Chiang Rai Hills FC - A different kind of a football story - part 2

Off the pitch - Report

At the beginning stage
courtesy Chiang Rai Hills

In the first part of our report about Chiang Rai Hills FC we learned what the club is and who is behind it. Now we continue our report with the second part. This part features the first piece of our interview with Khun Gerry. Here we are told by him how it all began. How did it came that the club arose from the Foundation? Other projects supported by the Foundation are rather artistic and musical nature.
Khun Gerry: It started with some guys from the hill-tribes visiting a game of Chiang Rai United. Thereby they got the idea play in its own team. Two of the guys then came to the foundation with their dream and we decided to provide assistance.

The aim of the club should also be that they can generate revenue. Everyone in the world has the right to dream and I was always interested in how the capabilities of people can be improved. We told them, "Okay, we help you, but you also have to help yourselves. We'll give you the equipment, balls, etc. A car so that you are able to drive to the matches and we go to schools and to ask whether you can play there. You have six months time to prove you. We take it from there."

After six months the team was still around and then we decided to involve the foundation even more with and to invest in a stadium. So the team arose from the dream of two guys and the Foundation created a kind of organisation in the back. What kind of requirements a player must have to get into the team. It is also for young people, which got to the bad?
Khun Gerry:  First of all he needs to be from one of the hill-tribes. The Team is made from almost all of them. Akha, Karen, Yao, Lahu, Hmong, Lisu and Shan. The oldest is 26, the youngest 17 or 18 years. The players are not only from the Chiang Rai area, but also from Chiang Mai or Lamphun.

Then he needs to able to play on a certain level. This will be determine by the coach. At last and very important for us, he needs to be good person. We want people who want to build a future together. We need no loner, even if he can play well. The team spirit is very important to us and the thought of a common future.

The whole thing is not designed as a rehabilitation project. It is a project that provides people a unique opportunity in their lives in sporting terms. We are less interested in the background of the people, it comes to the person. How did you find players for the team? You have advertising in schools?
Khun Gerry: The first came from Maechan and Rajabath University. Initially, everyone laughed. A few are then withdrew, because the future was to far for them, before everything started though or because they are not good enough. Step-by-step the team become more known. We were in a television show and the hill-tribes here started to notice what we do.

Sometimes we take a projector and along with the players we go visit the villages where guys come from. We invite the local community to a picture slide show and show them what we are do and what the guys are do.

This is intended to show that they are in good hands. We introduce the project there because we want to convince the families about our project and we want the people realise, this is your Team. You can be proud of and we need you as fans. Of course we also wish that the villages are keep talking about the team.

courtesy Chiang Rai Hills

The excursions in the villages are sometimes accompanied by our forum member Limbo, a Dutchman in pension with the heart in the right place and a great love for football. He attended the matches of the boys and soon discovered which big talent they have. Limbo has a big stake in it how the project then developed. Limbo: "At the beginning there was also the idea of a mixed team from Thais and Hills, but the Hills then said then, the Thais would also not allow us to play with them. So why we should?

By Limbos good relations with Chiang Rai United and the Foundation he brought together all parties and thus paved the way. Ultimately it is  thanks to him that United and Hills mutually are supporting each other and cooperate.

Among others, Khun Gerry became a sponsor of Chiang Rai United in 2010. Thanks to his money and the other sponsors, United was able to strengthen the squad and later get promoted to the Thai Premier League. Another project of the Foundation was used to collect money for Chiang Rai United. Radio Weah, a local radio station which have his rooms on the ground of the Insii Thai House. How else could it be, some of the radio DJ's are Chiang Rai Hill players. Together they held a large Cocktail-donations-party with the result of nearly four million Baht taken directly to good for United.

By Limbos interference an Australian coach was hired for the hills team. Brad Cutler, otherwise English teacher in Chiang Rai, formerly was a football professional for Sydney City and Singapore Armed Forces and owns even a FIFA coaching licensee. His former assistant coach Albert Kodjo from Togo, works as Fitness coach for United.

Every Hill player got two pair of shoes from the Foundation, one for Training and one for the games on Sunday. The jerseys were designed by the players themselves. In August 2009 the first proper training took place. Brad Cutler faced the task to convert kids, usually playing football on the streets, in to footballers playing position. While Albert was trying to give them air for 90 minutes.

Since the designate school pitch was in bad condition and salvaged many risks of injury, the Hills team finally was allowed to play the first ever match on the training pitch from United which they won by 4-2.

Despite the initial successes the coach had go because of some communication problems with the players. Replacement was found quickly with Suthee, a former player from CRU. Due to injury he had to abandon his career at early stage and in the meantime owns a coaching licence. To be continued...
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