Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Provisional Electricity Authority look to ACL

Nick McCormack

Thai champions Provincial Electricity Authority (PEA) have a difficult road to this year’s AFC Champions League (ACL) but even if they fail to make the grade the Electric Men have found the spark that can only take the club forward. “Thai clubs have to ensure the professionalism of the players and of course they need the financial support that will enable everyone to become more professional,” PEA head coach Prapol Pongpanich told

Thai sides have struggled at the continental level ever since Bangkok-based BEC Tero Sasana rocked the Asian football scene by reaching the final of the inaugural ACL at the expense of some Asian club football heavyweights. And the reason the Kingdom’s clubs have continually disappointed in the ACL in the years that followed the Fire Dragons’ runner-up finish to Al Ain in 2003 is straightforward according to Prapol.

“It’s partly because the lack of practice but primarily because the players are not truly professional,” suggested the 2008 Thailand Premier League coach of the year. Inspired by the first-ever ACL MVP Therdsak Chaiman, BEC Tero entertained and impressed in their run to the 2003 ACL final as football fans in the ASEAN nation saw the team come close to becoming only the second Thai side since Thai Farmers Bank won the second of their back-to-back Asian Club Championship titles in 1995 to win top AFC honours.

But the lack of professionalism that Prapol mentioned has since cost Thai clubs on the international stage. Chonburi had their moments last year – including a 1-1 draw in Japan with eventual champions Gamba Osaka – while the nine goals from Krung Thai Bank’s Nantawat Thansopa saw the 24-year-old striker emerge as the 2008 ACL’s top scorer.

But the reality remains that Thai clubs have struggled to keep pace in Asia’s premier club competition. In the tournaments that followed 2003, teams from Thailand won just nine out of 42 matches, while an administrative bungle resulted in PEA and then league champions Thailand Tobacco Monopoly being disqualified from the 2006 ACL.

Things won’t change overnight for Thai football but by embracing the ethos of professionalism that the AFC firmly believes will develop Asian club football the situation for Thailand can certainly improve.

Qualification to this year’s ACL provides an additional impetus towards professionalism for PEA but Prapol’s side face two tough one-leg play-offs in order to book their ticket to Group G, where two-time Asian Club Championship winners Suwon Samsung Bluewings, Kashima Antlers, and 2006 ACL quarter-finalists Shanghai Shenhua await.

They must overcome AFC Cup 2008 quarter-finalists Singapore Armed Forces and then, if successful against the seven-time S.League champions, PEA will enter the unknown with a match against Indonesia’s PSMS Medan.

“Playing Singapore Armed Forces is very good because it can be an indicator of each national league’s performance but at the moment I don’t have any information at all on the team from Indonesia,” said Prapol, whose team will have home advantage against the Warriors when they meet on February 18.

“We are well prepared to practice over coming weeks and we will play at least four warm-up matches with Thai teams,” Prapol continued “We have added ten more players, including A-list local and international players.”

While a place in the revamped ACL is by no means guaranteed there is still a palpable buzz around Provincial Electricity Authority as Prapol and his charges generate an atmosphere of professionalism at the club. And that can only bode well for the future of Thai football.

COMMENT - perhaps they could make a start by changing their name? Football clubs increasingly are becoming brands and who the hell wants to be associated with some sparkies? Oh and for the latest with PSMS keep watching this space!

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