EXCLUSIVE: Winnie Schafer opens up
By Matt Riley (follow Matt on twitter at @mattRiley16)
After the 3-1 defeat at home to Kuwait last week, some members of the press have been speculating that Winnie’s two year tenure as National Team Coach is about to come to an end as the next qualification game against Lebanon approaches.
Winfried Schaefer speaks to the press after the AFF Suzuki Cup draw
Asian Football Feast met up with the highly respected German and his son Sascha to talk about how a man with such a high class CV can be contemplating finishing half way through his contract.
AFF: We are now eleven days away from the FAT deciding your future. How do you feel as we approach that date?
Winnie: Yes I heard this. I spoke to mister Worawi and asked him “what is this about?” He said that this was not correct. He said that we will have a meeting, him, me and the team manager to discuss the future of Thai football. This was his answer.
Winnie’s son and Assistant Sascha: Worawi said the media had quoted him wrongly and that on the 22nd we will meet with the new team manager to discuss how we can all work to improve the Thai national team.
AFF: After the Kuwait result, do you feel you have the full support of the people around you?
Sascha: We work with the FAT, but we think it is obvious that some things in the working process could be improved. But this is exactly why we are here. We brought a big team with us not only because it is about the games, it is to establish a better structure and organization and we are working continuously on that. So we don’t need the support of the FAT, we are part of the FAT.
AFF: You told us about the world class players in your team. How excited are you about the chance to develop them over time?
Winnie: For sure. With under 19 players that now play in our team I know I have to build for the future. The spirit of the young players is very important to the team. Not only the very young players but some like Mui, Tong and Dai are experienced but also young. All these players have a good understanding and I’m sure that in one or two years they will make a very strong team that can beat Japan or South Korea if everybody does it my way. My way is hard work and organisation added to cooperation with the TPL and FA. I want to meet all coaches from Thailand and help them. We should meet one or two times per year to talk about the players, talk about football for better performances. We must not only look as through a telescope, but see the whole picture. It was the same in Germany in 2000 when we had problems and players did not play abroad. Now the league gets better every year.
Our fitness coach here in Thailand was in Bayern Munich for ten years, working with Beckenbauer. He can help the coaches in Thailand. Our physical therapist is fantastic. After eight days at the Suzuki Cup no one was injured. They all recovered with his help. I want to use these people to help Thai football.
AFF: How do you feel the Academy teams are developing?
Winnie: BEC Tero has three young players who are under 19 and very good. Muang Thong now has a second team. I spoke to Ronnarit and saw they had one, but said they also need more matches and support. Why do the Emirates, a very small country, have a team in the London Olympics? They play all their youth games one day after the first team and the Under 20 players. They are going step by step to get better and that is the right way. We have to do the same. Young players need matches and they need thaiidols like Mui (Teerasil) to see the passion and hard work.
Sascha: You can have the best academy but the result is nothing if you don’t have a league. You can only learn in football when you have experience of the game. Training isn’t enough. This is a big problem. In Thailand you have a few academies with a lot of players. When you have so many players it is impossible for every young player to develop. It will be better when every club is forced to make a youth team so you will share the young players with the whole country so more players become more experienced more quickly and so, in the end, you have more successful youth players and as a result, the whole league becomes stronger and stronger and so more attractive.
Winnie: Chonburi have very good youth teams and Bangkok Glass with Hans Emser has a fantastic team. Bayer Leverkusen did this in 1989 when they signed many young players and the under eighteen team won all their matches five and six zero. Nobody from this team went to the first team. Why? Nobody had to fight for it. When you have the best youth team when you buy all the best young players, you weaken all the other youth teams. So it was easy for Leverkusen, but they didn’t improve because they were the best and couldn’t find opponents at the same level. The academies in Thailand show that they want to improve, but it is not the best way when you have three big academies that collect all the good players. Let all clubs have some good players and let them fight it out. What is very important is that in youth teams you need very good coaches. It is not easy. You need the best teaching methods and have good schooling and time with the family for the children.
Sascha: This is why we contacted the German Football Association. Of course we know they have a very good system there, especially with good youth trainers and very good structures in the youth leagues. What we want to do now is to negotiate with them about a long term relationship like they have done in Japan, which has worked very well. A lot of Asian countries look to Japan to work out what they did, but what they did was exactly as they did in Germany because, with German help, they created the same system. We want that same special relationship with Germany.
AFF: If you are given a chance, do you feel this project can keep moving forward and bring success to Thailand?
Winnie: I am sure we can be a very good team; we can qualify and get better. When the national team play well, the clubs play better and the other way round too. We have to work hand in hand. I am very happy for Muang Thong to play in the Champions League and I hope they can get first or second in the group. That is good for the national team. The seven Muang Thong players will have more experience of countries and also referees from different countries. Why do Japan and South Korea have many players in Europe and Thailand has none? Because they train hard and train more completely. These are the lessons that Thai players must learn.
Asian Football Feast would like to thank Matt Riley and the sensational Thai League Football website for conducting this interview and allowing us to publish it in conjunction with TLF.
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