Sniffin’ Somtam: Fanzine

In November, 2009, I edited a one off old school fanzine dedicated to promoting the local game. With contributions by fans of various Thai clubs, professionals and webmasters of English language sites, it offered an introduction to football in the kingdom. The mag, which had 26 A4 pages and cost THB50, was on sale outside Rajamangala Stadium before the Thailand v Singapore AFC Asian Cup qualifier on November 18th. It was also available by mail order. Ten years on, the articles offer a unique view of the boom period for the domestic league. I will be posting them all here over the next few days.

Thai Players’ Nicknames

by Antony Sutton

Bryan Robson is currently sitting at home with a piece of A4 and the DVD playing non stop. What he’s doing is learning the Thai players nicknames so when he arrives in a couple of weeks to formally take charge he will have at least some idea of who will be in front of him. Thai names are a mouthful with four, five, six or more syllables making them a real mouthful for us big noses. Even more so for footballers and football people who are well known for their inability to articulate anything more than two syllables. 

As Robbo studies at home his assistant Steve Darby took time out yesterday to fill me in on the squad and their nicknames. In goal of course there is Kosin. Except of course he is no longer Kosin. That would be too easy. Now he has changed his name to Sinthavichai. But for Steve and Robbo he will remain Kosin or more commonly Kossie. 

The defence is a problem with a Nattaporn and Nattaphong. The default reaction of English football folk is to call them Natty and indeed that is how Nattaphong is known. Nattaporn will instead by known as Porno. Suree is a problem ‘cos he was born with a football-ised name and I understand both manager and assistant spent a few hours at the King’s Head last week mulling over what to call the Chonburi defender before Robbo decided at last orders Suree was good enough and anyway Steve had to pay for the curry at the local ruby house. 

Captain Datsakorn is known as Datsy while Sutee Suksomkit gets stuck with Suggs as opposed to Suks. Arthit in future is to be christened Ginny after they decided he bore a passing resemblance to David Ginola. Without the work rate. 

Up front Teerathep Winothai is Theps, Teerasil Dangda is Daggers and Ronnachai is Ronnie. Thai Port striker Pipat will be known as Pippy as both Englishmen agreed he sounded like someone from a Beatrix Potter novel. 

During the press conference yesterday Steve Darby was grilled by the local media about just how Robbo was going to communicate with the players but it is obvious from what Steve told me after that the new manager is already on task and I understand will in fact be tested next week by having a player’s face pictured on a flash card and Robson will have three seconds to come up with the nickname. 

10 Things We Hate And 10 Things We Love About Thai Football

by Paul Hewitt

We Hate…

1)Pitches that look like paddy fields stampeded by water buffalo.

2) Travelling to an away game in a bus without air conditioning…

3)…and being forced to listen to Thai pop music played so loud it makes the wax in your ears melt every kilometre of the way.

4) Constantly being photographed during a match because you’re a foreign fan…

5) …and then seeing the resulting photos splashed across various websites and Internet forums the next day.

6) Having to sit on haemorrhoid-inducing concrete steps in a roof-less, seat-less ‘all-seater’ stadium.

7) A ‘club shop’ that consists of a table with some shirts chucked on top.

8) Watching matches during the hot season.

9) Watching matches during the rainy season.

10) Halftime entertainment provided by scantily-clad dancing girls. This kind of thing demeans women and diminishes us all!

We Love…

1) Pitches that look like paddy fields that have been stampeded by water buffalo.

2) Travelling to an away game in a bus without air conditioning…

3) …and being forced to listen to Thai pop music played so loud it makes the wax in your ears melt every kilometre of the way.

4) Constantly being photographed during a match because you’re a foreign fan…

5)…and then seeing the resulting photos splashed across various websites and Internet forums the next day.

6) Having to sit on haemorrhoid-inducing concrete steps in a seat-less ‘all-seater’ stadium.

7) A ‘club shop’ that consists of a table with some shirts chucked on top.

8) Watching matches during the hot season.

9) Watching matches during the rainy season.

10) Halftime entertainment provided by scantily-clad dancing girls. This kind of thing demeans women and diminishes us all!

If We Don’t Try To Plan And Don’t Start To Plan…We Will Fail

by Steve Darby

All the elite footballing nations that regularly appear in the World Cup Final have long term development plans in action. To be successful (qualify) for the World Cup finals in 2014, 2018 and 2022 Thailand must start to put into place programs that include : Talent identification Quality coaching High level competition Education programs that target nutrition, life style and psychological programs 

My research, taken from official FIFA technical studies, has shown that World Cup Teams are usually made up of mature players between the ages of 25 and 30; there will always be exceptions such as Owen, Messi, and Rooney (or Teerasil). Or at the other age spectrum of Baresi or Zoff, quite often Goalkeepers are the exception. However logic points to programs that are targeted to improve the elite players who are in the 25-30 age brackets DURING A 4 YEAR World Cup cycle. 

