MnM Coaching's Mikä Lönnström reflects on his time in Thailand, the gift of coaching all around the world, and where we plans to go next.
Thailand may not be well known for its football, but it definitely has the best fans in the world according to Mika Lönnström.
The well-travelled manager from Finland has coached in several countries, including more than three years in Thailand.
"If any player or coach has the chance to go to Thailand then I would definitely recommend it because it’s a fantastic experience," Lönnström told Finnish radio channel Yle Puhe.
“The great thing about Thailand is that they have the best fans in the world”
The 41-year-old began his coaching career at the age of 16 and worked over 20 years in Finnish football. This included a six-year stint at Veikkausliiga side Myllykosken Pallo (MYPA), before moving to Asia.
In 2011 he jumped at the chance to become Academy Director at Thai Second Division side Roi Et United. And it was in the land of sunshine and palm trees where Lönnström discovered the most fanatic football supporters.
"The great thing about Thailand is that they have the best fans in the world," he said.
"If you lose a game they might be annoyed but if they see that the team and the manager has given everything then they really show their passion and love for the club." In 2012, Lönnström took charge of the Roi Et United first team and he guided them to promotion in his debut season. His success at the club earned him the opportunity to coach Thai Premier League side Police United in 2014.
It was here where he became well known for his vocal approach on the sidelines as well his colourful suits.
"In Thailand colour and religion are somehow linked," said Lönnström. "I often received suggestions from local people as to what colour would bring us luck.
"Eventually red was used quite often. I was happy to go along with it but there were a couple of suits that I definitely could not have put on."
Following his time in Bangkok, Lönnström has coached in the Maldivian Dhiraagu Dhivehi League, where he won the league and cup double with New Radiant Sports Club. He then returned to the Thai Premier League to take charge of Gulf Saraburi FC for a short spell.
His most recent stint came towards the end of last year in the Tanzanian Premier League where he coached Maji Maji FC for ten matches.
"It’s all a bit of a gift to experience so many different countries and cultures when coaching"
When he returned to Europe Lönnström travelled extensively around the continent, visiting clubs in Belgium, Holland and Germany. Most recently he has been concentrating on new projects with his newly expanded MnM Coaching team.
He feels this period away from coaching has also given him time to reflect on the past few years and lay out any plans for the future.
But when he takes a moment to look back on his career so far, he realises how privileged he is to have coached at so many clubs around the world.
"It’s all a bit of a gift to experience so many different countries and cultures when coaching," he said.
"You can talk about different surroundings, ways different clubs work and so on but the most important thing is the relationship between the coach and the players and how that translates onto the pitch. That’s what we enjoy the most."
And it certainly should not be too long before Lönnström moves into his next coaching adventure in another part of the world.
"It would be great to find that one place, where the weather is good, the club has high targets for success and the football is part of every day life," he said.
"I would love to experience Thailand again. But I have not yet decided on my next destination."