Chiang Rai Hills FC - A different kind of a football story - part 3

Off the pitch - Report

courtesy Chiang Rai Hills

Finally here is the third and conclusively part of our extensive story about Chiang Rai Hills. In our final part we will learn how the club is self-financing and what the future holds for the boys of the club. You missed the two other parts? No problem. Here is part 1 and here is part 2.

Meanwhile, the joint venture between CRU and CRH has won the support from high ranking police officers, who recognized it as an opportunity to prevent youth crime and to offer perspectives to young people. In this respect, the foundation has achieved more than Stefan Effenberg, who had planned to start a similar project in the Wawi Valley a few years ago.

The former German national player wanted to establish a football academy for more than 200 kids from all over Thailand. The project was budgeted at over 2 million US Dollars and all of a sudden, Effenberg (“Effe”) had many friends in the region. That's why despite intensive preparations, he finally dropped the plan.

But let's get back to our conversation with Gerry... What type of financial support do the players receive from the football club? Does it involve corporate sponsors? And what's the approach regarding the support from the foundation, which is intended to be sustainable?
Khun Gerry: The goal is that the guys do not live from only playing football, but that they have a chance to build their future, including that of their families. That's why the stadium was designed accordingly with these small houses. That's where they can learn how to manage things, promote, and build up and manage their own business. They can operate a restaurant or the merchandising store. In case a player breaks his leg and could never play football again, he still would be able to earn his living.

"If one of the players wants to study at the university, we certainly support him"

The family of one of our boys is growing coffee in the mountains (in the past, opium) and owns a roasting facility. They will open a coffee shop here and sell their own brand of coffee. As long as the guys play football here their families can benefit from it, too.

That's why we are not focused on only playing football. We encourage the players to go to the university to study, for example, sports or management. This in turn could benefit the club. But it is also an opportunity for them to learn how to deal with money. Does the foundation cover the costs for studying?
Khun Gerry: If one of the players wants to study at the university, we certainly support him. We know that in the short term, he would contribute less to the team. However, in the long term, we will have an academy and would benefit from someone who would have studied sports. In regards to the stadium, the team is helping with the construction work...
Khun Gerry: Yes, we always have 30-50 workers on site and the team is helping them. We believe that compared to other teams, it is a big advantage that we have our own stadium and will earn income from it.
An important goal of this project is to give the disadvantaged hill tribes people more self confidence. The players are also responsible for maintaining the stadium. For example, they are taking care of the watering of the turf.

It is important, too, that they consider the stadium as their own property and treat it accordingly. And one more point for them to learn is that you first have expenses, water and electricity for example,  before you can get revenue. That has to be taught to football players as they initially might not understand it. How do you plan to use the stadium in the future; are you planning to participate in the Regional League?
Khun Gerry: First of all, we need to complete the stadium. That's our first priority. Every day which we do not work on the stadium is a lost day for the team. That's why the players are currently having less training than usual.

"But if we do something, then we do it properly"

After that, we want to make the stadium well known in the region. Not only with football matches, but also with various events for which we can make use of the LED screen, such as markets, concerts or promotions. We want people to simply enjoy their visit to the stadium.
In this context, we will initiate certain cup competitions, not only here in Maechan, but also in other areas in the North of Thailand.
We have a plan to host the existing Akha-Cup here in the future. We also want to initiate the Insii-House-Cup as well as a cup which would be named after the foundation, the Chao Phya Abhai Raja Siammanukulkij-Cup.

For our two cups, the prizes are intended to be very attractive in order for the quality and competition level to be higher – exceeding that of friendly matches. When we participate in these competitions, our goal should be winning; not just only having fun playing football. What about the cost of the stadium?
Khun Gerry: Initially, we budgeted 30 million baht. Now, we have spent 40 million. That's because we have developed some additional things during the process. We have planned two additional buildings for shops, needed additional land in order to have a larger relaxing zone for the players and have constructed a kitchen for the players. The LED screen, too, is larger than we had planned at the beginning. Just the two lawns themselves, which have been installed by a golf course specialist, cost us 5 million.

But if we do something, then we do it properly. You also have to consider who we actually are. We are a couple of hill tribe guys with a dream, who cannot mess with any “serious” team. We do not have the reputation of Chiang Rai United and we do not want it. They are our older brother, but we are a different team. How can we distinguish ourselves? We do not have the biggest stadium here, but the most beautiful one with the largest screen, something, that people can be proud of.

courtesy Chiang Rai Hills Directly next to the stadium is the radio station...
Khun Gerry: That's another opportunity for the players, who participate in the management of the station. We exclusively broadcast sports and music on Weah Radio. Players of both teams are promoted there and the matches of Chiang Rai United are regularly broadcast live. One of the goalkeepers is a DJ hosting his own music program. And of course the radio gets revenues from the stadium.

As far as finances are concerned, the foundation is sufficiently well equipped in order to not depend on donations. However, anyone wanting to donate a larger amount would be very welcome and the money would directly be invested, as it was with the kitchen for players.

If everything goes according to plan, the grand opening of the stadium will be celebrated in October. In any case, it will be interesting to observe how the team will do, since it is said to have some promising talents. Maybe one of the players can indeed accomplish transferring to Chiang Rai United or to another team in the Thai Premier League.

Update as of March 2011:
Since we had conducted this interview at the beginning of the year, we were curious about the progress that the project had made since then. That's why we have asked Khun Gerry for a brief update. Here is what he had to say:

The work around the stadium is making very good progress and the team has already started playing on the turf.
As far as the organization of competitions is concerned, we are planning to host one in October, and hopefully the stadium will be completed by then, or at least very close to completion.

We will call it “Chatiphan Cup” and it will take place between 18 and 23 October. Chatiphan is a more “polite” word for “hill tribes”.
There are several hill tribe cups which are organized every year (and which besides football, include other sports, too): Akha Cup (56 teams in total, 7 football teams), Hmong Cup (18 teams, football 11),  Karen Cup (18 teams, football 7) and the Lahu Cup (22 teams, football 7). We will also contact the persons in charge of the Yao cup.

This year, the first and second teams of each hill tribe cup will qualify for the Chatiphan Cup. The prizes will be attractive and the winners of our Chatiphan Cup will have the opportunity to play a match against Chiang Rai Hills (runner-up) and Chiang Rai United (winner).

The grand opening of the stadium is scheduled to be held just a bit before the Chatiphan Cup. The ambassador of Belgium will be the guest of honor. I hope that the main stands will have a roof by that time...

Autor: esgede, lokomotive, flomag
Editor: Paul Hewitt
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