East Asian leagues?

“The standard is good, although I think the refs are a bit soft and the Chinese players go down too easy as we have seen in the ACL over the last few years,” a forthright McKinna said.

It is a criticism often levelled at the Chinese game and one that will need addressing in order for the CSL to gain more credibility.

Lawrie on one of his first days on the job in Chengdu

The job does have a downside though, and that is being so far away from his family who remain back in Australia.

“When you are working all day you could be anywhere in the world and you would not know the difference, but not having my wife and boys and grandkids about at the moment makes it pretty lonely,” he lamented.

The family, you suspect, also includes the Mariners and their fans, with McKinna taking the opportunity to pass on a message to those in Gosford.

“I also wanted to thank the CCM fans for all there support over the 6 years, we had a great time and built the club from nothing so when I get home I would like the opportunity to thank everyone as because it all happened so quickly I never got the chance to say goodbye,” he said.

Just when he returns home though remains to be seen. If he can bring stability and a level of success to Chengdu then McKinna might be calling China home for a few more years yet.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sendai story one of hope

Vegalta Sendai celebrate their 1-0 win over Avispa Fukuoka
It wasn’t too long ago that people were questioning how Vegalta Sendai would compete in the J. League after their city and surrounding area was decimated by the Japan earthquake and tsunami.

Their star off-season signing, Marquinhos from Kashima Antlers, quit the club citing emotional distress in the aftermath and their home ground, Yurtec Stadium, was badly damaged with fears they might not be able to play at home until the middle of the year.

It is, therefore, a stunning achievement that since the return of the J. League at the end of April, Sendai remains undefeated, coming within a whisker of making it four wins from four starts on the weekend when they conceded a late equaliser away to Cerezo Osaka.

Included in that is wins over Kawasaki Frontale and Urawa Reds, leaving them sitting in third place on the table.

Not only that, but they are back playing at Yurtec Stadium, which symbolically is just as important as any win on the park. Sendai is beginning to return to some form of normality.

The motivation for Vegalta Sendai is simple – to give hope to the people of Sendai.

“We want to give the region something to be proud of. We’ll do everything we can to keep winning and inspire the people of Sendai,” said Sendai coach Makoto Teguramori.

They are certainly doing that.

The looks of overwhelming joy of the faces of the Sendai fans when they came from behind to snatch a win at Kawasaki, the first game since the tsunami, was a picture to behold. Fans openly wept as they anxiously waited for the final whistle.

It meant more than just three points.

And that is the spirit that Sendai will be playing with all year. Regardless of what they go on to achieve this year they have delivered one of the good news stories for Football this year.

A team and city decimated by tragedy, triumphantly returning to the park and going on a magical winning streak. Hollywood couldn’t write a better script.

The question now - can there be a Hollywood ending?


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Worawi's control hangs in the balance

AsiaWorawi Makudi
Asian Football Feast's Thai correspondent, Kitinan Sanguansak, gives us his opinion of the FAT election fiasco.

By now, there should have been a new president of the Football Association of Thailand. As things stand, though, the power vacuum still remains after caretaker president Worawi Makudi decided to turn the board over with a controversial decision to postpone Friday’s scheduled election.

It had been expected that a dramatic day appeared in store at the FAT general meeting after the presidential election did not become just the mere formality when there was at least one candidate to challenge the incumbent for the first time in many years.

Nevertheless, Worawi’s announcement of the postponement, which came just before the start of the meeting, was something beyond what even the pundits could envisage. However, it was not quite difficult to find out the cause that led to such controversial decision. Worawi’s grim face on his way out of the meeting room told its own story.

The rumours about “the man lurking in the shadow” would join in the race were true and his mystery was resolved on the day after Virat Chanpanich, the FAT board member, was identified as the person in question.

If there were only Worawi and Pichate Munkong, the former president of Thai Port FC club, for members to vote, it appeared certain that the former would be re-elected for his third consecutive two-year term in the post he has held since 2007.

That would be the case because Pichate was already struggling to find a member who would nominate his name in the voting, not mention to gather the support, despite his attention-capturing policy which included relieving former England and Manchester United captain Bryan Robson of the role of the national team coach.

The emergence of the “third” man, though, changed the whole course of the event. After a private survey by his camp on the support indicated that Virat, who previously had a few stints as the national team manager, held the lead over him, Worawi eventually decided to call off the election in what could only be seen as a desperate attempt to at least buying more time.

Worawi used the problem about the duplication of the members’ authorisation letters as the excuse for not seeking the postponement resolution from the meeting as suggested by the official from the Sports Authority of Thailand, who was present to oversee the election. However, a report that the decision was made by a few executive members not the entire board reflected how desperate Worawi was in clinging on to his post.

