Monday, December 22, 2014


Cosmopolitan Zico And Lessons For Indonesia

When I first moved to Thailand in the early 1990s the first time I ever sat up and took any notice of the local football was during the Asian Games when they were held in Hiroshima, Japan. An event by the way Indonesia withdrew from after they were drawn in a group alongside China and South Korea.

The Thais were drawn with Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Hong Kong and they failed to win a game but they impressed many at home who dubbed them the Dream Team. I remember watching the odd game in an old fashioned style dining/drinking venue not far from Lumpinee Park and while I could not get my head around the Thai commentator I managed to pick up a few names: Tawan Siripan. Kiatisuk 'Zico' Senamuang. Dusit Chalermsan.

Dusit, a rampaging full back, scored in Thailand's first game, a 2-1 loss against Hong Kong. Unperturbed, he scored twice in their next game, a 4-2 defeat against the Saudis.

The full back decided to let the rest of the team have a go scoring goals in the next game as the Thais hit four against Uzbekistan (Somrit Ornsomchit 2, Suchin Phanpraphast, Thawatchai Damrong-Ongtrakul) but the defence shipped five as they fell to a 5-4 defeat.

Zico finally got on the score sheet in their final game against Malaysia, scoring half way through the first half only for the Malaysians to equalise just minutes later. It was the Thais only point at the tournament. Interestingly in the Malaysian squad at that tournament was a player by the name of Dollah Salleh...he scored twice as his country finished third in the group.

At the time Kiatisuk was playing for that well known glamour club Krung Thai Bank, (I still have my bank book from them; they have some of my satang resting in their vaults!), today better known as Bangkok Glass before joining Raj Pracha and Royal Thai Police.

In 1998 Zico made his first move overseas when he joined Perlis in Malaysia and followed that with stints at Huddersfield Town, SAFFC and Hoang Anh Gia Lai in Vietnam. Indeed, it was Vietnam where the well spoken Thai got his first coaching experience, taking over there back in 2006.

Those spells overseas have obviously left a deep impression on him, saying after Thailand had won the AFF Cup on Saturday that he would recommend any footballer try his luck playing abroad and far from their comfort zone.

There is a delicious irony in Kiatisuk and Dollah going head to head 20 years after the Hiroshima Asian Games. While they were able to reminisce over old times and shared experiences they were also able to look back on action packed, successful careers as players and coaches.

Indonesia of course missed out on the Asian Games and they missed out on the AFF Cup. In fact, they have missed out on much over the last 20 years. And while Zico is testimony to the benefits of players getting out and trying something different, Indonesians playing abroad with any degree of success are as rare as hen's teeth and those who do venture out from their motherland soon find themselves scurrying back to the questionable delights of teh botol, bakso and backbreaking bus rides.

No Indonesian coach would suggest players try their luck overseas. And most players have little interest in it. In their small world they are the raja, the king and that is enough for them. Not for Zico though and as he celebrates Thailand's triumph in the AFF Cup with a young squad perhaps it is time for Indonesia to consider what it really wants from football.

At the moment it appears to be very little and at the moment that apathy is seeing the largest country in ASEAN about to fall behind Laos in the FIFA rankings.

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