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Victorious football managers

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After months of successfully completing challenging tasks, the "Fish 'n Ship" team from Assumption College Sriracha, ultimately snatched the trophy for the first time in "The Pitch" challenge earlier this month. 

The members of the Assumption College Sriracha team are all smiles after winning first prize in ‘The Pitch’ challenge. From left: Nattawan Kotcharit, Wanvisa Tanthasiri, Chayanan Lohapanwong and Ithisak Chanpinphet. PURICH TRIVITAYAKHUN

The competition was a cooperative effort between the British Council (BC) and Coventry University (CU) in the UK. The winning team was announced following the final round, which was held during the Education UK Exhibition 2010, organised by BC Thailand, at the Hotel Plaza Athenee in Bangkok.

The champions disclosed that creativity and a thorough knowledge of football gained them the prize.

Managing a football club

In October last year, 30 teams, each consisting of four secondary school students, from all over Thailand signed up for the competition, which is a simulation exercise in football club management.

The competitors had to manage a fictional professional football club, Covchester Rovers, based in the UK.

The selected 20 teams competed in the second round, which consisted of three tasks: deciding on a new shirt-sponsor for the club, signing on a new player, and addressing the issue of whether the club would continue to play on its current ground in the future.

In each task, students were given choices. Each team had to submit a paper-and-digital presentation explaining the reasons for choosing and discarding each choice to the online panel of judges. After that, four teams were shortlisted.

Final challenge

The four final teams came from Ruamrudee International School and Satriwithaya School in Bangkok; Assumption College Sriracha in Chon Buri province; and Hatyaiwittayalai School in Songkhla province.

In the final round, the teams were assigned their task the night before their presentation and were given two hours to prepare their speech and materials. Each team had 20 minutes for their presentation and a question-and-answer session before the panel of judges.

The task assigned was that Covchester Rovers was going to visit Thailand and the club's board of directors had asked each of the four shortlisted participating teams to provide them with an overview of the country, the Thai football environment, and the benefits to the club as a result of making a tour to Thailand.

The panel of judges was made up of five sport experts. Among the five were Anna Semens, PhD, co-director of CIBS (the Centre for the International Business of Sport) and a Research Fellow in Sport Business Management at Coventry University; Bryan Robson, the coach of Thailand's national football team; and Thawatchai Sajakul, the manager of the Thai Premier League's Chula-Sinthana FC.

"All four teams put forward excellent business plans. They came out with very good ideas that showed that they had done a lot of research. Overall, I think the students did very well indeed," said Mr Robson in praise of the contestants.

Winners' secrets

"I dream of becoming the manager of a football club. When I heard of the chance to make that dream come true, I just jumped in," said Ithisak Chanpinphet, a Mathayom 6 (Grade12) student and a member of the winning team.

Besides Ithisak, the team consisted of Chayanan Lohapanwong and Nattawan Kotcharit, both of whom are in Mathayom 6 (Grade 12), and Wanvisa Tanthasiri, a Mathayom 5 (Grade 11) student.

The team's prize was a one-week visit to the UK, tickets to a football match and a tour of a top UK football club's stadium, as well as a visit to Coventry University. The members of the other final-round teams won various brands of MP3 players. Each student was awarded a certificate of participation by the British Council and Coventry University.

The successful team revealed their winning strategy: they combined the members' individual expertise for utmost effectiveness. For example, Chayanan and Ithisak have an exceptional knowledge of football, Nattawan excels in creative thinking, and Wanvisa is proficient in English.

Ithisak added that his favourite computer game, which requires players to manage a football club in ways very similar to the tasks set in this competition, also helped him greatly.

He added that in completing each task, the team always bore in mind three things: the decision had to be based on benefits to youth, financial advantages, and the impact on football fans.

"For example, when we were deciding on who the sponsor should be, we tried to select a company that would act as a good role model for young people although we wouldn't be getting as much funds as we would have had if the sponsor were in, for example, the gambling business, despite the fact that in real life many football clubs have chosen to do that," explained Ithisak, who has been a dedicated football fan since Prathom 1 (Grade 1).

At the end of the day, the team members revealed, the challenge has taught them to listen to others' opinions, exposed them to management and marketing skills, as well as developed their English skills, especially in the area of football.

"We think we are the best, but there always will be someone who is better. We don't need to worry that someone will be better than us. The important thing is to do our best," Ithisak said, summarising the top lesson learned from the competition.

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