Thailand - September 14, 2018 09:00Adisak Benjasiriwan: past & future development of the gameKey figure behind Futsal in ThailandKey Figure Behind Futsal in Thailand Discusses Its Past & Future Development

by Doug Reed (

Both pictures are courtesy: World Intercontinental Futsal Cup Facebook Page

Inside the stunning Bangkok Arena, built for the 2012 FIFA Futsal World Cup, 9,000 cheering fans are enjoying the World Intercontinental Futsal Cup, a tournament described by the Head of Events & Competitions at FIFA as “very important for the future of futsal worldwide”.

Thailand has become a home for international futsal events and in the last 3 years alone it has hosted the AFC Futsal Championships, AFC Women’s Futsal Championships, the first ever AFC U20 Futsal Championships, ASEAN Futsal Championships twice and the ASEAN Club Futsal Championships twice. It is quite a portfolio of major futsal tournaments that gives the impression the sport has a long history in the country.

However, that is not the case. Incredibly, it was less than 20 years ago that Thailand first hosted an international futsal tournament and first qualified for a FIFA Futsal World Cup, but since then the sport has developed rapidly. They have now qualified for five consecutive World Cups and reached the knockout stages at the last two. How does a country go from being unknown on the world stage to one of the hotbeds of futsal worldwide in such a short timescale?

Without doubt, a lot of this success can be attributed to just a single person, Adisak Benjasiriwan. He is the current Chairman of the Futsal & Beach Soccer Committee at the Thailand Football Association as well as a member of The AFC’s equivalent body. He first got involved in developing the sport almost 20 years ago and since then he has held several roles including acting as the team manager of his country’s national team and being behind the successful bid to host the 2012 FIFA Futsal World Cup.

One of his first involvements in developing the sport was founding and building club side Chonburi Bluewave where he was president until a few years ago when the position was passed to his son. They have dominated domestically and the two-time Asian club champions have provided the backbone of the national team, being pivotal in their upward trajectory. The former University of Dallas student hasn’t just focused on developing the elite game and one of his initiatives helped get public futsal courts built in urban areas so more people can enjoy this game he loves.

In just under two decades he has been the driving force behind futsal becoming one of Thailand’s most popular sports where it fits well in the hot and humid climate that has a long rainy season. However, he is not satisfied to stop there and has ambitions further afield. He previously said he wants Thailand, runners-up in Asia on two occasions, to become the number one team in the continent where Iran and Japan have dominated. In this exclusive interview Benjasiriwan tells us about the sport in his homeland, how it developed and where he sees it in the future.

Doug Reed: How popular is futsal in Thailand?

Adisak Benjasiriwan: Futsal in Thailand is one of the top five most popular sports in the country. It is a professional sport amongst 13 sports in Thailand and there are more than 100,000 people involved in the game.

For our domestic competition, we have the AIS Futsal League as the top tier of the pyramid, followed by Division 1, Women’s, University League, Thailand National Games for university students and National Secondary School League.

The league competition has an average attendance of 1,200-1,500 spectators restricted by the capacity of our facilities. Nevertheless, for the ASEAN and Asian Championship we can expect 8,000-12,000 attendances in the Bangkok Arena for National Team games or AFC Futsal Club Championships. Regarding the TV audience, we are only behind the Men’s Football National Team and Women’s Volleyball National Team which means that the TV ratings for Futsal National Team games is relatively high and has been as high as over 5 million viewers.

At the grassroots level, kids are growing up playing futsal more than playing football due to the fact that we have more than 1,000 futsal courts in the country in over 70 provinces and nowadays more than a quarter of schools all over Thailand substitute futsal for football due to limited space for football.

DR: How were you able to grow the game in Thailand so quickly?

AB: We started developing futsal in Thailand almost 20 years ago. In the first year we didn’t have any futsal players so we brought footballers to play futsal and after our first World Cup tournament, we decided to organize a futsal selection for our National Teams’ players to play only Futsal. One of the most important decisions we ever made was to start the league in 2006 and since then we always have had the system to enhance our human resource development.

The league competition has been growing step by step and gaining more and more popularity. During the past 10 years, we have also organized AFF and AFC competitions regularly both for club and national team tournaments as well as the FIFA Futsal World Cup in 2012. Therefore, people including the young generations have become familiar with futsal. In addition, our national team has successfully qualified for the FIFA Futsal World Cup five consecutive times since 2000 and inspires the young generations to have a career path in futsal and possess the dream to play for national team.

DR: You have supported futsal and helped grow the game in Thailand for many years. Why are you so passionate about this sport and its development in the country?

AB: This is a fascinating sport and I believe that the characteristics of the Thai people also fit the rhythm of the game. This is one of the reasons why I supported futsal and helped grow the game.
The first time we qualified to the World Cup in 2000, it was a spark in my life and I told myself that I needed to grow this sport and follow my dream to make this game successful in Thailand. We have been in the top 3 in Asia in the majority of competitions. I wanted to see the success that futsal brings to the Thai people as they can make a career out of the game and I wanted to see the happiness that futsal brings to the fans as this sport has done for me.

DR: In 2012 you brought the FIFA Futsal World Cup to Thailand. What impact did the event have?

AB: We made a very good and compelling bid book in 2011 but unfortunately, after we were selected as the host nation from FIFA, I was not involved during the tournament but it gave us a legacy and put Thailand on the map in the world of futsal.

Thai people had the opportunity to experience and feel the energy of the game from as close as they could imagine. This inspired the children and people who had never heard of futsal before. This brought interest to the country and what we also got from the World Cup is one of the best stadiums in the world. We built the Bangkok Arena which is now a symbol and legacy from the World Cup.

DR: Hosting the penultimate World Cup and the World Intercontinental Futsal Cup has cemented Thailand as one of the leading countries for futsal in the world. Where do you see the sport in the future here?

AB: After working for futsal for so long, I am very proud to be able to organize, and be trusted to organize, the world’s best two championships. I believe that Thailand is currently considered as an international futsal hub for the world. Anyway, we must still develop and make this family grow in terms of human resources, competitions, marketing and our national teams to really achieve the professional and international standards. We believe that if we do our best, the benefits will fall into the arms of the Thai futsal community, therefore we have so many things to be planned and done ahead for the future generations. This plan would be beneficial to the management team of futsal in Thailand, whoever is able to make the decision, and it would be the best for futsal.

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