Kiatisuk restarts coaching career with return to HAGL

Kiatisuk ‘Zico’ Senamuang makes a long-awaited return to coaching with Vietnam’s Hoàng Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) following three years out of the game.

Kiatisuk heads back to the club where he enjoyed huge success as a player, hoping to revive his career as a head coach.

The 47-year-old’s somewhat mixed CV includes spells at five clubs. He was briefly in charge at HAGL after his retirement as a player in 2006 before returning to Vietnam in 2010 for a second stint at the same club.

Zico clearly feels he has unfinished business as he moves east yet again, hoping to take HAGL back to the top of Vietnamese football as they were when he was a player back in the 2000s. 

Kiatisuk’s last head coach appointment was at Port FC in 2017, but a dismal 10-match spell featured just one victory and saw him resign.

The experience possibly had a lasting impact as it has taken so long for him to return and test himself again. 

As a head coach, Kiatisuk remains best known for his three years in charge of the Thailand national side. After starting with the U23 side, he took over the senior team and led them to two AFF Suzuki Cup titles and the final stage of AFC World Cup qualifying.

Despite this success, he quit after failing to make an impact against the bigger Asian countries in those 2018 World Cup qualifiers. His seven matches in the campaign saw Thailand earn just one point in a group that featured Asian heavyweights Japan, Australia and Saudi Arabia.

HAGL fans will hope to see Kiatisuk’s side play with the flair and swagger that his Thailand side showed at times as the likes of Chanathip Songkrasin, Theerathon Bunmathan and Teerasil Dangda starred for the War Elephants.

The appointment of a club legend is likely to be welcomed by fans who recall his role when the club were Vietnam’s champions in 2003 and 2004. But HAGL haven’t challenged for the title in recent years, settling into the role of mid-table side.

HAGL ended the 2020 V.League season in seventh place, but Kiatisuk inherits a squad that features former Buriram United midfielder Luong Xuan Truong and talented Vietnam international Nuyen Van Toan. 

It remains to be seen if Kiatisuk will be given the resources he needs to challenge the likes of Hanoi FC and 2020 champions Viettel FC. The Thai’s place in HAGL history is assured, but time will tell if this new chapter is to be a success.

Paul Murphy

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