Thai success on Danish fields

Sumet Keawtipnet may not be familiar to most Thais, but his reputation is widely spread among local football clubs in Denmark, Sweden and elsewhere in Europe. His team, Thamrong Thai football club has won the Dana Cup and the Tivoli Cup five times since 1989. Sumet is the manager of one of the most well organized youth football teams in the world. The first international trophy they won was the American Premier Classic Cup in 1989. In 1999 Sumet was selected man of the year by Trans World Television.
      Thamrong Thai and Sumet became well known internationally. That year Thamrong Thai was invited to play in Dana Cup, Denmark and Gothia Cup, Sweden. They became the first Asian youth football team to win the two Scandinavian cups.
      Sumet is planning for his teams’ next trip to Denmark which will be in July. “We will work as hard as we can, to be on the podiums again. The trip is possible if we get enough funding.” Sumet.
      The path to championship for Sumet began in 1946. Sumet Keawtipnet was born and raised in Klongteoy, one of the worst areas in Bangkok. The only way that he could survive poverty, crime and drugs in the neighborhood was through football. He did not have a football, so he practiced with tennis balls instead, until he became the key player in Samsen College.
      His star changed in 1970 by just one football match while watching England play Brazil in the World Cup. The curiosity struck into his mind, “Why can’t Thais play football like this?” Later that year Sumet received a football coaching scholarship in London. Sumet, who was 20 years old at the time, had an idea that might draw attention to Thai football. He would ride a bicycle from Bangkok to London about 10,000 miles or 16,000 kilometers. Sumet was nearly killed by Malaria on a mountain in Pakistan. He nearly froze to death in Greece.
      Despite all the obstacles Sumet succeeded in his first goal on drawing attention to Thai football. Sumet spent 10 years studying coaching in England and Germany. As soon as Sumet got back to Thailand in 1979, he started living out his dream by teaching and coaching children from the slums around Bangkok in his free time. Sumet also coached several premier football clubs and articles about him were printed in almost every newspaper and sports magazine in Thailand.
      To fulfill his dream Sumet formed his own youth football club called Thamrong Thai in 1979 with help from friends from his early year. The first Thamrong Thai team was often discharged from the field because the owner or staffs were afraid that they might damage the grass.
      However Sumet never lost his determination to bring these children out of poverty and drugs. He started looking for a piece of land to construct a football field. Eventually a business man gave him about 50,000 sq. meters for the football club in 1980’s.
      Sumet and his wife Nualchan built the club with their own hands, helped workers construct the buildings, clear out the field just to economize the budget because the government at the time did not have a policy supporting sports clubs. It took Sumet 10 years to build and train Thamrong Thai to a level that made them able to compete with other international youth football teams.
      Sumet decided to join the Premier Classic Cup in America in 1989. His own funding was not enough so he had to borrow some money from his friends and family and put his house into a mortgage for just the plane ticket to go to America. The team did not disappoint him. They took the Championship title for their coach. The victory continued in Dana Cup, Denmark and Gothia Cup, Sweden the same year. Thamrong Thai also won Dallas cup XII U.S.A. 1991, Upper Austria Cup 1992, Stockholm Summer game in Sweden, Helsinki Cup in Finland and the Tivoli Cup in Denmark.
      “Skills and tactics come after discipline. Everyone in my team has to get up and clean up their area by six o’clock. By seven everyone has to finish washing up, eating breakfast and get ready for school buses. Even I have been doing this same routine for over 30 years.” The 57 years old team manager says.
      “And when we are abroad we have to stay with other families we taught our children to be helpful and generous so the people will love us and welcome us to their place without any regrets.”
      Not only Thais who lives abroad loves Thamrong Thai football team but their hosts in every country they have ever been to love them too. The main sponsors for Thamrong Thai are not giant sports equipment companies. It is more likely the tournament holders and Thai restaurants like Ayuttaya Thai restaurant in Copenhagen. They are the real sponsors because they provide food and shelter for the children and the staff.
      “Football gives our children more than just pride and victory. It gives them friendship, discipline and fairness.” Sumet said. During the Helsinki Cup in Finland, there was a match in which one of the Thamrong Thai players scored at almost the end of the game. He soon started mocking the opponent, Sumet went furious and asked the referee to discharge the player immediately.
      “After we apologized to the opponent team, I suspended that player for 5 matches. This kind of rudeness has never happened again. Thamrong Thai must not win like this. We have to win with dignity.” Sumet says.
      Since 1979 Thamrong Thai has trained and raised over 5,000 children and most of them have proved that poverty is not an obstacle and does not necessarily lead to getting involved with drugs or violence.
      “Over 100 Thamrong Thai boys graduated from the best university in Thailand and over 50 obtained master degrees.” Sumet proudly says.
      “Nobody in Thamrong Thai can play football unless they go to school.” Nualchan, Sumet’s wife, adds “We are proud that we raised them well, we raised them with our son, like our own flesh and blood. Even though we don’t have much support from the government or private funds we still try to keep these children safe and well educated.”
      Sumet loves to take the children to Scandinavia because he feels that the Scandinavians provide safety and sports opportunities for their children more than in Thailand.
      “Even though I lost my house and I am now a debtor of the bank. I will never give up on hope and I’ll continue training the children to make them the best football players in Thailand. I don’t care what other say, the only thing I care about is the children.” Sumet insists.
      “I have kept at least 5,000 children off drugs and violence. I have also given them good educations for the past 30years. I’ll continue doing that.”

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