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 By Paul Murphy

Kiatisuk Senamuang quits as Thailand head coach after two heavy losses

At a young age, Charyl Chappuis' passion for football was ignited. Delve into the story of how his love for the game has evolved.

Thailand head coach Kiatisuk "Zico" Senamuang has quit after the president of the Football Association of Thailand (FAT) admitted he was "embarrassed" by their performances in the third round of AFC 2018 World Cup qualifying.

The Southeast Asian champions fell to 3-0 and 4-0 defeats to Saudi Arabia and Japan in their most recent qualifiers over the past 10 days, prompting FAT boss Somyot Poompanmoung to speak out.

Kiatisuk had recently signed a contract extension and looked likely to stay on for at least another year. But having earned just one point from seven matches in a dismal campaign seems to have forced his hand in a fraught relationship with Somyot.

"Should we be satisfied with winning the Suzuki Cup and the SEA Games?" asked Somyot in the Bangkok Post. "And then when we play against the real top teams in Asia, we lose 3-0 or 4-0. Are the fans okay with it?

"Maybe some people are fine with that, but for me it's embarrassing. I can't and I won't accept these results. Something needs to be done."

Even though they sit bottom of Group B, Thailand had made it to the final stage of qualifying for the first time since Peter Withe guided them there 16 years ago.

Thailand coach Kiatisuk Senamuang thrown into the air by his players after winning 2016 Kings Cup
Kiatisuk guided Thailand to consecutive AFF Suzuki Cup titles after taking over as senior coach in 2014.

Kiatisuk had suggested he might look at other options after leading his country to their record fifth AFF Suzuki Cup title last December. But the FAT then insisted that the man revered as arguably the country's greatest-ever player was staying.

In February, a statement on the FAT's website read, "The FA Thailand has extended the contract of the national senior team head coach Kiatisuk Senamuang. His new contract will last for one year, to 28 February, 2018".

A month is clearly a long time in Thai football and Kiatisuk is no longer considered the right man to take the team forward. Thailand supporters will certainly have mixed views on the decision.

Kiatisuk is a national treasure for his achievements as a player and head coach. When he took over in 2014, the War Elephants were a national disgrace that few fans bothered to even watch.

Under Kiatisuk, the Thais regained their status as the top team in Southeast Asia and quickly became known for their 'tiki-taka' style. With a vibrant young side, sourced mainly from Kiatisuk's 2013 SEA Games winning U23 squad, Thailand became AFF Suzuki Cup champions in 2014 and the core of that team was key to the successful campaign to get to the final stage of qualifying for Russia 2018.

In front of crowds of over 50,000 in Bangkok, Thailand saw off Iraq and Vietnam to advance to the final stage of qualifying and Kiatisuk's reputation was growing. Thailand seemed to be on the verge of a new era and they had an exciting young coach.

Kiatisuk's time as the head coach of Thailand has certainly been memorable. Fans will wonder if it is a new beginning or a return to the days when the War Elephants struggled to get the better of their Southeast Asian neighbours.

Argentina's Alejandro Sabella, who took his country to the World Cup final in 2014, has repeatedly been linked with the role of Thai head coach. Speculation will undoubtedly focus on him in the days ahead.

Meanwhile, Kiatisuk can leave with his head held high. Putting things in perspective, in his first game as interim coach in 2014, the team lost 5-2 to Lebanon in an Asian Cup qualifier in front of an estimated crowd of just 5,000.

Recent defeats may have been tough to take, but he has reignited the country's passion for the national team and leaves his successor with a talented group of players.

Bangkok-based Paul Murphy has lived in Asia for a decade, writing for ESPN FC since 2014. He is a former Daily Express sub-editor. @PaulMurphyBKK

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