A-League coaching dream begins in Thailand
John Duerden
13:00 AEST Thu Sep 9 2010

John Duerden has been described by BBC Radio as 'the voice of Asian football'. He's spent the past decade living in Asia, and now brings Wide World of Sports readers an inside view from the continent.
John Duerden
Australian football coach Nathan Hall at Thai Premier League club Thai Port.
Australian football coach Nathan Hall at Thai Premier League club Thai Port.

  Have your say on coaching in Asia

The best way for Australia to really become part of Asia's football family is to simply get involved in the continental game at all levels, not just the Asian Cup and Asian Champions League.

While I was in Bangkok last week, I had the chance to talk to Nathan Hall, the 25-year-old assistant coach and head of physical performance at Thai Port, one of the top teams in the Thailand Premier League (TPL). Here is a man who left Australia under his own steam and with his own money to try his luck in Asia.

Luck, or perhaps timing, always plays a part but hard work is what it is all about. After seven months in Bangkok, Hall's stock is rising. Everyone you meet in Thai football, including national team coach Bryan Robson and his assistant Steve Darby, speak highly of the passionate former youth coach of Sutherland Sharks and U-20 coach of APIA Tigers.

While enjoying his time at state level, Hall wanted to take the next step as he told me over coffee at a Bangkok hotel.

"As a young coach to get an opportunity in the A-League, it's very difficult," he said.

"I've sent emails, and followed up and followed up and had interviews promised… I was banging my head against a wall. I knew that in Australia, the time was not right for me.

"In five to ten years, after I have built up a decent resume in Asia, hopefully, then maybe I can come home and apply for a position as a head coach."

Despite the relative convenience of south-east Asia, few Australians can be found in the region.

"I saw that there weren't many foreigners here and I thought that I had a chance and that if I am the first or second foreigner to come here, maybe I can build a legacy and you never know," Hall said.

"A friend of mine helped me with the cover letters and we wrote them in English and Thai and he followed up for me. He organised seven interviews. I paid for it all myself, nothing was promised, they were just chats. In the end Thai Port called me and within a week and I was sorted."

That start came in February in which he prepared his new team for the season ahead.

"I get to do a bit of coaching and do some planning. It is a weakness in Thai football, how to put together programs, tactical and physical. In Thailand, some coaches will punish their players if they lose and give them suicide runs the following day. I knew I had a chance here.

"Thai players don't complain and their respect is immense. I found players hungry to learn but their physical condition was pretty bad. When I first came, the Thai players were lean but had a lot of puppy fat and they weren't strong. Now, physically we are the best in the league with Muang Thong."

Muang Thong. The club, with a merchandising set-up that would shame not a few in Korea and Japan, is the champion, league leader and the TPL's standard-setter. Hall hopes that teams like Thai Port, currently in fourth, can keep the pace.

"Against Muang Thong two weeks ago, we matched them at their home ground. I was just sitting there thinking 'Wow, the difference between February and August is massive'.

"Now, if the ball goes wide, we are ensuring that the cross is not coming over, we are pressing a lot faster and better. Our strikers are working hard to put pressure on their backline. They are fitter, stronger and faster."

The club is now preparing for an AFC Cup quarter-final first leg next week against one of West Asia's most-storied clubs, Al Qadsia of Kuwait.

"Now is just the start. We want to establish Thai Port as a top-two team in Thailand and qualify for the AFC Cup every year."

If that happens, Hall may just find that returning to Australia is just one of a number of options.

Is working in Asia a good path for a young coach?
Should their be more coaching opportunities in Australia?
What are your thoughts on the Thai Premier League?

User comments
Nathan I wasn't sorprised to know that you're doing well in Asia because you're a hard worker and a great believer of what you know and how much you can offer in our game all the best follow your goals and you will achieve much more,sincerely your friend in football. Eduardo Moerbeck Sydney-Australia
Congratulations Nathan, you deserve all the successs that comes your way, moving to a foreign country chasing your dream. Hopefully we will enjoy the fruits of your experience back here in Australia.Well done. Warren Keen.
Well done to Nathan and I wish him all the best. I am sure he will do well. I can recall Andy on SBS hosting football shows and he was very entertaining and funny.Andy GO GREECE. Best of luck to all our Aussie footballers no matter where they play.
Great article, really enjoyed it. Wish him all the best, it sounds like a coaches version of the book "the away Game" by Mathew Hall.
Great story. I have been friends with Nath for a while now, and still remember how we used to catch up for coffee he could talk football for hours! I would say good luck Nath, but i know its not down to luck, just pure hard work. Well done mate. Speak soon sammy
Hi. I first met Nathan Hall seven years ago on a Football Tour I hosted to England and Barcelona. Nathan's passion for the game is second to none. It's great to hear how well it's all going for him in Thailand. Australian clubs should take note. It reminds me so much when our first group of Aussie players tried their luck in Europe in the 1980s. Keep up the hard work Nathan!! Regards Andy Paschalidis - Sydney

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