Newly appointed chief coach of Thailand Winfried Schaefer is a man on a mission – and his immediate task is to prod the ‘war elephant into action.
The FA of Thailand (FAT) recently named the former coach of Cameroon as their trainer to replace former England captain Bryan Robson, who had vacated his post due to health reasons.
And this week following the re-appointment of Datuk Worawi Makudi to his third term in office as the FAT president, Schaefer was confirmed as the new national coach where he signed a three-year contract.
“The national team must be the flagship for Thai football. Every country around us should talk in respect about us. Thailand’s heraldic animal is a Chang Suk (war elephant) and exactly this it is what we need to aim for,” said Schaefer, who is also affectionately known as Winni.
“The players must be happy to get into the team. It’s the honour to play for the country. We need confidence, courage and character.”
The 61-year-old Schaefer, had coached Cameroon at the 2002 World Cup where he also guided the country to their African Nations Cup the same year.
The former Moenchengladbach midfielder steered German side Karlsruhe to the UEFA Cup semi-finals in 1994 and was Stuttgart coach in 1998.
He had previously coached United Arab Emirates clubs Al Ahli and Al Ain with his last stint being with Azerbaijan club FK Baku.
Able to draw from his vast experience in international football, Schaefer said that from his observation of the way Thailand played, he knows just where to begin his work.
“I have seen two DVDs of games against Singapore and Japan. The players fought well, however, we must improve on tactics, on tactical discipline,” added Schaefer.
“The players need to have more courage and self-confidence. If they go on the field, they don’t need to be afraid. I need players who want to improve and want to stand above the ranking further on top.”
With the second round of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers looming where they will take on Palestine on 23 July and 28 July 2011 in a two-legged encounter, Schaefer pointed out that he is not aiming to guide Thailand to the next World Cup.
But rather, he sees his work in Thailand as building a base from which the country can project to win a place in the FIFA World Cup finals in 2022.
“The structures must be developed in general and optimised. Everybody in Thailand must work together, from youth up to the top team. The base of all national teams is the youth. Young people need the idol, whom they can look upon. In Germany, we have Ballack and Schweinsteiger. Kids should have shirts of players from our team, not of Ronaldinho or (Lionel) Messi,” he quipped.
But Schaefer will not be all alone in his mission to guide Thailand to a new chapter in their history where he has been offered the services of Surachai Jaturapattarapong as well as former Thai captain Kiatisuk Senamuang and Thawatchai Damrong-Ongtrakul as his assistant.
And while both Kiatisuk and Thawatchai had turned the offer down, their position at the club level will in some way goes a long way to helping Schaefer mould the new Thai national side.
“All the league coaches and I, we have to work together. I cannot change everything in one week as I need the help from the club coaches. If the league is doing well, the national team do so,” he explained.
“I recently met two coaches from the Thai Premier League and I told them that I need them. I need the information from the coaches about all players and I want to be able to ask them why player xyz is so so weak this week. Without the league coaches, things won’t go any further.”
Even without Kiatisuk and Thawatchai, Schaefer will be ably assisted by the 41-year-old Surachai, who had experience of working with foreign coaches including Steve Darby and also Peter With.
More recently, Surachai worked with German Hans Emser, youth academy director of Bangkok Glass FC where they were involved in a project to send Under-14 players of Bangkok Glass to visit German Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen this year.
PROFILE – AS A PLAYER
1968–1970 Borussia Mönchengladbach
1970–1975 – Kickers Offenbach
1975–1977 – Karlsruher SC
1977–1985 – Borussia Mönchengladbach
PROFILE – AS A MANAGER
1982–1985 – Borussia Mönchengladbach II
1985–1986 – Borussia Mönchengladbach (scout)
1986–1998 – Karlsruher SC
1998 – VfB Stuttgart
1999–2000 – Tennis Borussia Berlin
2001–2004 – Cameroon
2005–2007 – Al-Ahli
2007–2009 – Al-Ain
2009–2011 – FK Baku
2011 – Thailand