Thai football fires coach Polking

By Hieu Luong   November 22, 2023 | 05:56 pm PT
Thai football fires coach Polking
Coach Mano Polking at a press conference on Nov. 20, 2023, before the match between Singapore and Thailand in the second qualifying round of the 2026 World Cup in Asia. Photo by Changsuek
Thailand's national football team will replace Coach Mano Polking early with Japanese gaffer Masatada Ishii, who has been named the best coach in both the Thai and J Leagues.

The Football Association of Thailand (FAT) has reported that Polking’s contract would be cut short instead of lasting until the Asian Cup in early 2024.

The Brazilian coach started managing Thailand in 2021. They have won 21 of their 37 games since, making Polking Thailand’s most successful coach, with a win rate of 56.76%.

But Thailand under Polking were considered successful only in the Southeast Asian arena. They won the AFF Cup 2020, which was delayed to 2021, and 2022. They lost the King's Cup 2023 to Iraq and lost 1-2 against China at the second World Cup qualification round last Thursday.

Thai football fans have been using online forums to call on for FAT to fire Polking for some time.

Thailand’s 3-1 victory against Singapore at the World Cup qualifiers on Tuesday could not save his seat, and after the match FAT announced that it was his last game with Thailand.

Polking, 47, worked as an assistant coach for Thailand in 2012-2013 before coaching Thai clubs Army United, Suphanburi and Bangkok United. He was named Ho Chi Minh City FC’s coach in 2020, but left in 2021 after Vietnamese tournaments were canceled by Covid-19.

Japan’s Kyodo News reported that Masatada Ishii will be Polking’s replacement.

Ishii will be Thailand’s second Japanese coach after Akira Nishino, who took Japan to the final round of the 2018 World Cup, but could not bring Thailand past the second qualification round of the 2022 World Cup.

As a player, Ishii, now 56, won J-League 1996 with the Kashima Antlers.

He retired as a player and started coaching in 1998, but only won one more J-League Cup with the Antlers in 2015. His club did however win J-League 1 and the King’s Cup a year later.

They also finished as runners-up at the FIFA Club World Cup 2016, after losing 2-4 to Real Madrid. His victories earned Ishii the title of J-League’s best coach.

In 2019, he moved to Thailand and started managing Thai clubs, including Buriram United for the 2021-2023 season. The club won three consecutive Thai League 1 titles, the Thai FA Cup, and the Thai League Cup in two consecutive seasons 2021-2022 and 2022-2023, earning Ishii the title of the Thai League’s best coach.

FAT is expected to reveal its contract with Ishii in a couple of days, and he is expected to make his debut at a friendly match with Japan in Tokyo on Jan. 1, 2024.

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