Southeast Asia Thailand

Thailand legend talks Akira Nishino’s work and Vietnam’s rise to prominence under Park Hang-seo

Former Thai national team winger Sutee Suksomkit give his opinion on Akira Nishino and the soaring regional rivalry with Vietnam in recent years.

Sutee, 42, thrice represented the War Elephants in the AFC Asian Cup and hang up his boots with 17 goals in 64 games for his nation. The pacey attacker also won the AFF Championship twice and finished runners-up on 2 more occasions.

Today, Thailand is led by former Japan national team manager Akira Nishino and Sutee is pleased with how things are looking.

“Under Akira Nishino’s coaching, I think Thailand will change into a better direction, especially in matters of player discipline and tactics,” Sutee told The AFC.

“However, I think he needs some time to understand the style of each footballer. I believe Nishino will soon understand Thai football more clearly.”

Thailand is 3rd in Group G of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Asian qualification round two before Covid-19 hit and the fixture is rescheduled to 2021. Nishino’s men are set to face Indonesia, United Arab Emirates and Malaysia respectively.

Sitting at the summit of Group G, 3 points ahead of Thailand, is Park Hang-seo’s Vietnam. The Golden Dragon has risen to prominence since the mid-2000s – winning the AFF Championship twice and making it to at least the semi-final of the tournament on 6 out of the 7 occasions between 2008 and 2018.

“Because of their coach Park Hang-seo, I think they have overcome their fears. They are not afraid to play, they are highly motivated and they have been doing very well so far,” said Sutee.

The pacey attacker first made waves in the Thai football community with his outstanding performance at the 1997 U17 World Cup in Egypt. Playing for Thai Farmers Bank, now taken over and renamed as BG Pathum United, Sutee became to first play to win 2 consecutive Thai League topscorer between 1999 and 2000.

Looking to prove himself, Sutee left Thailand for Singapore in the early 2000s and won 3 domestic trophies with Home United. He enjoyed a short stint with A-League’s Melbourne Victory and, after an impressive trial, nearly sign for English Premier League’s Chelsea if it wasn’t for work permit issues.

“When Melbourne Victory contacted me, I decided to move there and live my life and play football in Australia for about three months. But at the time I was 30 years old already. And to battle with Australian players, who were younger and bigger, was quite difficult for me.”

“However, I was very grateful for this experience as it opened a whole new football world to me,” recalled Sutee.

Sutee returned to Thai football for the first time in 9 years with BG Pathum United in 2010 then went on to represent the likes of Suphanburi FC, TTM Customs and Krabi FC. Retired in 2015, Sutee now devotes his effort on grassroots football as the director of PTT Academy.