Bangkok: On Monday, April 25, the Football Association of Thailand celebrates its 100th anniversary. The Southeast Asian giants, who recently reached the final stage of FIFA World Cup qualifying for the first time in 15 years, have come a long way since the birth of their Football Association in 1916.
Here are five key events over the last century that have helped shape Thai football:
1. Royal Beginnings
An ardent lover of the game King Vajiravudh, Rama VI (pictured below), who studied in Oxford, founded the Football Association of Thailand on April 25, 1916.
Directly responsible for the growth of football development throughout the kingdom thanks to his association with the football team of Suankularb Wittayalai School - and even in his own court team - King Rama VI is the spiritual father of the sport in Thailand.
And when King Rama VII succeeded King Rama VI in November 1925, he accepted the football teams under his royal patronage – as had been the wish of his late brother.
The influence of King Rama VI can still be seen to this day, with the Royal Crown Emblem, granted by the King, used by FA Thailand and a symbol of the national side.
2. Olympic Games
Although Thailand played its first international match in 1930 against an Indochina side that comprised South Vietnamese and French players, it was not until 1956 that they would take part in their first international competition after qualifying for the Olympic Games in Melbourne.
A heavy 9-0 defeat to Great Britain at the Melbourne Cricket Club saw the Thais eliminated at the first round but they would return to the Summer Games for the 1968 edition in Mexico (pictured below).
The Olympic experience would shape the development of Thai football in the form of Samruay Chaiyong, who played at the Melbourne Games. One of six from the Chaiyong family who represented the national team, Samruay was hand-picked by FA Thailand to study coaching in Germany.
Samruay would go on to found Rajivithi Club in 1968; a revolutionary side that would become one of the most successful Thai teams of the 70s winning the Kor Royal Cup four times and cultivating a glut of players for the 1970-1980 national team.
3. Early AFC Asian Cup Milestones
Having joined the Asian Football Confederation in 1954, Thailand debuted in the confederation’s flagship competition when they hosted the 1972 AFC Asian Cup.
A draw with Iraq and a narrow defeat to holders and eventual champions Iran saw them into the semi-finals, but once in the knockout stages it was to be a tale of two penalty shoot-outs as they lost out to Korea Republic in the final four, before securing third place with a win over Cambodia in the play-off.
Thailand women’s team involvement with the nascent continental tournament has proved even more successful.
Runners-up in three of the first four tournaments from the inaugural event in 1975, Thailand were flawless at the 1983 competition in Bangkok as they lifted the nation’s first, and to date, only senior continental title.
4. Kings of Asian Club Football
A decade after the Thai women were creating continental history, men’s team Thai Farmers Bank FC were beginning a campaign that would cement their own place in the annals of Asian football history.
Charnwit Polcheewin’s side were participating in just their second Asian Club Championship, the precursor to today’s AFC Champions League, when they took part in the 1993-1994 edition but after first disposing of the likes of Indonesia’s Arema Malang and Verdy Kawasaki of Japan a 2-1 win over Oman Club on February 7, 1994 saw them crowned continental champions.
And just under a year later they did it again. This time Natipong Sritong-In goal was enough to down Qatar’s Al Arabi in the 1994-1995 final as Thai Farmers Bank FC became the first-ever side to win back-to-back Asian club titles.
5. Ending 12 Years of Hurt
When Thailand won three of the first four biennial AFF Championships with superstar striker Kiatisuk Senamuang leading the line there were few in the ASEAN region who would have imagined that the 2002 title would be their last for over a decade.
Vietnam and Singapore twice denied the War Elephants from adding to their regional championships as they missed out by the slimmest margins in three further final appearance in the 2007, 2008 and 2012 tournaments.
In 2014, though, with Kiatisuk, the last Thailand captain to lift the ASEAN Championship at the helm as coach, the War Elephants ended their drought in extraordinary scenes in front of 90,000 fans at Bukit Jalil National Stadium in Malaysia.
Trailing 2-0 from the first leg in Bangkok, Malaysia took the lead when Safiq Rahim scored his second goal of the game with a 58th minute free-kick to make it 3-0 after he had converted a seventh minute penalty and Indra Putra Mahayuddin had headed home just before half-time.
But Charyl Chappuis (pictured, above) netted a precious away goal for the War Elephants after Farizal Marlias had fumbled a Sarach Yooyen free-kick in the 82nd minute and Chanathip Songkrasin sealed the Thai victory three minutes from time as they became ASEAN kings for a record-equalling fourth time.
Pictured, top: Thailand's first national team
PHOTOS: FA THAILAND