14 May 2024

2 months ago

Thailand and the legacy of the FIFA Futsal World Cup 2012

Thailand set to host the 74th FIFA Congress on 17 May 2024, the third time the country has staged a major FIFA event It previously hosted the unforgettable FIFA Futsal World Cup 2012

Thailand will open its doors to world football once again by hosting the 74th FIFA Congress in its capital, Bangkok, on 17 May 2024. And it's not by chance that the Southeast Asian country has been chosen to host this prestigious event.

“Thailand have proved themselves excellent hosts as well as willing participants and keen students in pushing the game forward both on and off the pitch,” said Gianni Infantino in September 2023 during a meeting between the FIFA President and the Prime Minister of Thailand, Srettha Thavisin. A few days earlier, the country had hosted a FIFA Technical Leadership Course.

Thailand first revealed its hosting potential in 1999, when it staged a memorable FIFA U-19 Women's World Cup™. Its talent for organising was further evidenced in 2012, when it then hosted an unforgettable FIFA Futsal World Cup™ – a tournament that helped the discipline become a major sport in Thailand. 

“Every time Thailand played a match, the arenas were almost full, whether the games were being played in Bangkok or elsewhere,” Sutthiporn Boonyapuggana, the Spain national team liaison officer from 2012, told FIFA.com/Inside. “The atmosphere was extraordinary. The fans supported their team in every possible way. The matches generated a lot of excitement for the spectators.”

Spurred on by passionate home support, Thailand reached the knockout stage of a FIFA competition for the first time in its history. “I saw how hard they had trained for the tournament,” continues the Thai, who now works in the futsal department of the Football Association of Thailand. “After not qualifying between 2000 and 2008, they gave everything in front of their fans to achieve that performance.”

It is clear that the 2012 World Cup was a landmark moment for Thai futsal. “Throughout my 12-year career, our “Changsuek Toh-Lek” (the nickname given to the Thai futsal team) has participated in the FIFA Futsal World Cup four times in a row. In that time, I have seen this sport develop and become one of the most popular in Thailand,” he told us.

This popularity is reflected in the improvement of facilities and the growth of the national team. “We’re constantly evolving. Thailand believes in futsal. There’s a professional league here and a great number of players, which makes deciding which ones to call up for tournaments very difficult,” explained Spaniard Miguel Rodrigo, coach of the country’s national futsal team.

Rodrigo came out of retirement to temporarily take charge of the team for the second time, having previously coached them between 2016 and 2017. The aim was to qualify for the FIFA Futsal World Cup Uzbekistan 2024, and he kept his promise: 

“They asked me to secure qualification for the World Cup and then try to make history by reaching the quarter-finals for the first time [at Uzbekistan 2024]. It’s a near impossible ask, but I gladly accepted the challenge. As a bonus, I promised I’d take Thailand to the AFC [Futsal Asian Cup] final on home soil, and that came to pass. Promises are meant to be kept.”

Those promises go hand in hand with improvements in Thai futsal. Among these is the FA Thailand Futsal & Match Operation Centre & Office Spaces that was completed in March of 2023 and was financed thanks to the FIFA Forward Programme with an actual investment of USD 2.6 million. This base for the national team was already used as the main training pitch ahead of April’s AFC Futsal Asian Cup.

“It’s a magnificent, perfect facility that allows us to plan our schedule without limitations. We have comfortable dressing rooms, a video room, a meeting room… I thank FIFA and the FA for the investment in futsal to be able to have this great facility,” Rodrigo said.

All of this contributed to Thailand reaching the final of the Asian Futsal Cup on home soil and securing their qualification for the World Cup in September in Uzbekistan. “For us, it’s very important to be able to qualify. Every long-term plan made by a federation involves playing at the World Cup. It brings financial assistance, prestige, visibility and international status to the country, and ensures futsal is given important consideration by the FA,” the coach added.

Having not coached a club or national team since 2019, Miguel Rodrigo gave two reasons for coming out of retirement and accepting the challenge of getting Thailand to this year’s Futsal World Cup. 

“My friendship with the Vice President of the Football Association of Thailand / AFC Futsal and Beach Soccer Committee, Mr. Adisak Benjasiriwan, and the affection I feel for this country,” he revealed. It will also allow him to take part in one last World Cup before retiring for good, which the coach recently confirmed was his intention.

"It would be an honour. We are talking and I don’t envisage a problem. Ending my coaching days with Thailand would mean doing so in a country that I love and where I plan to spend time in the future. I’d leave happy and with many friends,” he said at the time.

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