Blues quit Thailand after fickle fans lose interest

BANGKOK - Manchester City has closed down its Thailand operations following former owner and ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's sale of the club, ending ambitious plans of becoming "Asia's Premier League team."

Jimmy Heosontaty, City's former representative in Thailand, said plans for an academy had been scrapped and the club's merchandise shop, launched to great fanfare last year, had closed due to a lack of interest.

"We saw no point in carrying on after the (Shinawatra) family sold their share," he told Reuters on Friday. "City still have fans here, but there's not a lot of interest anymore."

Thaksin, convicted of graft last year and a fugitive overseas, bought City in July 2007, 10 months after he ousted in a bloodless military coup.

He hoped to make City Asia's most popular club and signed three barely-known Thai players, a move widely dismissed as a political ploy to earn the support of soccer-mad Thais for a party formed by his supporters.

Amid rising discontent among City fans over his treatment of then manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, Thaksin sold the club to a consortium from the United Arab Emirates in September and has been on the run since his British visa was revoked in November.

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