Southeast Asia Thailand

OPINION: Gama Appointment Would Mark Major Progress for Thailand

There are just 13 days left until the official conclusion of Brazilian coach Alexandre Gama’s two-year tenure at Chiangrai United. Initially expected to preside over an ambitious investment and deliver massive success, Gama has instead seen a season of cutbacks and financial uncertainty, wisely prioritising the construction of a youthful backbone to underpin his side and bring league stability while gunning for domestic cup success.

Reflections on his time with the Beetles must be put on hold until the upcoming League and FA Cup finals against Bangkok Glass and Buriram respectively, but that hasn’t stopped widespread speculation about his future.

After initial reports linking him to Port FC and Muangthong United, it appears now that the former Buriram coach could be on his way to join up with Thailand’s U23 national team, straddling the expectation that he may be the man to help the nation qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

There can be no questions when it comes to Gama’s pedigree. The Brazilian already has two league titles under his belt from his time with the Thunder Castle, with the second of which coming at the end of an unbeaten season.

However, the section of his CV that best prepares him for the U23 role is the work he did with Chiangrai. His influence helped grow Thitipan Puangchan into one of the country’s best midfielders, and other budding talents such as Siwakorn Taitrakul, Phitiwat Sukjitthammakul and Shinnaphat Lee-Oh have also blossomed under his guidance. His commitment to fielding young players was epitomised by his first game against former club Buriram back in 2017, when three of his back four were under the age of 22.

Landing Gama may end up being the perfect antidote to Thailand’s horrendously disappointing Asian Games campaign. The War Elephants looked completely disorientated in Indonesia, when insufficient preparation, daft squad selection, tactical incompetence and the poor handling of a social media meltdown resulted in what can only be described as a national embarrassment.

With Thailand set to host the AFC U23 Championships in 2020, the chance to qualify for the Olympic Games on home soil is a rare opportunity that the War Elephants must absolutely capitalize on, especially as this current generation will be the first beneficiaries of an expanded World Cup roster in 2026. With confidence in the nation’s youth program at an all-time low, the appointment of a prestigious coach with a reputation for excellent player development could be the perfect way to get the nation back on track.