By Kitinan Sanguansak
Worawi Makudi’s first task after retaining his post as FAT president for a third successive term last week was to fill the post left vacant by former Manchester United captain Bryan Robson’s resignation, given that the Thai team are due to embark on their World Cup qualifying campaign next month.
The FAT chief had earlier said that the next Thailand coach could be a local, but after receiving suggestions from the public via firstname.lastname@example.org, Worawi seems to have favoured a foreign trainer.
Rumours had been rife that the 61-year-old Schaefer was favourite to succeed Robson, who ended his illfated two-year tenure earlier this month, citing health problems as the reason for his resignation.
With the World Cup secondround qualifier against either Afghanistan or Palestine looming, the Association came to the conclusion yesterday that the veteran coach, who built his coaching reputation at German outfit Karlsruher, was the right man for the job.
“After talking with several members of the executive board, we all agreed Schaefer ticked every criteria we set for the national post. He has possibly the best pedigree of any foreigner we have ever hired to coach the team.
“Schaefer’s record speaks volumes, following successful spells with small clubs such as Karlsruher as well as his achievement in international coaching with Cameroon by guiding them to the World Cup finals in 2002 and winning the African Nations Cup title that year.
“We’re hoping that he can bring similar success to our team,” said Worawi, who also sits on FIFA’s executive committee.
Worawi added that Schaefer’s immediate task was to steer Thailand into the final stages of the Asian World Cup qualifiers.
“I made it clear to him that we want to at least reach the last 10 teams round in the Cup qualifiers. Should we manage to achieve that, then we can start dreaming of making it to the World Cup for the first time, because anything would be possible by then.
“He’s also known for nurturing many of young German talents such as Oliver Kahn and Mehmet Scholl. Hopefully, he hasn’t lose his touch, and he can help develop our young players,” said Worawi, who declined to reveal the value of the contract.
The two parties were due to sign an agreement at Bangkok’s Golden Tulip Sovereign hotel later tonight (Tuesday).
Meanwhile, Worawi confirmed Thailand’s hopes of overturning their disqualification from the Olympic qualifiers had been dashed after the Court of Arbitration for Sport rejected the appeal.