Football, Beer, and Politics
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Football, Beer, and Politics

Ian Williams of NBC blogs:
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Thaksin is also smart. And while the military-appointed government bumbled along, he kept in the headlines, even buying the British Premier League soccer club Manchester City, the poorer cousin of Manchester United.
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/>Last December the generals fulfilled their promise of new elections to return Thailand to democracy. As the election campaign was heating up, Thaksin signed three top Thai players and announced that a Manchester City football academy would open in Thailand. (Two of Manchester players were on the aircraft returning with Thaksin this week).
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/>Guess what made the headlines in soccer-obsessed Thailand?
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/>Real Life Thailand had a comment on this
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Yet the master stroke was still to come. Thaksin must have smiled to himself as he launched a ‘coup’ of his own, the ultimate PR stunt. Behind his entourage , immaculately suited, came Manchester City players Casper Schmeical and Kelvin Etuhu. The former may not be as legendary as his father, but the site of EPL players was all that was required. They waved and smiled to the crowd who returned the compliment with cheers and shouts of delight. I swear, if you didn’t know better you’d think it was an FA Cup victory parade. A perfectly crafted moment reached its pinnacle when the duo announced they had come: “to coach Thai children”.

/>COMMENT: I blogged something similar the other day and had a quote from Kasper Schmeichel which is getting coverage in the Thai media, Thai Rath reprinted the quote with a picture of the players in their coaching role:
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/>SOURCE: Thai Rath
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/>Football and politics have played an interesting side role in the ongoing political crisis in Thailand. Prior to the crisis (in 2004) Chang Beer became the major sponsor of Everton and this included “three young Thai footballers will spend next season training at the club’s Academy.” Chang Beer is a ThaiBev product which is owned by Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, a very wealthy man and Thailand’s richest man.
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/>It has been said in the past that Charoen is “reluctant to get involved in political issues” and he hasn’t had a close relationship with Thaksin like other business leaders, but there have been rumours that he partially funded the Motherland Group although it is difficult to get any confirmation of this. While the Motherland Group has joined the coalition and is partially made up of some former TRT executives, these were mainly executives who had left TRT or were planning to leave TRT. They have been the non-persona camp with Thaksin for a while. Then from late last year you have this:
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Thailand’s election battle spilled onto the football pitch Wednesday as the Democrat Party unveiled plans for Premier League club Everton to coach young Thai players.
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/>The announcement came just days after Manchester City, owned by the Democrats’ archrival, ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, signed three Thai players and announced similar plans to open academies across the soccer-mad kingdom which goes to the polls on December 23.
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/>Bangkok governor and deputy Democrat leader Apirak Kosayodhin last week signed an agreement with Everton for its players and coaches to help with training at the Bangkok Football Academy, a municipal official said.
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/>Everton are sponsored by Chang Beer, made by Thailand’s largest brewer Thai Bev.
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/>Top Thai player Kiatisuk Senamuang, head of the Bangkok Football Academy, will train up to 40 young teenagers in April to prepare them for coaching by Everton, a Bangkok city official said.
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/>The academy was set up this year and trained about 1,000 teenagers last April during the main school holiday.

/>COMMENT: It would be surprising if the major sponsor wasn’t somehow involved in this!
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/>Now, drumroll, who was recently announced as a sponsor of Manchester City, Singha:
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In November 2007 Manchester City announced Singha Beer as the latest addition to its growing family of official partners on a three-year, seven figure arrangement.
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/>As the Official Premium Beer Partner of Manchester City, Singha Beer will benefit from extensive stadium branding, advertising and promotional rights both in the UK and overseas. In addition, Singha Beer will be on sale at the City of Manchester Stadium providing supporters with the opportunity to sample one of Asia’s most popular beers on match days.
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/>Commenting on the partnership, City Chief Executive Alistair Mackintosh said: “Manchester City is delighted to welcome Singha Beer as the club’s Official Premium Beer. Exceptional on-pitch performances have taken interest in the club to an unprecedented level around the world. This increased interest is most evident in Asia and specifically Thailand.

/>COMMENT: Does this mean that Singha are in the Thaksin camp and Chang in the non-Thaksin camp? Nothing definite, but the role of football in Thai politics is sure to continue.