BANGKOK - Thailand's new German coach
Winfried Schaefer wants to transform his players into a
courageous team of "wild elephants" and has vowed to devote his
time to World Cup qualification, not lazing around on beaches.
"The symbol of the Thai team is a war elephant, it puts fear
in the hearts of anyone, it's unstoppable and that's what we
need to strive for," Schaefer told reporters on Friday after
signing a three-year contract agreed on June 22.
"We need confidence, courage and character. We need to work
like professionals. When the players go on to the field, they
cannot be afraid, they must go out like wild elephants."
The 61-year old former Karlsruhe coach, who steered Cameroon
to victory in the 2002 African Cup of Nations, said he wanted to
halt Thailand's slide down the FIFA rankings and build a team of
tough players capable of reaching the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
"I'm very positive and if I wasn't targeting the World Cup,
I wouldn't have come here."
Thailand, 105th in the rankings two years ago, have fallen
to 123rd. "We must stop this decline," Schaefer said. "I came
here to work; I didn't come here for the beaches."
Thailand have never qualified for the World Cup finals and
have been through their worst run of form in a decade, tumbling
out of regional contests they used to dominate and failing to
reach the Asian Cup finals for the first time in 23 years.
With his shoulder-length white hair, Schaefer looks more
like an erstwhile rock star than a soccer coach, but his record
is impressive - he has won UEFA Cup and Bundesliga titles as a
player and the United Arab Emirates championship and African
title as a coach.
Known better by his nickname "Winnie", Schaefer is the sixth
foreigner in eight years to coach Thailand and his predecessors
include compatriot and former team mate Siegfied Held and
Englishmen Peter Withe, Peter Reid and Bryan Robson.
He said his priority was to work closely with the bosses of
Thailand Premier League clubs to discipline and toughen up the
players and make them hungry for success.
Thailand start their World Cup qualifying campaign on July
24 against the winners of the match between Palestine and
Afghanistan. Palestine have a 2-0 first-leg lead.
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