Is Thailand's 2010 World Cup target too ambitious?

Following the celebration of its 90th anniversary last week, the Football Association of Thailand also inaugerated its own National Training Centre. According to The Bangkok Post, the combined events lead FAT officials to dream of Thailand participating in the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. "FAT president Vijitr Getkaew said it would not be too difficult for Thailand to make it to the 2010 finals as well as the Olympics if the government funds Thai football properly. Chaiyapak Siriwat, chairman of the National Football Development Committee, also believes that with support it will not be an impossible task to clinch a World Cup berth in 2010," it reported.

However the newspaper is not enthralled by Chaiyapak's idea of bringing together 20-30 players to create a Dream Team II which would play full-time for the national side under the guidance of top coaches. More important for the development of a national squad is a strong local league, it opined.

"We have two football leagues - the Thailand Premier League and the Provincial League (Pro League) - but both are not very strong. It is reported that next season's prize money for the FAT-run Thailand Premier League will increase to 25 million baht from the current 10 million baht. This will make the Thailand Premier League more competitive. But it is inevitably seen as an attempt to knock out the Pro League, which is organised by the Tourism and Sports Ministry," the newspaper commented.

"Chaiyapak is the chairman of the organising committee of the Thailand Premier League, so he should work harder to merge the two leagues before thinking about other ambitious projects. Vijitr and Chaiyapak's calls for support from the government come at the wrong time. The [national government] caretaker administration can only act on urgent matters and a football issue is certainly not an emergency. Their 2010 World Cup target is not likely to be reached. They should set a more realistic aim and come up with long-term development projects instead of trumpeting intangible dreams," it said.