Sven Goran Eriksson said he was “surprised by the technical aspects of the Thai players” going into his third week of a two-month contract at Thai Premier League club BEC Tero Sasana.
“Some are on par with European standard,” the 64-year-old said yesterday, adding that the club set-up in Thailand was also of a high calibre.
The Swedish coaching legend was talking to NagaWorld event manager Hans Yeo, who had arranged for two coaches and two young players from the 2012 Metfone C-League runners-up club Naga Corp to travel to Bangkok to check out how things are done in arguably Southeast Asia’s top professional league.
It had seemed a somewhat bizarre move for Eriksson, the former manager of the England, Mexican and Ivory Coast national teams as well as esteemed club sides such as Man City and Lazio, to take the reins at BEC Tero. However, his close connections to club chairman Brian Marcar helped convince the Swede to make a leap into the unknown.
“He invited me to come on board and I took up the offer,” said Eriksson.
In such a short time at the helm, there was little he could do to turn around the Bangkok team’s season, as they saw their chance to win the league title this year fizzle out before being edged out of the Thai League Cup competition on away goals. A 2-2 draw at home to rivals Buriram United on Wednesday night in their quarterfinal second leg put paid to their 1-1 tie from the first fixture on September 5.
Eriksson noted that he was encouraged by what he saw of the Thai players, who only lost out on certain physical aspects when compared with players in the English Premier League. “The players in Thailand work hard and are willing to learn. They are trying to be better and I am pleased to work with them,” he said.
Eriksson also gave praise to the initiative of Naga Corp in sending squad members on an educational excursion to Thailand.
“It’s positive to send coaches and players to go learn from a better club. They can see how they train and learn some new styles. When I was young, I often traveled to Holland and also went to England to watch Liverpool. Recently, I went to observe the Barcelona academy and see how they operate there,” he said.
NagaWorld event manager Hans Yeo said the Phnom Penh casino and resort recognised that many Cambodians were passionate about soccer. “As part of our corporate social responsibility, we want to do our part to take Cambodian soccer to the next level,” he told the Post yesterday.
Eriksson said he expected Brazil to win the next World Cup as host in 2014. “Japan and South Korea will do well but they will not win the Cup,” he added.
To contact the reporter on this story: Dan Riley at [email protected]