Given all the events that unfolded in the meeting, it seemed that there was a glimmer of hope for anyone who wanted to see a change in the Thai FA management after the Thai team’s performances hardly made for pleasant reading during Worawi’s reign. The bitter memory two years ago of the Thai’s bidding to win the SEA Games title for ninth consecutive time only to be dumped out in the group stage for the first time in 36 years still rankled fans.

Worawi, whose creditability suffered a heavy blow last week following the country’s disqualification from the Olympic qualifiers for fielding an ineligible player against Palestine in the preliminary round, may be able to secure his stay of execution for the time being.

However, the manner he wielded his power to force the postponement perhaps would have made it easier for members to decide for whom they would cast their vote next time.


Chaos in Thailand as FAT elections postponed

Worawi Makudi shakes the hand of challenger
Pichate Munkong at Friday's FAT general meeting
Kitinan Sanguansak brings us the latest from Thailand surrounding the chaotic scenes from the FAT's general meeting.

The Football Association of Thailand’s presidential election was shrouded in controversy when the executive board suddenly postponed the scheduled vote by members.

The controversy began when Itthipol Burananin, a representative of Taphan Hin club claimed he had a letter of authorisation from the club’s president to register for the FAT general meeting. The authorisation was then brought into question by a separate individual who claimed to be the president of the club in question.

Itthipol was eventually escorted out of the meeting room by officials, who then began checking for other authorisation letters, only to discover that the credentials of several of those present failed to meet “proper standards”.

As the general meeting was about to start, FA caretaker president Worawi Makudi announced its postponement, much to the dismay of the gathering club representatives. Worawi called an emergency board meeting for late Friday.

Sports Authority of Thailand (SAT) deputy governor Somkit Pinthong, who sat in on the meeting to oversee the election, was critical of the decision to postpone the voting.

“The decision meant the FAT showed no respect to my office and its own member clubs. The board discussed with me before the meeting whether they could postpone the election. I advised that they could, but that it had to be a resolution taken by the whole general meeting – the board couldn’t make the decision by themselves,” Pinthong said.

“We will now study the relevant laws over what action we can take. We will also invite the association to offer an explanation for its action. The question of whether we will intervene and take charge of the election can only be answered once we have consulted the statutes.”

Virat Chanpanich, the FAT executive board member who was identified as “the man lurking in the shadows” in rumours about a third candidate set to join in the race, expressed his dismay at the postponement.

“The decision came out of nowhere, leaving the SAT perplexed. As a board member, I feel ashamed at what happened. I want to offer an apology to all member clubs,” he said.

“What [the executive board] did was akin to an insult to members, many of whom had made long trips from upcountry to attend the meeting.

“I don’t know what the future holds for Thai football now. The disqualification from the Olympic qualifiers was already bad enough.

I’m ready [ready to stand for president] if anyone nominates me for the post. Today I felt like an athlete who turned up at the venue but had no chance to compete,”

Worawi then staged an impromptu press conference to announce that the election was postponed due to duplication of [original copies of] authorisation letters.

“We needed to postpone the election. Even though we discussed the duplication of the letters with the SAT, they could not give us clear answers, and we were unable to judge which letters were authentic,” Worawi explained.

“We will coordinate with SAT over a new date for the general meeting. The rules state that it has to be held within 60 days.

“On the question of why we did not seek a postponement resolution from the meeting, it was because there was a problem with the legitimacy of the participants, so we couldn’t do that.”

However, a source close to the FAT board said that fear of losing his post was Worawi’s real reason for postponing the meeting, after early indications suggested that the caretaker president was due to lose the vote to Virat.


Friday, May 6, 2011

Late drama in the FAT elections

Our Thai correspondent, Kitinan Sanguansak, brings us the latest breaking news on the FAT elections including talk of a third candidate.

