Last night, the extended Chonburi FC family gathered to pay tribute and say farewell to its favourite son. It was an incredibly emotional evening, but also a very enjoyable one.
Before the two teams – made up of ex-Chonburi players and a host of big Thai stars – did battle, there were some presentations and moving speeches. Pipob couldn’t hold back the tears – like many in the crowd – as he stood in the centre circle with his wife and two children, and gave heartfelt thanks to the senior management, the coaches, former team mates and the fans, for being so supportive. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever experienced in a football ground and something that will always stay with me.
The match that followed was exactly as you’d expect for a fixture of this nature; twenty two skillful men, of varying degrees of fitness, playing to the gallery, and proving that class is permanent. Special mention here must go to Worawoot Srimaka. He would be first to admit that he’s a little out of shape, but he took the good natured ribbing from the commentators, fans and other players in good spirit and mugged mercilessly for the crowd. The sight of him turning to the bench to ask to be substituted, only to be waved back on by coach, Jadet Meelarp, was a particular highlight. And we even forgave him for his outrageous dive, in an attempt to get Mo a yellow card.
For those us who were around at the time, it was fantastic to see the 2007 title winning side reunited. What a great team we had then and what a joy it was to be able to watch them recreate a bit of the old magic from the year that our little club changed the course of domestic football in this country, forever. It was even more pleasing to watch them do it in the original kit! What a masterstroke by the powers that be.
After an hour – thirty minutes each way – of tremendous entertainment, the final score (for what it’s worth) was an honourable 6-6 draw. The great man managed to grab a few too, and also had one disallowed – a very borderline offside decision by a pantomime villain of a linesman.
However, one minute prior to the final whistle, the whole ground had risen to applaud Pipob On-Mo as he left the field for the very last time as a Chonburi player. But not before he’d paused on the touchline so that the groundstaff could cut away the last piece of turf on which he had stepped. Then there was a symbolic handing over of the captain’s armband and mythical number 10 shirt, to his successor, Kroerkrit Thaweekarn. Cue more tears.
It had been a fantastic occasion and the perfect send off to someone who can rightly be referred to as a legend. The club excelled itself yesterday and, as someone with a long association with the Sharks, and Pipob himself, remarked to me afterwards, “it was a great celebration and reminded me of the early days when we were a model for all others to follow.”
How fitting that they should evoke those memorable times by organizing an event for someone who embodies that spirit more than anyone.
Good luck, Mo. And thank you for all you’ve done over the years, the precious memories you’ve given us, the success you’ve brought us and all whilst playing the game you love, with a smile on your face and in the right spirit. You’ll be missed, but never, ever forgotten.