Monday, 20/05/2024 08:10

The Local Game: Hard luck for Kiatisuk

Kiatisuk in his first match as Hà Nội Police FC coach. His promise of winning the V.League as coach is still unfulfilled. VNA/VNS Photo Minh Quyết

Anh Đức

Kiatisuk Senamuang has left the building, with the promise of winning the V.League as coach still unfulfilled.

The Thai football legend, despite having multiple success in his homeland, was somewhat unfortunate in his second spell as a manager in Việt Nam.

Kiatisuk's foray with Vietnamese football started in 2002, when Đoàn Nguyên Đức, owner of Hoàng Anh Gia Lai FC (HAGL FC), pursued the Thai player for months to get him to join his team. HAGL was a somewhat nameless club back then and was floundering in the First Division, while Kiatisuk was continentally famous, having been the driving force that put Thailand ahead of Việt Nam in national team football for years. It was impossible for both the Thai and the Vietnamese to even think that Kiatisuk would join HAGL, but Đức made it work.

The big signing pumped HAGL FC up to the V-League, and brought them the championship in their first year at the nation's top division, a feat that until now only ever done by two teams. Kiatisuk won the national double for two straight seasons, 2003 and 2004, and was perceived by many to be the heart and soul of HAGL's play.

After his retirement from playing in 2006, Kiatisuk immediately became the coach of HAGL, but quit in 2007 after two unsuccessful seasons. The Thai legend returned to his homeland, where he brought Thailand tremendous success. Kiatisuk's Thailand national team dominated South East Asian football, and made it to the final qualifying round of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Having only scored one point, the man nicknamed 'Thai Zico' after the Brazilian legend, resigned after the qualifiers, citing that the Football Association of Thailand's goal of playing well in the final round was "too hard to execute".

After a three-year hiatus, Kiatisuk was asked by Đức, who he greatly respected, to return as coach of HAGL FC, and the Thai legend agreed.

HAGL FC before Kiatisuk came was flooded with talents of national-team calibre, and a team chemistry that rivalled none, but never had a leader that could take them to the glory they crave.

Enter Kiatisuk. The club and continental legend's leadership brought consistency and an explosive playstyle that throttled HAGL into first place in the 2021 season. After losing their opening match, the team bounced back and went unbeaten for the next twelve matches, with a seven-game winning streak in between.

However, as the pandemic get complicated in mid-2021, the season was cancelled with HAGL still atop of the table. For the next two seasons, HAGL returned to their normal mid-table presence, and with key players leaving, hopes for silverware faded.

In January 2024, Kiatisuk surprised many by moving mid-season to reigning champions Hà Nội Police FC, in an unprecedented loan move from HAGL. He vowed to retain the championship when he took charge, with a well-invested squad. The champions won three in a row after his appointment, but became winless in the next five games. With the title out of his hands, the coach resigned on May 14 after just three months at the helm.

No one knows where Kiatisuk would end up after this, and many speculated that he may either return to HAGL or become Thailand U23's new head coach before the 2025 SEA Games. But what everybody knows is that Kiatisuk is a well-respected coach with a great talent, just a little bit unfortunate in Việt Nam. In my opinion, he might return to the V-League in the future to settle some unfinished business, and an inspiring manager of that calibre will sure find success. VNS

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