Former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson was unveiled as technical director of Thai club BEC Tero Sasana on Monday, the first venture by the Swede into Asian football in his colourful 35-year coaching career.
Eriksson, 64, will play a hands-on role in overseeing strategic planning and supporting coaching staff of the twice Thai champions, who become his latest club after stints in charge of some of the biggest teams in European football.
The former boss of Lazio, Manchester City and Benfica cast aside assertions that joining the Thai side represented a fall from grace after a decorated coaching career that saw him win more than a dozen major trophies.
"I look forward to this job. I'm happy, otherwise I wouldn't be here," Eriksson told a packed news conference in Bangkok. "What other people think is not that important for me anymore."
"The standard [of Thai football] today is much better. There are many good things. Of course, it will be a nice experience for me. I'm looking forward to it."
Eriksson is the biggest managerial name to join the Thai league and the Bangkok-based club, currently fourth in the league table, will hope he can inspire a return to the days of back-to-back championships in 2001 and 2002.
BEC faced new challengers after the Thai league underwent a massive revamp three years ago following a marketing blitz that brought in dozens of corporate sponsors and live TV coverage. That provided revenue for clubs to invest in foreign players and coaches and upgrade stadiums.
But despite the investment, the Thais still struggles in regional tournaments when up against opponents from the heavyweight sides in Japan, South Korea and the Middle East.
Champions Buriram United were the only Thai side to make it through to the group stages of the Asian Champions League this year, but finished bottom of their pool.
While the Thai national team has never qualified for the World Cup and missed out on the Asian Cup finals last year for the first time since 1988.
Eriksson is no stranger to Thailand having coached two English sides owned by Thai tycoons, including self-exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, whose decision to dispense with Eriksson as Manchester City boss in 2008 angered fans and resulted in the club's sale to an Abu Dhabi consortium.
Thaksin younger sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, is currently prime minister of Thailand, where he owns a beachside home.
In October, Eriksson left English Championship club Leicester City, owned by a Thai consortium led by duty free monopoly King Power Group, by mutual consent after 13 months.
His contract with BEC will be reviewed at the end of the current season.
"The players are eager to learn from a world-class expert," Robert Procureur, the club's general manager, said in a statement. "I believe that his arrival will draw positive international attention to the Thai Premier League."
Eriksson's achievements include victories in the UEFA and Cup Winners' Cups and league and cup doubles in three countries and he was the first foreigner to manage the England national team, a job he held for five years.
He has also coached Mexico and most recently, Ivory Coast at the 2010 World Cup finals.comments