Thailand needs "professional league" to develop

An exodus of Thai players to foreign leagues has been described as "an ominous sign for a country regarded as a regional powerhouse, but lagging in the development of the game." Listing coaches Witaya Laohakul (to Tori Tori in Japan's third division under a lucrative three-year contract worth around Bt18 million plus bonuses) and Chatchai Paholpat (to the V-League's Hoang Anh Gia Lai, receiving around Bt200,000-Bt300,000 a month) and dynamic midfielder Datsakorn Thonglao (also to Hoang Anh Gia Lai for about Bt200,000 a month for three years), Kitinan Sanguansak wrote in The Nation that "it seems ridiculous for a country regarded as a kingpin in the region to have players and coaches ply their trade in neighbouring countries."

The answer to the "vexing question" of "why Thailand cannot hold on to its well-known performers" is, he said, that "Thailand's football league continues to stumble along as a semi-professional competition, even though the concerned parties have tried to promote it as a professional one ... [and] cannot survive without financial support from the government ...

"The foundation of a professional league is central to the development of football in any country. The obvious thinking is that 'a strong league will strengthen a national team' as the league will produce strong players for the national team. This is clearly illustrated by the progression of Japanese football, which has gone from being a peripheral player to a major force in the region, thanks largely to the growth of the J-League. All of Japan's stars, such as Celtic playmaker Shunsuke Nakamura, who have developed into world-class players are a product of their own league," he argued.