By Marcus ChhanFollow @@MarcusChhan
Five boys were left grinning from ear to ear on Sunday in Bangkok as the Country Finals for Nike ‘The Chance' wrapped up in the Kingdom of Smiles.
Sutiwat Sawangrerk, Atichat Janteecha, Thitisan Na Bangchang, Napapon Sripatheep, and Natthawut Ngankheng (pictured) emerged as the winners from Sunday's finale and will now take their place as representatives for Thailand at next month's Regional Finals held in Indonesia.
Awaiting them in Jakarta will be stiff competition from Malaysia and the host country while Singapore will pick their five best players on June 3.
Over 13,000 boys were scouted for the competition in 2012 across the mentioned four countries with 1,506 coming from Thailand. Needless to say, competition between 30 country finalists for the five winning spots was tough in Bangkok and after a two-month process the lucky - but deserving - participants were left in no doubt that things were about to get even more serious for them after Sunday's developments.
"This is the first time that I have practiced so hard," one of the Bangkok winners, Natthawut Ngankheng told said through a translator.
"Training was very tough but that is OK because it has made me a tougher player.
"I am very glad and proud to be one of the five representatives of Thailand [for Nike ‘The Chance' 2012]."
Leading the coaching programme for ‘The Chance' Thailand was the legendary Witthaya Laohakul who was the first ever player from the country to play in Europe when he was at Hertha Berlin. Coach ‘Heng' - as he is also known - put 30 hopefuls through two days of training before coming to his decision on Sunday.
And if Sunday's five selected boys are serious about taking their football to the next level - from amateur to something like a professional - they will need to find a fifth gear and find it quickly. The Regional Finals begin in just a fortnight's time (June 10-13).
"I want to be playing in a famous football league like in England, Italy or Spain. That's the ultimate goal," 16-year-old forward Ngankheng said.
"I want to improve [as a footballer] because I am not satisfied with my performances so far, especially my striking."
I am told by a Nike representative that the 20 contestants (comprising of 5 players from Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore) can expect new features to be added to up the intensity level of the training regime at the Regional Finals.
This will include elements of sensory training using the Nike Vapor Strobe Eyewear which limits the time an athlete has to respond to training stimuli. Nike says that by blocking or disrupting vision using a strobe or flicker effect that can be varied in speed, an athlete can develop quicker reaction times and motor skills. It understands that by switching between clear and blocked vision, it trains the brain to anticipate what‘s coming when the eyes are blocked.
Of course, the Regional Finals of ‘The Chance' isn't just about the training. A big part of the experience for the players will be about making them feel like a football star. A professional photo-shoot as well as a string of media interviews will be lined up for the finalists leading up to the event.
Hopefully, the players will start to get the message that now is not the time to be shy or passive. If they want to stand a shot at being recognised by professional football clubs they will need to start getting a bit selfish. Dreams are not just confined to the bedroom; if you want something, go out and get it when you can. Otherwise, you may miss out on the chance
‘The Chance' is Nike Football's global competition seeking out the next wave of hungry young footballers.
Nike scouts are on the hunt in more than 50 countries to find 100 potential champions to battle it out at the Global Final in Barcelona.
You can read more stories by on ‘The Chance' by clicking on the links below.