COVID-19: Crisis Or Opportunity For Thai Football?

2020 is quickly turning into a year of disaster for Thai football. With the COVID-19 situation continuing to disrupt all football activities since the beginning of the year and the revised competition schedule now scrapped due to the ongoing broadcasting rights dispute, the question from FA Thailand to each club is, “are you ready?”

The remaining 26 matchdays will most likely need to be completed before the year ends. That requires an extremely tight schedule where clubs will need to face each other every 3-4 days, just like European football had been experiencing.

Even for physically superior European football stars, meeting the season-closing deadline of July turned out to be a tall order. The fatigue was clearly visible through the broadcasting lens, injuries sky-rocketed, and reserve and youth players were promoted to the senior team more than ever. Clubs outside of contention towards the end of the season gave its young stars and wunderkinds the green light to take over.

Turning your attention back to Thailand, the “end before 2021” football season will undoubtedly have negative impacts on the players. On top of that, some fans are already turning their concerns towards the 2nd round 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification and 2020 AFF Suzuki Cup.

Clearly, the Thai football industry’s growth had hit a rough hurdle this year, but is there any silver lining that can be drawn from all this chaos?

As we’ve mentioned before, we’ve seen young stars and reserve players of Europe being handed invaluable first-team football chances. The same can be expected in Thailand as well.

Currently, international stars of the Thai League teams are stuck aboard due to immigration regulations regarding COVID-19. There are approximately 8 weeks to go before the season resumes. This hasn’t even taken into account the 14-day quarantine period and training required to regain full fitness. Even if the foreign stars recover their shape in time for the season restart, running up and down the pitch every 3-4 days through 26 matches will wear them down. Henceforth, providing the perfect opportunity for the homegrown players to shine.

Clubs may face squad rotation strains if the international stars do not recover in time and will need to turn to Thai players on the bench. Those players will need to be ready than ever to be selected to fill the void left by the stars. Also, Akira Nishino will surely be looking to strengthen the War Elephants before the World Cup qualifications. Who knows? We might finally be seeing a new star striker on the pitch alongside veteran Teerasil Dangda and Supachai Jaided when Thailand travels to the UAE this November.

This global pandemic is turning out to be one of the most stringent tests of passion and willpower for Thai football clubs and its players. But as the old saying goes, “Victory comes from finding opportunities in problems.” Almost everyone around the globe is experiencing the COVID-19 outbreak as a devastating crisis, and the Thai football industry is no exception with its ongoing broadcasting dispute, foreign player immigration issues, and upcoming tight schedule.

Unbeknownst to us, however, there are still several individuals that continue to work hard behind closed doors to make the best of things.

Our team at ArepA BonThai firmly believes that we’re about to witness the birth of football stars that will take Thai football clubs and the national team to the next level. While it will be disheartening to see the players overworked to accommodate the delayed season just like European footballers are experiencing, make-or-break situations like this can reward the Thai football industry with the breakthrough the fans have been waiting decades for. Only time will tell if all the sweat and tears of tenacity will all be worth it.

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