November 11, 2012 00:00 By Preechachan Wiriyanupappong
Fifa, the football governing body, last Tuesday rejected the use of Bangkok Futsal Arena (BFA), a Bt1.2 billion stadium built specifically for the Fifa Futsal World Cup, citing safety, dragging Bangkok Metropolitan Administration and the whole country int
Bangkok was designated in 2010 to host the top-flight competition, beating strong candidates China, Iran, Azerbaijan and Czech Republic. The BMA had promised to build a new stadium in Nong Chok District, east of the centre of the capital city.
However, things turned sour for the BMA and the project was only on paper for a long period of time. Critics blasted the poor selection of the construction site, deemed to far away from downtown. Many obstacles, including a change of government in 2011, budget cuts, delay in releasing money and massive flooding contributed to construction shortcomings.
Despite round-the-clock effort, the arena was not ready even by mid October, two weeks prior to the opening of the tournament.
The BMA received strong criticism from all sides for the construction delay. The beautifully-designed 12,000-seater sport structure was supposed to host the opening and closing ceremonies on November 1 and 18 respectively as well many crucial matches. Nonetheless, the arena was completed just five days after the tournament began, and stunningly got vetoed as a venue. The Fifa Futsal Committee decided that Nimibutr Gym will now serve as the venue for the quarter-finals with Hua Mark Indoor Stadium staging semi-finals and the Cup final instead.
The official statement came after a Fifa inspection group including safety and security experts conducted a thorough evaluation of the stadium last Saturday and again on Monday. They ruled that although significant progress has been made, the key criteria laid out following the committee’s meeting last Wednesday have not been sufficiently met.
The Thais’ dreams to see the sport showcase get off the ground in one of the continent’s largest futsal arenas has turned into a nightmare. Like in a bad soap opera, political rivalry, money and polemics took their toll on the stadium’s construction. Nobody wanted to endorse responsibility to the current debacle.
With the Fifa denying the use of the stadium, certainly to the great shock of the BMA and great despair of Thai people, Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra, on Friday presented facts about the construction of the area through a press release. It was an effort to clear up some of the confusion concerning the venue. He said he is also planning to sue the Fifa for causing damage to Bangkok.
Though the BMA may have presented the “real facts”, on fundamental issues such as safety, services and facilities there was no chance of a compromise. Critics may say that Fifa was starkly unpleasant in refusing to endorse the BFA. A big sum of money was spent for nothing but to shame the country. The Fifa made its choice, but it does not mean it was the “right choice” for Thailand.
With the country’s credibility at stake, it is better we don’t cry over the spilt milk. We should take joint responsibility and have to start thinking of how best to use the arena in future.