This week saw me chat to Yodkeo Phawadee, the Head of The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at The Asian Football Confederation. Yokdeo goes in-depth about how her sports career ignited, the value that transferable skills can bring in sport and how her role contributes to the bigger picture of Asian football representation.
Q1) Yodkeo, it’s a delight to have you on Ash’s Sports Talk. Can you share how your sports career began?
Thank you very much for having me.
Yes, it started back in early 2011, I was wanting to leave my government employment and was in the process of looking for a new job. Somehow, I had an opportunity to meet the President of the Lao Football Federation (LFF). He recruited me to join the LFF office as his personal assistant. Six months later, he promoted me to the position of Deputy General Secretary in charge of International relations, and four years later, I was appointed as team manager of the women’s national teams. These various roles allowed me to experience the organisation’s movement from administration to field operations. This also allowed me to travel to many countries for competitions and experiencing different cultures.
Q2) I understand you’ve studied a degree in Law and Political Sciences. How did your education from a non-sporting sector support you with building up your sports industry career?
Although my educational background had nothing to do directly with my career in the football industry, it did help me a lot with my work in the LFF President’s office and being in charge of the international relations department. But to look at it more fundamentally, I realised that the experience of going to university to study law, for example, taught me ‘how to learn’, if you will. That and adaptability to different situations, cultures, ways of think is what has helped me continuously develop professionally.
Q3) Your role at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) looks fantastic. Could you share more about what the AFC is responsible for, what your position consists of and how you contribute to the bigger picture?
My primary duties are managing the official communications with ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) and the member associations that make up the ASEAN region plus Timor-Leste and Australia, so 12 countries in total. We also assist the member associations and the AFF with developing or improving their statutory documents and such things as attending congresses or advising them on other governance-related matters. Finally, we assist the regional association’s competitions and help them manage the funding that they get from FIFA or the AFC.
Our department mission is to engage and assist member associations and regional associations with developing their football. This is done by improving their governance- which we believe is fundamental to building a good organisation and developing the game. Plus, we promote relationships and respect amongst all those involved with the beautiful game. The critical point to understand, the stronger our members, the stronger the AFC.
Q4) I’m truly inspired to see how you’ve progressed. You started as a secretary at the Lao Football Federation, then a manager and now the head of the unit. Throughout this process, what were the fundamental values you developed that were instrumental towards your sports career development?
I just tried to always do my best with every single task that was handed to me. In case a new assignment is similar to a previous one, I will make sure that the final product is better than the last time. Whatever mistakes occur, I always try to make sure it doesn’t happen again. I want to focus on being the best version of myself and always to try to do things better.
Q5) Throughout the past year, working at the AFC. What achievements are you most proud of that you’ve contributed to? Plus, what further support do you feel is needed to increase the representation of Asian sport globally?
I’ve been with the AFC for just over a year, so it might be too soon to speak about the achievements. But I could say I’ve learned a lot from my superiors and colleagues who have vast experience in this field. To compare me right now with where I was one year ago, I could say I’ve changed a lot. I came from a small federation, and right now, I am working with a large confederation; that has allowed me to see and learn things from different perspectives.
As for the representation of Asian sport globally, it would be great to see more Asians on the world stage, but right now I think Asian athletes do not have enough exposure in terms of media coverage. Asian football fans are all familiar with European tournaments/leagues and know all the superstar players because of the exposure that those leagues and players receive. Also, the Asian competitions are not easy to access compared to European competitions even in our own continent.
Q6) What have been some of the most substantial challenges you’ve experienced throughout your career? And, how have these adversities moulded you into a more resilient individual in and out of sport?
Each task has its own unique challenges and difficulty either by the nature of the task or by the stakeholders that are involved with it. If I must pick the most difficult one, it will be working in a dispute situation. It needs a lot of energy and patients to get both parties to agree on the same thing.
Patience and focus on the task at hand are the best formula for me; this works well both on a personal and professional level. I always used to tell my younger staff back in Laos that one must continuously improve and learn new things daily. That they should try to imagine themselves as a product in the market and that they should convince people to want to use this product and come back to buy more, even though there are various new products to choose from. Self-improvement is a key here; there is always room for improvement. So don’t stop growing.
Q7) Yodkeo, reflecting on this discussion and your sports career, what is your killer piece of advice you can pass onto the next generation of sports enthusiasts?
Be humble, honest and authentic with your work. When you do the right thing with good intentions, you don’t have to worry or be scared of the outcome. Also, try to be involved in various types of assignments, even if you are not familiar with it because these opportunities will give you the chance to gain knowledge and experience through actual practice.
Wow, the amount of inspiration I felt after speaking with Yodkeo was unmeasurable. Her open-mindedness, passion and patience are what serves her as one of the sports industries most resilient assets. I’m super excited to see the development of Asian football representation with Yodkeo playing such a decisive role at The AFC and I hope you are too!