Venue woes vex champs
'Substandard' pitchhinders Thai practice
Defending champions Thailand's first training session for the 2016 AFF Suzuki Cup was hampered by a "substandard" pitch at their training facility in Manila yesterday.
Thailand coach Kiatisak Senamuang didn't mince his words as he chastised the organisers for providing an under-prepared training ground for his team, who take on Indonesia in their first match of the Southeast Asian championship tomorrow afternoon at the Philippines Sports Centre stadium.
The Thais, who arrived in Manila on Wednesday, have been assigned the Makati University stadium as their training venue.
The training stint didn't get underway on time as the ground staff took time to trim the long and untended grass at the venue, but still left the blades longer than the normal standards.
Kiatisak said: "I don't understand why the hosts have arranged such a substandard training ground for the Thai team.
"We are in a tournament and they should have arranged a better place than this. We are lucky that none of the players have been injured while training here. I hope that they will fix it before our next practice."
Commenting on tomorrow's match, Kiatisak said: "Indonesia were banned by Fifa for two years and we don't have much information on their team. They look hungry but they haven't played international football for a long time."
Indonesia were banned by Fifa for its government's interference in the country's league.
Kiatisak added: "We have to get three points from the first match otherwise it can affect the players' confidence.
"It will be a different tournament for us this time as we will be defending our title and that can put the team under some pressure."
Meanwhile, Thai soccer chief Somyot Poompanmuang has confirmed a 10-million-baht bonus will be on offer if Thailand can defend the Suzuki Cup title.
While expressing his confidence that the national team will be able to retain the title at the biennial tournament, the president of the Football Association of Thailand also warned money shouldn't be the motivator for the players and urged them to play their hearts out to honour His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who passed away on Oct 13.
"I hope they can defend the title and bring home the trophy again," said Somyot. "The goal is for all the players to give their all for the fans and for our beloved king.
"They also must not underestimate their opponents. I told the players that they need to keep improving," said Somyot in Manila. "But the thing is our opponents are also improving and everyone hopes they can be champions."
An encouraging show in the World Cup qualifier against Asian champs Australia on Tuesday also convinced Somyot the team have rediscovered their form just in time for the Asean Championship. Bangkok Post/Agencies