Thailand coaching insanity has to stop for the league to succeed

John Duerden John Duerden

With eight managerial casualties in Thai League 1 so far, John Duerden reckons the madness must come to an end if Thai football is to progress.

Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore have been busy defending the method of how to make chicken rendang in the face of international ignorance this week. Judges at Masterchef UK dismissed an entrant’s attempt at the iconic regional dish as the chicken was not crispy. Either these referees did not know or care that the idea of crispy rendang is just bizarre for those who have eaten it the longest and the most.

What must be just as bizarre to western eyes when looking the way of Southeast Asia is the actions of clubs in the Thai League 1. On a day when Buriram United were battling with the Chinese super club Guangzhou Evergrande for mastery of their AFC Champions League group, Chonburi parted ways with coach Goran Barjaktarevic just weeks after appointing the 48 year-old.

The Sharks lost on Saturday to Buriram United. The start to the season had been poor by the club’s standards with a single point from the first three games but then prior to the Buriram lose, there had been three wins in the previous four. The club, seventh in 2017 and no longer the dominant force of a few years previously with the 2007 title and five runners-up spots in the following seven years. Buriram and Muangthong have taken over.

Many would think that eight games was not much of a chance given to Barjaktarevic. Eight games and three months in a foreign country and culture, trying to do something that a number of domestic coaches have been unable to do of late – restore Chonburi to former glories. That one of those coaches was Therdsak Chaiman, a legend in Thailand, was also appointed as his assistant suggested that Barjaktarevic was always going to struggle.

“Due to certain circumstances, and for personal reasons, I cannot continue to work with Chonburi FC. Therefore, the club and myself have agreed to cancel my current contract,” the departing coach said in a statement.

“I would like to thank everyone at the club, and the fans, for the past three months. I wish Chonburi all the best for the future.”

Officially, the Bosnian-born tactician resigned but if you believe it is as simple as that then you probably believe that chicken rendang should be crispy.

A Thai club gets rid of a coach early in the season may not be cause for too much surprise. – though Chonburi are not a club known for being too hasty – what is worrying is that the latest coaching casualty is number seven so far this season.

That’s right. There have been eight games this season played so far and seven parting of the ways. There have been worries in England as the Premier League saw change number ten earlier this week as Alan Pardew was fired as manager of West Bromwich Albion. That is nothing.

It started after the first game as Drago Mamic left Chainat Hornbill after the opening game of the season. That’s right, the first game. After the second, former Bayern Munich, AC Milan and Liverpool star Christian Ziege left Ratchaburi. Then there were three weeks without a casualty before Totchawan Sripan departed Muangthong United and Rene Desaeyere said goodbye to Ratchaburi.

At the end of March Bangkok Glass sacked Josep Ferre, Scott Cooper left Police Tero and Air Force Central parted ways with Sasom Pobprasert.

In just seven weeks, eight coaches have gone. The Thai League 1 is the best in Southeast Asia. It is the only league that produces teams capable of reaching the latter stages of the AFC Champions League. Standards have been improving, led by the clubs at the top. The addition of an ASEAN player slot that allows clubs to sign a fifth foreign player as long as he is from a fellow Southeast Asian nation was also another step forward.

But the constant chopping and changing of coaches is crazy and is holding the league and Thai football back. The extreme short-term focus it produces in the minds of coaches is damaging and means that no thought is given to anything beyond the next result. It makes coaches less likely to promote youth players or take any kind of gamble. Acute job insecurity produces conservatism.

And all these foreign coaches who come and go in a matter of weeks: who knows how many of them had the talent and knowhow to deliver success if given time and support? Instead, they have to deal with a new country and culture, and are often undermined by behind the scenes political plotting before easily-influenced and/or impatient CEOs and owners do the easy thing.

All coaches accept that the sack is a part of life but Thailand is taking it to dangerous levels. The insanity has to stop or the Thai league will never fulfil its potential.

Photo credit: Chonburi FC Facebook