ประเทศไทย / Thailand
- Capital: Bangkok
- Official Languages: Thai
- Spoken Languages: Isan, Kam Mueang, Pak Tai, Malay
- Nicknames: ช้างศึก / Changsuek (War Elephants) [men’s team]; ชบาแก้ว / Chaba Kaew [women’s team]
- Association: Football Association of Thailand (FAT) / สมาคมกีฬาฟุตบอลแห่งประเทศไทย ในพระบรมราชูปถัมภ์
- FIFA Code: THA
- Best World Cup Result (Men): Not Qualified
- Best World Cup Result (Women): Group Stage (2015, 2019)
- Best Asian Cup Result (Men): Third Place (1972)
- Best Asian Cup Result (Women): WINNERS (1983)
- Best AFF Cup Result (Men): WINNERS (1996, 2000, 2002, 2014, 2016)
- Best AFF Cup Result: (Women): WINNERS (2011, 2015, 2016, 2018)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Men): 43rd (September 1998)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Women): 28th (July 2011, June 2018)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Men): 165th (October 2014)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Women): 42nd (September 2006)
- Most Capped Player: Waraporn Boonsing – 142 caps
- Top Scorer: Pitsamai Sornsai – 75 goals
The Kingdom of Thailand (ราชอาณาจักรไทย / Ratcha-anachak Thai), formally known as Siam, is a country situated in Southeastern Asia. Located at the centre of the Indochinese Peninsula, the country shares a number of land borders whilst having the Gulf of Thailand on its southern coast, and the Andaman Sea (part of the Indian Ocean) on its southwestern coast. Laos is situated to Thailand’s northeast, Cambodia to its east, Myanmar to its west, and Malaysia on its southern border on the Malay peninsula. Thailand has a long and interesting history, with the Kingdom being formed as early as 1238, and its current constitutional monarchy being established in 1932. The Football Association of Thailand (FAT) was established as early as 1916, with the country joining FIFA in 1925, and the AFC in 1954. Despite having joined FIFA in the mid-1920s, it wouldn’t be until 1948 when the country had its first recognised international – a 6-1 defeat to the Republic of China (now Taiwan).
Thailand are considered the most successful team in Southeast Asia, having won the AFF Championship a record five times, last winning the tournament in 2016 when they beat Indonesia 3-2 on aggregate. They first qualified for the Asian Cup in 1972 when they hosted the tournament, and despite not winning a game throughout the campaign, they still managed to claim third place after a 5-3 on penalties after drawing 2-2 with the Khmer Republic (Cambodia). The Changsuek qualified for five consecutive Asian Cups throughout the 1990s and 2000s, although it wouldn’t be until the 2007 tournament (which they co-hosted alongside other ASEAN countries) that they would achieve their first victory in the continental competition – achieving a 2-0 win over Oman in Bangkok.
Although they failed to qualify for the 2011 and 2015 editions, they requalified for the 2019 tournament, which would become their best performance since their debut appearance in 1972. Despite losing their opening fixture 4-1 to India, a 1-0 win over Bahrain, and a 1-1 draw with hosts UAE, ensured they progressed to the knockout stages for the first time since 1972 by finishing as the group runners-up. Sadly their campaign ended at the first hurdle of the knockouts, losing 2-1 to China PR despite taking a 1-0 lead at half-time. They have yet to automatically qualify for the 2023 Asian Cup tournament, with Thailand having to progress to the third round of qualification having finished fourth in their World Cup/Asian Cup qualification group.
As mentioned above, with Thailand finishing fourth in their qualifying group, they will not qualify for the upcoming 2022 World Cup, and are yet to make their debut in the world’s largest football tournament. However, the women’s team are more successful in that regard with the women’s team qualifying for both the 2015 and 2019 Women’s World Cup. The Chaba Kaew were drawn in a tough group alongside Germany, Norway, and Côte d’Ivoire in 2015, and despite suffering 4-0 losses to the two former World Cup winners, they achieved their first ever World Cup victory when they defeated their Ivorian opponents 3-2 in Ottawa, to finish third in the group. Sadly, their second appearance at the World Cup didn’t go brilliantly as they suffered a pummelling against defending champions USA, losing 13-0 in Reims (a World Cup record defeat in both men’s and women’s football), before losing 5-1 against Sweden, and ended their campaign with a 2-0 defeat to Chile, to conclude their World Cup with zero points, one goal, and twenty conceded.
