Scoring on Her First Try – Special Olympics Thailand’s Rattanaporn Thamsiwaphat

The 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games capped a series of firsts for striker Rattanaporn Thamsiwaphat, on and off the football pitch.

A Background in Track & Field

Rattanaporn with her silver medal at the 2011 World Summer Games in Athens.

Eighteen-year-old Rattanaporn Thamsiwaphat was brought up by her paternal grandmother in the Chachoengsao Province in Thailand’s Eastern Region. She never met her mother, who left when Rattanaporn was a baby; her father passed away when she was growing up.

Rattanaporn was a Track and Field athlete with Special Olympics Thailand and only started to play football in the forward position 1½ years ago, after the program introduced football to female athletes and organized a Football Coach Clinic for female teachers.

A New Sport

Rattanaporn (far left) in action on the pitch

Female Football is still in its infancy in Thailand, even in mainstream sport. The Thai Female Football National Team does not even have a female coach because none of the female players are experienced enough to become coaches. In fact, Rattanaporn’s football coach at her special school, Mrs. Thunyathorn Thumrongkulpaibul, a Special Educator teaching in maths and languages, only learnt how to play football at Special Olympics Thailand’s coaching clinic.

An Emotional Reunion

When Rattanaporn was selected to represent Thailand in the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games, she needed a passport for her first overseas trip, and as a minor below 21 years old required parental authority to apply. Rattanaporn’s grandmother searched for details using her birth certificate and mailed a letter to her mother at the address stated in the 18 year old document, without giving much hope to the matter. Without the parental authorization, Rattanaporn could have missed the chance to compete in the Games. Fortunately, her mother was tracked down by relatives in time.

It was an emotional reunion for both mother and daughter. Rattanaporn cried, speechless and overwhelmed to see her mother after a long time. These days they maintain a phone relationship, as Rattanaporn chooses to stay and take care of her grandmother.

A Winning Finish

With her passport issues settled, Rattanaporn was able to focus fully on her sport at the World Games. As the Thai female football team was the only team from Asia Pacific to make their first international appearance, the athletes were very nervous playing against western teams like Greece, Italy and Ireland.  Rattanaporn was upset whenever she could not score. As the competition progressed, she became calmer and more relaxed with help from her coaches, improving her concentration when she played.

The team made it to the finals of the five-aside football competition. At the championship match between Thailand and Greece, the Thai team took home the Silver medal, final score 2:3, with Rattanaporn scoring one of the goals.