- Thailand captain Sunisa Srangthaisong looks ahead to France 2019
- Thai pop sensation Thongchai ‘Bird’ McIntyre invited team on stage during concert
- Skipper says Thailand have been keeping an eye on opponents through social media
It is not every day you get to go and watch one of the biggest popstars in your home country and then get invited on stage. But that was the reality for Thailand women’s national team players when they joined one of the country’s biggest popstars Thongchai ‘Bird’ McIntyre on stage during a performance in Bangkok last month.
Members of the team were invited to join the Thai pop sensation to be part of his show and promote their appearance at the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019, thanks in part to general manager of the team, Nualphan Lamsam, who reached out to McIntyre. The squad was aware that the star, who has sold over 25 million albums, wanted them on stage beforehand, and had rehearsed the moment earlier in the day.
Skipper Sunisa Srangthaisong, who will lead her team into a World Cup for the first time, said it was an exciting moment for the players, but one that earlier in the day, made them feel very nervous.
"We were really excited to be performing with the number one singer of Thailand," she said. “We were nervous about messing up, but after the rehearsal, we were relieved to perform.
"When we were on the stage, we understood how he brought the fans together. We knew from that day that we're not nervous anymore. We enjoyed the concert and enjoyed the fans making us feel more powerful. Going to the World Cup, we are going to see a lot of fans. We hope they can give us that same power.”
Thailand made their debut at a World Cup four years ago when they competed at Canada 2015. A tough group that featured Germany and Norway meant it was always going to be a challenge to qualify for the knockout stage. But Thailand were able to take plenty of pride away with them following a 3-2 win over Côte d'Ivoire – which gave them their first win at a World Cup, and saw them finish just outside the best third-place finishers.
Srangthaisong says Thailand can take from the experience of playing at Canada 2015 and hopes that, despite a difficult group, they can surprise a few people.
"The World Cup in Canada was our first, so the coach always let us watch videos of the other teams because we had never really played them. We looked at the style of play of the big teams, so to then play against them was a great experience. It was a great honour to bring back to Thailand. It was new, so this time we want to improve."
Srangthaisong was speaking during the Women’s World Cup Trophy Tour that saw the Trophy on display in Bangkok. In attendance were a number of the national team players and staff, as well as the team's technical adviser Vera Pauw, who many will know from her time coaching the likes of Scotland and South Africa.
The captain feels “lucky” to have Pauw on board, and says this is just one factor in how the game in Thailand has moved on since Canada.
"We have earned a lot of opportunities to improve ourselves and our system. We have played more games and tournaments," she said. "Now we are very lucky to have Vera Pauw to help us for this World Cup. I think that shows how much the game has progressed here.”
Thailand has an equally tough task to that in 2015 having been drawn alongside reigning champions USA, Sweden and Chile. They featured in this year’s Cyprus Cup and obtained valuable game-time and experience against solid opposition – but what they will face in France is sure to be a step up.
So how are the players preparing for those big games? Through the use of social media of course. Srangthaisong explains, with a smile on her face.
"Personally we know we are going to face some good teams and have been working hard to prepare for these games. The coaches have prepared us tactically by showing us videos, and we have stalked the players from the other teams on Instagram to see what they have been doing to prepare," she laughed.
"We have more experience now, we feel prepared, so we will just go and do our best."