- FIFA’s Highlights of Thailand vs. Côte d’Ivoire in 2015: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQhAb0pqeo4
Nonetheless, football in the country is still massively popular, with their domestic league, the Thai League 1 (formally the Thai Premier League), considered to be one of the strongest leagues within Asian club football (ranked eighth in the AFC rankings) and their clubs regular qualifiers for the AFC Champions League. There are hopes that both of Thailand’s national teams can qualify for their respective upcoming Asian Cups, and continue to ensure that Thai football can progress further to ensure their position as the dominant power of ASEAN football, and becoming one of the strongest teams in East Asian football.
To talk about the most successful team in the ASEAN football sphere who have played in seven editions of the AFC Asian Cup, we interviewed the excellent Dale from the Twitter account Chonburi_FC. It is an account which focuses upon the Thai side Chonburi FC, as well as reporting on news involving Thai football in general. In addition, Dale further writes more lengthier articles about Thai football in their superb blog It’s A Habit That Sticks. To find their social media accounts and blogsite, follow the links below:
Q. Who would you say is Thailand’s best player and coach/manager of all-time, and the reasonings behind the choices?
For the best player, I’d go back to my early days of watching the Thailand national team and pick Therdsak Chaiman [attacking midfielder who played 75 times for Thailand between 1994 and 2010, scoring 22 goals]. The man was absolute class and often head and shoulders above anyone else on the field. He had such great vision and looked so comfortable on the ball. The fact he was still playing in the Thai Premier League well into his 40s – and was still performing at a high level – speaks volumes. Possibly the greatest Thai footballer there has ever been.
As for the manager, again I’d go back 20+ years and pick Peter Withe. Thai football – and the national team in particular – were in a mess when he was appointed. And he turned it round. He had a talented group of players and he got them playing to their strengths. They were a joy to watch and are still the most successful Thailand team of all time.
Q. Who could be regarded as a ‘cult hero’ in terms of the national team both in the past and present?
“Cult hero” implies that only a minority are really appreciative, but Kiatisuk Senamuang (“Zico”) [striker who scored 71 goals in 134 appearances for the country between 1993 and 2007, making him Thailand’s record caps holder and goal scorer for the men’s team] is probably the closest we’ve got and he is (almost) universally loved. He was a great player – 2nd only to Therdsak – and had a successful spell as head coach. Following Akira Nishino’s dismissal, there are mounting calls for him to be reappointed to the top job. That tells you all you need to know.
Q. Of the current team, who would you say is the best player in the Thai national side currently?
Chanathip Songkrasin [27-year-old attacking midfielder currently playing for J.League side Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo] is the name that springs immediately to mind. He’s an extremely talented player, brave, skillful and not afraid to take risks. Many top Thai players are happy to be big fish in the small pond of the TPL, but his decision to move to Japan – and become a huge success – deserves a lot of praise and admiration. He showed great promise in his early years, but has come on leaps and bounds during the four years he has been playing overseas and I feel the best is yet to come. He’s a lovely lad too.
Q. How would you describe the current state/performance of the national team?
Very disappointing. In recent years, the national team have promised so much, but haven’t really delivered. The head coach Akira Nishino and the FAT parted company earlier this week, which indicates where we’re at right now. However, the lack of any real success on the field can’t all be blamed on the coach or the players. The problems go much deeper than that. However, I don’t expect things to improve in that respect for a long time…
Q. Are there any Thai players who you think we should be focusing on for the future – who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent from the country?
I’m going to be totally biased here and pick two players from my club; Sittichok Paso (22) and Channarong Promsrikeaw (20). Both are attacking midfielders who have represented Thailand at youth level and cemented their first team places at Chonburi, becoming firm fan favourites in the process. They will each spend the upcoming season out on loan – Sittichok at FC Ryukyu in Japan, and Channarong with Union Adarve in Spain. Hopefully, the experience, and the coaching methods they’ll encounter, will further help their development. As I mentioned with Channathip, the fact they are willing to go abroad to play shows a willingness to improve. Good luck to them both.
