Has dedicated his life to care for orphans
With football as a tool, Sumet Kaewtipnet has dedicated his entire adult life caring for orphans. ”I’ve always been driven by helping children who have difficulties in life”, he says.
During this summer’s Gothia Cup, General Secretary Dennis Andersson presented an honorary prize to Sumet Kaewtipnet to highlight his efforts for children and young people in Thailand. While he’s been of great importance for the growth of youth football in his home country, he has also taken care of thousands of orphans.
”In my country there are a lot of drugs and bad stuff that I have wanted to keep the children away from. I played soccer myself as a kid and that made us stay away from the bad things”, he says.
Together with his then wife, he formed Thamrong Thai football club in the mid-1970s. But it was much more than just a club.
”I let the children live with me and helped them with food and shelter. I expanded my house to accommodate over 40 children”, he says.
Sumet’s own history before he started his football club is, to say the least, remarkable. As a teenager and football fan, he discovered English football by reading the English league tables in the newspaper. That interest made him decide to embark on a “little” adventure – he cycled from Bangkok all the way to London … A trip that took over five months.
“The hardest thing was getting out of Bangkok, I cycled in circles before I managed to find a way out of town”, he says.
By the time he reached his final destination, his peculiar history had been highlighted by mass media in both England and Thailand and he got the opportunity to fulfill his dream of studying to be a football coach through the English Football Association.
”I myself had good experiences with teachers and coaches and wanted to contribute in that way myself. But that I would later start a football club I did not know then”, he says.
After spending some time in England, he received unexpected help to continue his foreign adventure. Thailand’s current king Rama X, who at this time was a prince, was also in London for studies and reached out a hand.
”He heard about my story and wanted to help me. I said I wanted to continue studying football in Germany so he helped me with that”, Sumet says.
It was when he returned to Thailand after his time in Europe that he started Thamrong Thai – his life’s work that has helped thousands of children to both play football and study and thereby have a better future. And he has given them the opportunity to come to the Gothia Cup.
”The first time we went to the Gothia Cup was in 1988. We love the tournament and we always do as best as we can but the most important thing is not to win matches but to win people’s love. And to show a good sportsmanship”, he says.
Dennis Andersson was told about Sumet Kaewtipnet through a friend who was an aid worker in Bangkok. He first went there in 1986 to meet Sumet and they started to cooperate to get the club to the Gothia Cup. Something that became reality two years later.
”For me, Sumet is one of my big heroes. He has sacrificed just about everything to give thousands of orphans a future. Some of them have also become good footballers but all have become good people”, Dennis Andersson says.
Over the years, Thamrong Thai has twice won the Gothia Cup. But this summer, Sumet was in Gothenburg without a team. Operating the club has often been tough and costly and at one time both his house and the football fields were destroyed in a flood. Gothia Cup sponsored the club through the project Gothia Cup Village for a few years but right now Thamrong Thai as a club is inactive.
Although Sumet is 80 years old nowadays, he still has ambitions for the future.
”In my country, when you are rich, then you are okay, but if you do not have money, you can’t do anything. If I read about someone who does not have money to go to school then I try to help but I am poor now and it has been difficult. I am writing a letter to the king for help. Whatever happens, I want to continue to try to help the poor. And it would be fantastic to come to the Gothia Cup with a team once again”, he says.