Fink: FIFA's Thai whitewash

ESPNSTAR.com columnist Jesse Fink laments FIFA's ability to ignore issues at hand as the main reason for Thailand's failure to finish the Nong Chok project.

Football News: Worawi Makudi

In space, supposedly, no one can hear you scream. Add FIFA to that list. It might as well be another planet, so removed as it is from normal standards of behaviour and moral rectitude.

This writer and others around the Asian region have been screaming for the past year about the goings-on in Thai football, demanding the world football body take action and arrest the declining situation before it became untenable. 

It's had plenty of warning. Ample opportunity to effect solutions. 

Instead, when presented with compelling evidence of matters that should have raised great concern, it sat on its hands and did nothing. It was left to the Thai government to open its own inquiry into issues arising from the governance of the game in that country. 

Only as recently as September 20 I had warned in a column for ESPNSTAR.com that FIFA must immediately take the Thai FA to account for not having the showpiece Bangkok Futsal Arena in Nong Chok ready for the upcoming FIFA Futsal World Cup. 

"A World Cup without a World Cup-ready main stadium is not a scenario anyone should tolerate. Thai football cannot afford to allow the situation to get any worse."

And, lo and behold, what happens? This week, less than a month out from the World Cup, FIFA, after deliberating with the local organising committee and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, switched three group matches and a last-16 match to Hua Mark Indoor Stadium next to the Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok, citing the impact of flood and storm delays from, wait for it, October 2011.

A final decision will come on October 25 regarding the Nong Chok arena's readiness for the quarter-finals. That's less than a week before the tournament is supposed to kick off with two matches at the same venue. 

Reads the official statement on the decision: "Construction on the site was initially delayed as a consequence of the heavy rains in October 2011 that crippled parts of the city and resulted in severe flooding. The BMA had planned to hand over the Bangkok Futsal Arena on 21 October, but another period of heavy rain in recent weeks - which has once again caused flooding in many parts of Bangkok - has slowed down the final stages of construction. With meteorologists currently also monitoring both a typhoon and a tropical storm in the region, the decision to provide more time for the completion of the Bangkok Futsal Arena has been taken to ensure the safety of construction workers on-site."

Point the finger at the weather? What rubbish. It's a whitewash. 

When the Thai parliament injected funds into the Nong Chok arena project in June 2011 at the urgent behest of the Thai FA, nothing had been done at the site. The money was given on the proviso that the construction be finished by May this year. Construction didn't even begin till January 2012 when Bangkok governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra signed the building contract with EMC Plc.

The Nong Chok location was also roundly criticised because of its perceived links to Thai FA president Worawi Makudi (the land-ownership scandal that erupted in 2011 related to title deeds on Nong Chok land on which his name appeared) and the difficulty fans would have in travelling to and from games. In traffic-choked Bangkok, it's not an easy place to get to. Nong Chok is effectively in the "boondocks" of Bangkok. 

In my view the real culprit in this organisational cock-up is Worawi Makudi, who remains a FIFA executive committee member despite all the bad press he's generated for football in the region over the past 12 months. It's not South-East Asia's monsoons. 

But in the vacuum of accountability that is FIFA, the football universe's Death Star, it's easier to blame it on the rain than one of their own.



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