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Thailand's national training centre - A million baht grave

Off the pitch - Report small shield training centre

A small shield pointing the way
image: © thai-fussball.com

Since the Goal programme has been launched by FIFA president Sepp Blatter in 1999, it has provided support for over 500 development projects across the world. One project financed, is the national training centre of Thailand, erected in the outskirts of Bangkok. We visited the place, and we were shocked.

Brought to life in 1999 by Sepp Blatter, the goal programme provides funds for member's association of FIFA to realise constructions to speed up the development of the football in the respective country. To say it with FIFA - we quote: "....to help build national association headquarters, training academies and artificial and grass pitches. In doing so it has responded to the FIFA Presidentís primary objective of giving national associations with the least resources the infrastructures they need to carry out their work."

The selection of Thailand to the development program was officially granted in May 2003 and only one year later funds were granted for the construction of an artificial pitch worth 460,000 dollars. Further money was allowed later for the construction of a functional building with accommodations for players and staff.

Although not deemed as being an official part of the process from a development funding perspective, it was Michel Platini, today president of UEFA, who turned the first spadeful of earth at the national football training centre in Nong Chok. Other officials from the Thai FA like president Vijit Getkaew and his general secretary Worawi Makudi, who meanwhile himself leading the business of the country, attended the ceremony. Being aware that the training centre in Nong Chok is not used by almost all Thai national teams, of course we were interested in how the place currently looks.

Nong Chok, a place surely not everyone is familiar with, is located in the district of Minburi and still belongs to Bangkok and is a rather rural area. So it was no surprise to us watching a pair of storks next to a mower on the narrow driveway filled with potholes. A small sign in Thai letters, which we found broken on our second visit, located next to the old BEC Tero Stadium showed us the way. Still brood over whether we were in the right direction, we suddenly spotted street lanterns whose lampshades are formed as footballs, showing us that we are on the right direction.

A buzz around Nong Chok, at the very most, happens only like in 2011 when it was suddenly uncovered that Worawi Makudi was still registered in the books of the "Land Registry Office" as the owner on which the training center is built on. For all that, he should have sign over the land to the Thai FA long time ago as this is required by FIFA to receive money from funds of the Goal Project. But a letter of intent from him, to donate 25 hectares to the Thai FA of land he owns, issued on the 27 September 2003, has just been handed over in October 2011. Eventually and officially. Due to that, Thailand was on the brink to lose further financial support for the fourth step of the project approved in October 2010 and headlined with:" ..to optimise the use of its technical centre". Considering the object is still not used for its purpose, it is just a mockery. In any case, the world governing body FIFA did not open any lawsuit against Makudi and at the end this affair came to nothing in the world of the well lubricated FIFA gear.

The rural scene around the pitches in Nong Chok is just disturbed when amateur sides showing up annualy, trying their luck in the B, C and D-Cup. Apart from this, nothing happens at this place concerning football.

Notwithstanding, heroic words were expressed during the ceremony Platini attended; be it from Vijit Getkaew: "While it may be too short a period to the next World Cup in Germany in 2006, in the long term things look good because we will have a national football training centre." Or not the last a man nowadays known for its words rather than his doings - Worawi Makudi: "This training centre will be the centre for creating national teams. [..] Every team from the juniors to the national team will train at this centre [...] This training centre is our weapon for the future [...] We are aiming to one day be a finalist in the World Cup and this training centre will help considerably."

Sinthaweechai Hathairattanakool from Chonburi FC, affirmed our question whether he has trained at least once there with the national side during his long career with the national team. And indeed we remembered that there was a training session when Bryan Robson was in charge. This does not surprise further. Since the Englishman Robson was obliged almost at the same time as FIFA president Sepp Blatter showed up in Thailand for the for inauguration of the whole building in September 2009.

Thailand's present man at the helm, Winnie Schaefer, visited Nong Chok just one time. It was when he went there to check out the conditions. He and his team were never been spotted again at this place since. He rather prefers to camp in Bangkok (City) or Chiang Mai. After what we found with our inspection, it is no further surprise.