The Football Association of Thailand’s presidential election looks set for a touch of late drama, with rumours swirling around that a third candidate for the post will be unveiled just hours before Friday’s voting.
With the national team currently in a slump following a series of poor results in international tournaments, some of which they once dominated, the outcome of the voting is deemed crucial in defining the future of Thai football.
The election for the head of FAT already has captured the attention, as it was the first time in many years that there was a challenger to the incumbent after Pichate Munkong, the former president of Thai Port FC club, last week confirmed his candidacy to challenge the beleaguered Worawi Makudi, whose reign fell far short of what people expected.
Worawi’s credibility suffered further damage when Thailand this week was disqualified from the 2012 Olympic qualifiers for fielding an ineligible player in the preliminary round against Palestine. It remains to be seen whether the fall-out from the team’s disqualification could have impact on Worawi’s support.
Insiders, though, believed Worawi would comfortably win the vote to stay in the post he has held since 2007. Even though the public warmed to Pichate’s bid he was struggling to win support from the member clubs.
However, a report that Wowari’s camp spent the day on the eve of the election lobbying for the support demonstrated that the voting was far from a foregone conclusion. They were also wary of the growing “anti-Worawi” antipathy among clubs, which might cause a late switch in the support.
Another factor that has a major role to play today was the Chonburi group, which has around 30 votes. It is believed whoever the group voted for would clinch victory.
The rumours about “a man lurking in the shadow” that Pichate mentioned last week while announcing his policy have also intensified.
Although the identity of the person in question remains unknown, it now seems certain the “third” man would join in the race, with some saying his nomination would surely make an impact.
Things seem set for a dramatic day at the FAT general meeting. 

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Worawi clinging to power in Thailand

Worawi Makudi
In his first article for Asian Football Feast, Kitinan Sanguansak takes a look at the upcoming Football Association of Thailand presidential elections.

The post of the Football Association of Thailand (FAT) president may not be as big and powerful as FIFA’s, but the race for the job is just as tense.
Rarely has the FAT’s presidential election held as much significance as this time, as  the outcome of the voting on Friday will go a long way to defining the future of Thai football.
Any optimism people had on the day when Worawi Makudi, who also held such prestigious role as the FIFA executive board member, was appointed as the FAT chief in 2007 proved misplaced. Rather than ushering Thai football into the bright future as many had hoped, Worawi’s reign was ironically even worse than Vijit Ketkaew’s, which was widely derided as the dark age.
Vijit faced criticism that the sport came to a standstill during his time in office, although there was no shortage of success at regional level for the country. That was a marked difference between Worawi and his predecessor, as Thailand now could not consider themselves as the leading nation in the region anymore.
The chastening experience in the Laos-hosted SEA Games two years ago where the Thai side, bidding to win the title for ninth consecutive time, tumbled out of the group stage for the first time in 36 years represented the team’s most glaring failure during Worawi’s reign.
Thailand’s poor run of results fueled the fans’ dissatisfaction with Worawi’s work to such a level that even the unpopular Vijit never faced during his years. The abject nature of the country’s first-round elimination in the ASEAN Championship, co-hosted by Indonesia and Malaysia in December, where they went out without a single win, was a final straw for fans.
In the aftermath of the debacle in Malaysia, fans used the social networking websites to organise a campaign demanding the resignation of Worawi and they staged two public protests at the FAT headquarter and Channel 3 television station. During the heat of the event, Worawi had a TV interview about his stance on the pressure from the public, saying he did not do anything wrong to leave the post.
Worawi made his intentions clear that he wanted to cling on to the job but the prospect of another term in office looked under the threat when rumour had it that Vijit would run for the post.
That was why Worawi, who served as the FAT general secretary during Vijit’s regime, tried to amend the FAT Statues, attempting to make it go in line with FIFA’s requirements. However, it was construed that he only attempted to reduce the number of members who have the right to vote, due to Vijit's reportedly sizeable support.
However, it was revealed later that the two were working on the same side as Worawi agreed on a secret deal that if he won the election he would allow Vijit to take care of internal business while he deals with international affairs.
Everything seemed to fall in to place for Worawi until Pichate Munkong, the former president of Thai Port FC club, last week confirmed his candidacy for the FAT post.
He outlined his policy which included disposing former England and Manchester United captain Bryan Robson of the role as the national team coach. He also pledged no one needed to call for his head since he would step down immediately in the event Thailand failed to reclaim the SEA Games title in November in Indonesia.
Many of Pichate’s policies reflected a good vision for Thai football,  such as putting more emphasis on the development of national youth team.
So, it came as no surprise to find that he had the support of a good majority of the public and fans. Unfortunately, fans have no right to vote even though they are one of the key stakeholders on the matters.

Kitinan Sanguansak - our new Thai correspondent

Kitinan at the home of Football - Wembley
Asian Football Feast is delighted to welcome Kitinan Sanguansak to the Asian Football Feast family, coming on board as our Thai correspondent.

Kitinan is a sports journalist in Thailand, mainly covering Football and the Thai National Team.

His love of Football developed in his childhood when he had the chance to watch top-flight English Football in the late 80's, when Liverpool were still the dominant force. As a result, he is a Liverpool fan.

Kitinan will write a few articles each month for Asian Football Feast looking at Thai Football and the issues facing the game in the South East Asian country.

For those who want to learn more about Thai Football you can follow Kitinan on twitter - @Kitz13_nt