The Big Issue: An expensive own goal
- Published: 11/11/2012 at 01:00 AM
- Online news:
In March, 2010, Thailand was awarded the right to hold the 2012 Futsal World Cup and promised an excellent tournament. The Bangkok government promised to build a terrific indoor stadium for futsal.
Apparently no one noted that the two items were linked, and the world-class Bangkok Futsal Arena is the largest white elephant ever seen in Nong Chok district - not to mention the 1.2 billion baht it took to build, plus the cost of maintenance to keep a 17,000-seat stadium from returning to the rice fields.
WHAT'S THE PROBLEM? The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration bused in students from its schools around the capital to attend hastily organised youth futsal competition Saturday at the newly built Bangkok Futsal Arena in Nong Chok district. The event was aimed at demonstrating the safety and readiness of the stadium after Fifa announced last week that it would not use the stadium for the 2012 Futsal World Cup due to safety concerns. (Photo by Thiti Wannamontha)
The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) explained that, well, how could anyone expect the arena to be ready in a mere three years?
There were floods last year, you know!
And the sun got in their eyes, etc.
Sukhumbhand Paribatra, the Bangkok governor, was absolutely furious - with Fifa. the World Cup organiser and owner. The nerve of that group, to walk into his excellent arena and declare it unfit and unsafe for use.
To hear the governor tell it, it was a Fifa plot.
Come on, he told the media, "I've
tried my very best. Getting the construction done in 286 days was a miracle."
By that reasoning, the Thai futsal team should have already been awarded the World Cup gold medals because,after all, the players tried their very best, and failing to win the Group A title shouldn't count against them.
In fact, Bangkok Post columnist Arglit Boonyai argued in his Saturday commentary that the arena fiasco was a farce that "symbolises all that is wrong with the Kingdom's ability to be taken seriously on the world stage".
"I live in a country," wrote fellow columnist Voranai Vanijaka, "where political leaders speak so easily of greatness, but the reality is of a peasant, agricultural nation stuck in a political divide."
In a surprise move, the Democrat Party backed MR Sukhumbhund in claiming Thailand was not made a fool to the world, when it was. In another surprising move, the Pheu Thai Party will hold parliamentary hearings on the expensive error, hoping to unseat the governor at the next Bangkok elections.
But let us not destroy the dream.
At the exact moment Fifa was holding both its nose and Thailand at arm's length, Yutthasak Sasiprabha, president of the National Olympic Committee of Thailand, informed the Olympic Council of Asia that the 2023 Asian Games should be held in Chiang Mai . . . no, maybe Pattaya . . . no, definitely Chiang Mai.
That came after a hugely excited Vietnam was named as the site of the 2019 Asian Games - mostly in Hanoi, with some events in Ho Chi Minh City. It is the first seriously large sporting contest Vietnam has been given to organise.
But, of course, miracles happen, and the Thai futsal squad that couldn't win its way out of the World Cup on its own got the most unlikely help.
The Solomon Islands, which had never won a world futsal match, defeated Guatemala in the last minute of the last match of the last night of group play.
That win dragged Thailand into the Group of 16 finalists, something no Thai futsal team had achieved in the past. So at 6.30pm today, Thailand play Spain in the first match of the knockout stage, with the winner to play either Russia or the Czech Republic on Tuesday.
The final is at 7.30pm next Sunday.
About the author
Writer: Bangkok Post Sunday