Carrying Kingdom’s football dream
Already a celebrity as a member of one of Thailand’s richest families and a top business executive, Nualphan Lamsam has become a household name thanks to her involvement in football.
Affectionately called ‘Madam Pang’ by the Thai media, the president and CEO of Muang Thai Insurance has been successful in managing both women’s and men’s football teams.
Nualphan says she does not play football but loves and follows the sport.
She was manager of the Thai national women’s side which made history with two successive appearances in the Fifa Women’s World Cup in 2015 and 2019.
The Chaba Kaew are still the country’s only senior national football team of either gender to play at the World Cup finals.
Nualphan’s latest success was in her role as manager of the national men’s team that won the AFF Suzuki Cup (Southeast Asian championship) in January.
Nualphan has been in football for about 15 years since being appointed manager of the Thai women’s team.
She first helped them win the SEA Games title in 2013 and then led the historic campaign that earned them a place at the 2015 World Cup.
At the finals in Canada, the Chaba Kaew wrote another chapter in Thailand’s footballing history by sealing their first ever World Cup points with a 3-2 victory over Ivory Coast.
She quit the team following a disastrous campaign at the 2019 World Cup in France.
Thanks to her achievements with the national women’s team, she became interested in managing a club.
She took over Thai League 1 side Port seven years ago and steered them to the FA Cup title in 2019.
Nualphan, 55, was appointed manager of the national men’s team, as well as the U23 side, in August last year.
She vowed to win back fans’ trust and regain Thailand’s lost glory.
Football Association of Thailand (FAT) president Somyot Poompunmuang said her appointment was aimed at restoring “the dignity of Thai football”.
“We have full faith in her ability. She is obviously someone who loves football and she is very well liked as well,” he said.
The move came after the War Elephants were eliminated in the qualifying stages of the 2022 World Cup.
Nualphan was authorised by the FAT to choose the national team coach and she picked German-Brazilian tactician Mano Polking.
The duo enjoyed instant success as Thailand secured their record-extending sixth Suzuki Cup title in January.
“This is a New Year present for all Thais,” she said after the War Elephants lifted the trophy on New Year Day.
After Thailand regained their status as the No.1 Asean side, Nualphan’s next target is to try and make the team competitive at the Asian and global levels.
“She may even help us reach the World Cup finals,” Somyot said.
Indeed, Thailand may achieve the feat when Nualphan is the country’s football chief as there have been calls for her to succeed Somyot.