How A Diplomat Gets His Kicks

How A Diplomat Gets His Kicks

This Australian bureaucrat may turn up at meetings with a black eye, but hes no bar-room brawler. He loves muay Thai. Im a bit embarrassed actually, says Glen Connell, a seemingly ordinary man in a suit sitting in a cafe drinking espresso. Hes not shy about his day job, which takes place just next door at the Australian embassy, but about the extra-curricular activity that has earned him a spot in Brunch.

As Australias First Secretary for Trade and Economics to Thailand, Mr Connells love of muay Thai, or Thai boxing, has largely been a well-kept secret. But he sees the quirky intrigue it might hold for others.

The idea of a diplomat with a black eye is, I know, a strange juxtaposition, he concedes.

Now in his second year of a three-year posting at the embassy in Bangkok, his affiliation with muay Thai began out of a natural attraction long before coming to the country revered as its heartland.

Originally from Mackay in Queensland, Mr Connell first discovered the sport as a youngster, training and participating heavily from when he was 14 until he was 16. Still harbouring a fascination which sprouted through active engagement in Australia, the now 33-year-old is philosophical about how it seemed appropriate that he seek out muay Thai again in Thailand.

Watching TV one day in his apartment he saw his former trainer in Australia on a commercial, at first barely recognising the man who had taught him everything. The German muay Thai guru Stephen Fox had since become one of the most famous practitioners of the sport. A former world title holder and champion, both in Thailand and abroad, he is now serving as the vice-president and international coordinator for the World Muay Thai Council, helping to further establish and promote the sport around the world.