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Generosity or a PR stunt?

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Manchester City's billionaire Thai
owner Thaksin Shinawatra will pay for his country's national team squad to train
with his club to help their 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign.
Thaksin, the
coup-ousted former Thai prime minister, will bring the entire Thai squad to
Manchester for 11 days next month and will foot the lion's share of the bill,
Thailand's soccer president said on Tuesday.

"If we want to go to the
World Cup, this is what we have to do," Worawi Makudi told
Reuters.
"Manchester City are keen to help us, they signed some of our
players and they are happy to pay for our preparation."
Thailand, who have
never reached the World Cup finals, have been drawn with Japan, Oman and Bahrain
in the third round of Asian qualifiers.
Thaksin's critics say his $164
million takeover and his club's sudden interest in Thai players -- three of
which they recently signed -- are attempts to maintain a high profile in
soccer-mad Thailand with a view to returning to office.
The exiled tycoon
insists he has quit politics, although a party run by his supporters is expected
to win next month's general election, although not with an outright
majority.


-reuters.com

Perhaps a coincidence, but the Good Doctor has certainly been active with a series of goodwill gestures with the elections in Thailand now imminent.

Whilst not standing for office directly, maintaining a high (and popular) profile will undoubtedly help the party run by his supporters if they are playing the 'Thaksin card' during campaigning. And with charges still hanging over him, it will surely do no harm if the current regime in Thailand are removed from office.

I think Thaksin has certainly been impressive in how he has gone about things with the club since taking over, and accusations of human rights violations have not gone further than some mud slinging from various groups no doubt seizing a bit of publicity for themselves.

I do believe he has a genuine long term interest in the club, and it isn't a short term or get rich quick scheme for him, but there are valid concerns regarding how we may be used in any political manouevering. What I think would make for an interesting time of things, and perhaps concerning, is if the Thaksin's supporters do indeed gain control of the country.

I admit it doesn't sit easy with me the fact that Thaksin may well be utilising our start to the season and increased profile to further either his or his supporters political aspirations. Upto this point, there hasn't been anything concrete which has backed by the naysayers claims but we are definitely beginning to see an increase in Thaksin's profile back in his homeland.