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Thai Soccer Team
Peter Withe said "I was missing coaching. I felt that I was a good motivator…a good coach. I wanted to work with National players. When I found out it was Thailand, I thought to myself, What a great opportunity to help BUILD a nation up.

 

ASIAN SOCCER… FIT TO BE THAI'D

James Loving - National Radio Text Service

 

Going up against a full strength Korean team it seemed the best the Thai's could do was to hold on in hopes for a shoot out. Thai coach Peter Withe had other ideas he wanted his team to be aggressive and keep on kicking for a winning goal.

December 1998

DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRICALES?

Thailand's soccer team surprised the world with its valiant performance in the Asian Games, they are considered a David against the Goliath Asian teams Iran, Kuwait, South Korea. The Thai's were the darlings of the soccer tournament playing for their fans in their own country.

They accomplished what Japan, one of Asia's four representatives in the World Cup couldn't do, make it to the semifinals of the Asian Games. The Thai's were short on superstar talent but long on guts and heart and showed they are a team to be reckoned with in Asian soccer.

The South Korea vs. Thailand quarterfinal match was considered to be the biggest game Thailand fans would get to see in 20 years. It turned out to be perhaps the greatest sporting event ever in Thailand. A contest that was won on a GOLDEN GOAL in THE MIRICLE GAME.

A capacity house of over 60,000 screaming fans jammed Rajamangala Stadium and watched their team take a 1-0 lead. It was a lead they held on to until a penalty call near the end of the regulation time sent off their second player of the match reducing them to a nine man team.

Going up against a full strength Korean team it seemed the best the Thai's could do was to hold on in hopes for a shoot out. Thai coach Peter Withe had other ideas he wanted his team to be aggressive and keep on kicking for a winning goal.

During the break prior before the extra time Withe noticed something about the Korean team that inspired his overmatched troops.

"I told them, look the Koreans are sitting down. We are standing up, ready to play and they are not. We can win."

Substitute midfielder THAWATCHAI DAMRONG-ONGTRAKUL scored what is called the Golden Goal from 30 yards out in the sixth minute of the extra time. Thailand was awarded a free kick near the left touchline. Dusit Chalermsean touched the ball to Thawatchai who blasted it.

It was like a sonic boom that could be heard around the world. It certainly was a boom that catapulted the capacity 60,000 fans to rock and roar, shaking the rafters at Rajamangala Stadium. It was a goal that Thailand fans will never forget. It was a goal that enabled the little Thai's to defeat the World Cup Korean team.

If this were a movie the crowd's roars would have turned to a deafening silence. The heavens would have opened up and the angels would sing. But hey…THIS WAS REALITY and this is Thailand. They did the unbelievable; they defeated South Korea with just NINE MEN in extra time, 2-1..

The game turned out to be more than expected. It was divine intervention that played a part in the deciding factor. The two teams played a tightly-contested match. Korea's apparent constant faking of injuries marred a scoreless first half. Every time Thailand would gain the momentum a Korean player would go down clutching his leg. After being carried out on a stretcher he would return to the game almost immediately. This was a tactic the Koreans used throughout.

The restless crowd grew tired of the Koreans antics and threw bottles of water on to the playing field. Riot Police with shields and dogs surrounded the pitch at the 60th minute.

The Koreans were reminiscent of the NBA's whining Los Angeles Lakers behavior after loosing a game. Rather than whining about what they soulda, woulda coulda done, the Koreans were doing their best to disrupt the flow of the game. They were falling down like bowling pins. It was enough to draw the attention of a Mash Unit and the sympathy of the referees. The Mash unit didn't show up but the referees gave Korea an abundance of attention and Thailand penalties.

Thailand isn't a team that plays dirty soccer. They play hard and clean. In the four other soccer matches that we saw during the games the total numbers of players carried out on a stretcher, FOR BOTH TEAMS, was less than the Korean team that afternoon.

"Don't talk to me about it," the Bangkok Post reported a Korean fan said. "They should be shot." Well the way the players were falling to the ground it appeared as if they were. It was just a case of them going too Hollywierd [Hollywood]. Korea was the victim when Thailand shocked the Asian soccer world.

* * *

An overflow crowd was expected to seek the 56,000 tickets available for the 60,000 seat Rajamangala Stadium for the game with Korea. Thailand draws young enthustiac fans that packed the stadium every match the team played. There were advance warnings in the press for the fans not to come if they didn't have tickets.

In Thailand's previous match against Qatar fans arrived at the stadium as early as 6 p.m. the previous day. The day of the game, a disturbance ensued. Police were called in to quell the overflow crowd. A giant screen TV was installed at the entrance of the stadium to pacify those who weren't lucky enough to purchase a ticket.

* * *

IRAN defeated China 1-0 Wednesday and will face Gulf Cup Champions Kuwait Saturday, for the Gold medal.

* * *

NO GOLD: The Kuwait soccer team has never won an Asian Games gold medal. Their best ever finish was a silver medal in 1982

* * *

BEEN THERE, DONE THAT: IRAN has won two Asian Games gold medals in soccer (1974 & 1990). They won silver medals in 1951 & 1966.

* * *

THAT'S CONFIDENCE: After Korea played its second contest of Asian Games baseball competition, I asked a Korean reporter when CHAN HO PARK would pitch again. "In the finals," he replied. "But not before,"? I asked. "I don't know but he will pitch the final," he answered. The Korean team had to win four games to get there. AND………

PARK CHAN HO, as he's called in Korea, pitched a four hitter in Korea's 13-1 win against JAPAN to win the Gold Medal. Park gave up a home run to KOKICHI AKUNE in the first inning. The game was stopped in the seventh due to baseballs mercy rule, which shortens a game if a team is leading, by 10 runs.

The Gold medal gave Park a reprieve from three years of Korean military service. This enables him to return to the Los Angeles Dodgers to continue his major league career.

"It's really a big thing for me because I will really feel comfortable playing in the big leagues," he said.

* * *

IN COMMON: The Asian Games organizers found out a couple of things about the Koreans. KIM is a common name. They found that paging a KIM in the athlete's village might cause confusion. They counted 113 people with then popular Korean surname.

SAY WHAT???: The games organizers said they spent the equivalent of $56,000 to buy eight tons of KIMCHI, a Korean staple, for the athletes dining rooms….

 

© Copyright: National Radio. Any use of these materials, whole or in part, is prohibited unless authorized in writing by National Radio. Contact: nationalradio@yahoo.com

 

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