Temple visit part of the Thais’ mental preparations

AFP, July 7, 2007

BANGKOK, Thailand -- Co-hosts Thailand are aiming to stamp their mark on the Asian Cup (Asia's premier soccer tournament) and praying at a temple before the team’s opening match today will play an important part in their mental preparations.

The largely Buddhist team place as much emphasis on meditation and prayer as they do on their physical development with coach Chanvit Pholchovin (pic) saying a relaxed player is a focused player.

“The principles of Buddhism are an important part of our sports psychology,” he said yesterday ahead of Thailand’s opening match of the tournament against Iraq.

“If a player is relaxed and does meditation and prays then they are in a positive frame of mind and can focus on their goal, which is to do well. It is very important.”

As part of their build up, the team will try and make time to visit a temple ahead of the match.

“Most of the players are Buddhist and believe in the lessons of Buddhism,” said Chanvit.

“If time allows, we will definitely go to a temple, but if time does not allow that will be okay too because we pray every day.”

The Thais have qualified for six Asian Cups but aside from a third place in 1972 have never gone beyond the first round, finishing bottom of their group at the last tournament in China after losing to Oman, Japan and Iran.

Drawn in a tough group with Australia, Iraq and Oman, the home crowd will become an extra player and Chanvit is confident of success, but knows they have a tricky opponent in Iraq.

“The Iraqis are very strong physically, their players are tall and big,” he said.

“They also have a strong defence and are dangerous on the aerial attack. But we will do our best. The fans will be very important for us.”