The Netherlands has a population about 16 million but has produced several world-class players so AIA Thailand CEO Ron van Oijen wonders why Thailand has been unable to create one of its own.
PSV Eindhoven celebrate winning the Dutch Premier League in 2005.
"With more than 60 million people, why can't Thailand do that?" he asked.
Van Oijen was speaking at a press conference after he signed a partnership deal with his PSV Eindhoven counterpart Tiny Sanders at the Dutch club's Philips stadium recently.
As part of the agreement, PSV will play a friendly with Thai Premier League champions Muang Thong United in Bangkok in January.
Former Thailand striker Kiattisak Senamuang, who was on the trip to the Netherlands along with several officials from TPL clubs, said Thailand's failure to produce top-class players was a result of the lack of concrete plans.
"We have not have clear-cut plans for youth development," said Kiatisak, who is affectionately called 'Zico'. "We have many good young footballers but they do not get a chance to hone their skills."
Ron van Oijen
In an attempt to find out how the Netherlands has created a large number of fine players, the trip featured visits to academies at the country's giant clubs, Ajax Amsterdam and PSV who both are renowned for their youth development programmes.
Both have won virtually every major club title, including the European crowns.
The idea was initiated by Kiatisak who loves Dutch football and its youth development projects.
"We want to learn how the Dutch develop their young players," Van Oijen said.
According to Jan van Loon, who is in charge of the youth development for the KNVB or the Royal Netherlands Football Association, the long process in finding good players for the national team starts with the KNVB sending 350 scouts to monitor players at the under-11 level.
It is followed by a regional selection for the under-12 players. The best players for each position will be selected at the under-15 level and after that they will fight neck-to-neck for places in the under-16, 17, 18, 19 and 21 teams. Finally, only the best ones will qualify to wear the Oranje shirt.
Apart from the players themselves, the learning environment must also be good, said Van Loon.
That includes qualified coaches, accommodation, materials, contents of programme and long-term plans, he said.
Due to the lack of budget, small clubs can work together by having only one youth department programme.
Apart from organising the league, selecting players and running the youth development programme, the Dutch association also gives the clubs a chance in making decisions.
For a successful youth development programme, there must be a close cooperation between clubs and the association.
"The idea is we cannot lose a talent. If we lose a talent, it will affect our competition against other countries. So clubs and the KNVB are responsible for the quality of the national team," he said.
With a valuable lesson from the KNVB, Kiattisak said it was never too late for the Football Association of Thialand (FAT) to follow in the Netherlands' footsteps.
"But they have to start it now because this takes time to bear fruit," he said.
Van Oijen, who likes playing football, said his company had given support to Thai football.
"We are sponsoring 29 clubs in Thailand," he said. "I love to be a part of football development."
About the author
- Writer: Kittipong Thongsombat