Q. Looking at Thailand’s international history, what would you say has been the best game, result or performance for the national team in your opinion?
The 1998 Asian Games quarter finals win against South Korea will always stand out for me!
Even though we had home home advatage, the Koreans were hot favourites to win. However, there was definitely a feeling of optimism at a packed (over packed!) Rajamangala that night. We didn’t make things easy for ourselves – having two players sent off – but the desire and determination of the team shone through to record a historic 2-1 win. The victory was even more remarkable when you consider the state the national team had been in only a short time before. All credit to Peter Withe, his staff, and the squad for finally giving us something to cheer. It was such a privilege to be there.
Q. Likewise, is there a performance or result which is regarded as the team’s lowest point?
Without a doubt it has to be the farcical Tiger Cup match against Indonesia in 1998. One of the most disgraceful spectacles I’ve ever seen.
Both teams were trying to lose the match in order to avoid host nation, Vietnam in the next round. Thailand actually “won” 3-2, but it really doesn’t get any lower than this. The fallout was quite spectacular too. However, it did eventually lead to the appointment of Peter Withe and ushered in the greatest period of success for the national team. So, every cloud… But it is something that will always bring shame on Thai football.
Q. What are the best and worst things about being a fan of the Thai national team?
The best thing about being a fan is the other fans. There is usually a great atmosphere at Thailand matches and the supporters are determined to enjoy themselves, come what may. I’ve had some great times at international games over the years and can recall the occasion – if not always the result!
The worst thing – in recent years – has been the racist ticketing policy adopted by the FAT and Thai Ticket Major. In 2016 they decided that only Thai nationals could purchase online tickets for the home sections. Unsurprisingly, there was quite an outcry from foreigners who follow the national team, but the powers that be stuck by their decision. It would have been easy for me to obtain tickets through my wife, but I refused. If my money isn’t good enough, then you can stick it. I believe they’ve relaxed the rule recently, but for me a lot of the damage has been done and it has soured my relationship somewhat. Such a shame.
Q. Have the fans adopted some kind of unofficial anthem to sing along to before/during/after matches?
Not really. At most Thailand matches we get the usual chants and songs that are mainly lifted from European fan groups, with some local ones thrown in for good measure. Thai fans tend not to sing something as a reaction to what has happened on the field – as has been my experience watching matches in the UK – but keep up a barrage of noise throughout the game, regardless of what is going on in front of them – or behind them, in the case of the cheer squad leaders who spend the entire 90 minutes with their backs to the pitch!
Q. Do you have a favourite or iconic shirt from the whole time of the national team?
It could be my imagination, but the FAT seem to release Thailand national team kits every few months! They have had some classics over the years – the retro red and white striped one from a few seasons back is gorgeous – but also some real horrors. However, my own personal favourite is the Grand Sport “map” shirt from 1997. It was the first Thailand shirt I ever bought – from a cardboard box on a trestle table – at my first match, a World Cup qualifier versus South Korea, in March of that year. It holds a special place in my heart – obviously! – and comes from a time before replica shirts and football merchandise in general, were popular in the kingdom.
Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of the Thai national team?
We now have the perfect opportunity for the Thai FA to make a statement and move things forward. So much will depend on who they appoint as Nishino’s successor and whether or not they leave him alone to get on with the job. With the right man in place, the current crop of players – plus the youngsters coming through – could actually go on to accomplish something. Who knows, they might even surpass Peter Withe’s achievements. For the sake of the wonderful Thai fans, let’s hope so.
A massive thank you very much to Dale from the Twitter account Chonburi_FC and the blogsite It’s A Habit That Sticks for answering our questions on the Changsuek. Remember you can find their excellent social media accounts and blogsite in the links at the top of the blogpage.
If you have any comments, suggestions, reactions, or even your own answers to the above questions, please write them in the comments box below. Likewise, you can either email us at email@example.com or send a message at @The94thMin on Twitter.