The main reason for the disuse of the centre might be the seclusion of the area that lies 40 km outside the city and is hardly accessible. With ease a place much closer to the city could had been found 10 years ago. But then again the national training centre would have not been built at - or around land owned by Worawi. Oh, we've done that one. Another reason might be the Rajamangala which can be found in the city and as a part of the national sports centre (owned by the Sports Authority of Thailand - SAT) offers suitable facilities and staff for a sports-scientific care. Even several youth teams and different women's national teams prefer to prepare there; rather than at the centre in Nong Chok.

dormitories

The dormitories as we found them
image: © thai-fussball.com

The building in Nong Chok with his approx. 50 rooms, including four dormitories (120 rooms were planned), resembles more of a youth hostel or at best of a boarding school anyway. Already at first sight it strikes that the rot has already set in and that apparently nobody looks after the maintenance of the building. If only one part of the ceiling is broken in the entrance area, it even rains purely through the roof. Several parts of the green coloured roof glass structure we found broken and loose on the top floor. 

With a heavy shower during rainy season the water runs down several floors through the stairways until it accumulates at the buttom floor and dry's out. Hence it hardly is not surprising that plasterboard ceiling's and other places are mould-infested. But we also found bird's excrement and dead birds lying around. In general the architecture of the stairwell in form of a football can be considered as fail and rather harms the structural condition.

Almost of historic character are both showcases in the entrance area with paled pictures and newspaper articles, right above broken benches. At least, pictures of ousted FAT board members have been removed. But beside old pictures of youth teams; newspaper articles with the portrait of Worawi Makudi and of Sepp Blatter's visit in 2009 can be found in the showcase on the right. Headlined with "Center of Excellence". All that surely does not indicate any personality cult.

As part of the whole project 60,000 Dollar were approved by FIFA to build an artificial pitch. One can have his own views on such pitches, but if there is money and space enough to build three grass pitches - which has been the case - one thinks why they are all bumby like a cow's field. And to reach two of the pitches you need to clear a small muddy ditch. At the rainy season both are also rather mushy, especially on the edge. One do not need even to have a close look at the fields to see the rutting the lawn mower has left.

In 2006 the Thai FA received another 400,000 Dollar for the construction of a five-storey building in which the federation headquarter should be accommodated. However, you still will find the Thai FA reside in the Supachalasai Stadium in Bangkok. Although it serve its purpose one can recognise the narrowness of the rooms by looking at pictures of various press conferences. Yet a move to Nong Chok will be almost out of question. As already mentioned, Nong Chok is located far outside the city and to get there would just take too much time for the officials and employees.

Surely, money doesn't matter at FIFA. Nonetheless the world governing body should accept questions why this money for the training center is wasted so generous and why FIFA actually do not follow up on how their funds are used in the long term. Beside the fact that the terrain is hardly used for its original purposes, it comes on top the Thai FA obviously abandoned the building to decay because nobody wants to use it. The more it was astonishing for us to find packed cardboard boxes with new washing machines and air-conditionings standing around. So at least a few renewals seem to carry out.

Taken our report into account and the still not finished Futsal Arena just a few kilometers away, there is not much to bee seen of the always adjured revaluation of land owned by Worawi. Besides, the area still lacks totally of any infrastructure. But of what the federation and Worawi can be accused: why one has not tried to find a more suitable area to use the funding responsible for the development of football in Thailand.

Pictures speaking volumes: Usually we add one or two pictures to our articles. Though in this case, 2-3 pictures are not enough. Hence in the following, a choice of pictures we taken by the end of the last year and which should document the state of the training centre as we have found him. In order to increase click please on picture. - all pictures taken at the moment we visited the training centre

main building

main building
image: © thai-fussball.com

main building - front view

main building - front view
image: © thai-fussball.com

main entrance

main entrance
image: © thai-fussball.com

adjacent building

adjacent building
image: © thai-fussball.com

FIFA guesthouse

FIFA guesthouse
image: © thai-fussball.com

artificial turf

the artificial turf
image: © thai-fussball.com

grass pitches

rutting on the grass pitches
images: © thai-fussball.com

broken benches

broken benches at the entrance
image: © thai-fussball.com

brocken glass facade

brocken glass facade
image: © thai-fussball.com

 the sanisanitary fittings

disgraceful: sanisanitary fittings
image: © thai-fussball.com

brocken ceiling

brocken ceiling
image: © thai-fussball.com

broken glass facade

broken glass facade from outside
image: © thai-fussball.com

broken glass facade

broken glass facade from inside
image: © thai-fussball.com

location map

location map
image: © thai-fussball.com

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