ThaiBev kicked off the Chang Road to El Clasico in Udon Thani over the weekend, with an overwhelming response from young soccer players hoping to earn a chance travel to a Real Madrid vs Barcelona match.
The three-month tournament comes after the makers of Chang beer secured an unprecedented Bt500-million sponsorship deal with the two Spanish La Liga giants. The winners of the four-a-side event will gain firsthand experience of arguably the world’s most anticipated battle on a soccer pitch, between two sides boasting some of the globe’s best players.
Udon Thani was the first of nine regional legs leading up to the national finals in Bangkok on September 9 at CentralWorld. The first leg, at UD Town Shopping Mall, was swamped by locals who enjoyed fairground games and fun photo opportunities provided by full-size models of Real Madrid and Barcelona players.
Entering via a players’ tunnel normally only seen at soccer grounds, fans were greeted by a display of boots and shirts in a mock-up dressing room.
The party kicked off with a parade of players and TV stars sporting Madrid or Barca shirts, who figured in an exhibition match later in the day. Then the action started on four pitches. More than 150 teams in two age groups – under-20 and unrestricted – battled for the two winners’ spots that would earn them a place in the finals. A concert featuring big-name bands such as Mild and Sweet Mullet capped things of in the evening.
Sorrakit Latitham, ThaiBev’s marketing manager, hoped the event, under the company’s “Live Like You Mean It” campaign, would help spur a generation of youngsters.
“Of course, our main aim in this project is to provide soccer players across the country the opportunity to showcase their skills, and we’ll take the winners to watch ‘El Clasico’, in Spain.
“The atmosphere is unique in Spanish stadiums that have a capacity of 100,000. You cannot find it anywhere else, even in England. We are keen to offer ordinary Thai players this unique opportunity to watch arguably the world’s two best teams in action. We hope the experience will help inspire the young generation to improve themselves on and off the pitch.”
The sponsorship has spawned other plans too, with Sorrakit revealing that a training programme based on knowledge from Spain was in the pipeline.
“Rather than sending our kids to train there, I think it would be more beneficial if we trained them here and used a programme developed from the methods those two clubs employ. Here it can be done with a greater number of children.
“Everything is in place as we already have the ThaiBev Football Academy (TBFA). And, we’re already holding board-level discussions about upgrading the TBFA to the ‘Chang Academy’ so that everyone who loves football can train and play there.”