I have spoken to many Thai Coaches and international players and listened to their opinion and advice. There is a great deal of knowledge and talent within the Thai Football and education community. What I have learned is that no one person has all the knowledge, there needs to be a synthesis of all the people involved in football, administrators, Coaches , sponsors and of course players. To give it a simplified name, Goal 22 could be a Football THAILAND initiative aimed at laying down the foundations required to give our elite youth footballers the highest chance possible to succeed at the elite level as adult footballers. 

Goal 22 would aim to develop the next generation of Footballers who will compete at the FIFA World Cup in 2018 and 2022. When examining world’s best practice, that being youth academies in developed footballing nations such as England, Japan, Germany and Spain and Italy, we fall below the required standard particularly in organization and facilities. The reality is that they have far greater financial investment in facilities and man power. 

All academic and football research into the area of expertise clearly identifies that there needs to be at least 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become an expert performer. It is generally agreed in the Thailand football community that our elite players are not currently developed in an environment in which we can compete against other countries throughout the world. Whilst some truly great players have emerged, this may have been through sheer talent or luck. Also the numbers have not been sufficient to make great teams. We need to develop a National Curriculum which highlights a number of gaps in the development of our players. 

All of these gaps relate to technical development. From attacking creativity to the tactics of defence. All require a huge amount of technical development. Not for one or two players but for the whole team. Time is the most important ingredient for technical development. One cannot expect to kick a ball a few times in training and expect that during the game you will be successful. Learning requires a permanent change in behaviour. Repetition is critical to make this permanent change. Time is the investment and the environment must extend and challenge players to excel. 

THAILAND must make some real changes to our current structure in youth development in order to give our best players the best opportunity to reach the same levels of competency as our counterparts elsewhere the world. It is pointed out by many Thai Coaches that our players lack the physical qualities and game awareness needed to be successful in international football. Whilst technically Thai footballers are excellent. Also potential world class players have been produced such as Pyapong, Zico, Tawan and Surachai Therefore THAILAND must create an environment that at the very least replicates what other countries do in the delivery of successful youth programs. 

From experience and observation all over the world, it is clear that technical proficiency and game awareness result from a long term football development plan implemented and monitored by the Association with the support of clubs, governments and of course corporate sponsors. Players must train at least 4 times per week for over ten years in the youth phase. In addition, regular competition is structured to reinforce the skills and tactical components that are learnt through repetition on the training field. 

The strengths of our competitors are numerous. They may not have the numbers of players we have, but they often have facilities and most importantly the money. Our strength will have to be our passion and love of the game. It is obvious that we have very successful Grass roots programs, illustrated by the number of players both male and female that we have. Therefore the next step may be to direct our financial and human resource investment to the best of the best, the elite young player. This requires careful identification and nurturing of the best players in the best environment. 

We must continue to learn and implement the principles behind the world’s best youth programs. The final step is to exceed them. We must anticipate footballing trends and teach our players accordingly. In order to deliver a quality youth development program four (4) principles of youth development must be considered. 

These are: 
1. The best players: The starting point is critical to the end product, identification is key. It must not be a victim of nepotism, a poor boy must have equal rights as a rich boy. 

2. The best coaches: Football educators not just football coaches, playing experience vital. 

3. The best facilities: You will not develop good players on poor pitches. Maybe use artificial surfaces? 

4. The best football curriculums: Sound education practices including Sports Sciences and Strong links with Universities 

What we can control is; effective identification, training time, quality of coaching, development program structure, curriculum and cost. We must aim to be world leaders in the implementation of development initiatives with limited resources. We must be creative in our approach and must maximise our talent pool. The best interest of player development must be at the heart of the football community. Creating an environment that will positively affect performance is an issue that eludes many of the best clubs in the world. 

The English Academy structure is constantly changing as they don’t feel they have got it right yet. However Associations and Clubs that have succeeded share a number of common elements. These include identifying the best players, providing an environment that focuses on technical development linked to appropriate competition. 

WHERE ARE WE NOW? 2014 World Cup 
World Cup qualification for the 2014 World cup will start in 2012; hence the Thailand National team should consist of : Current national players aged between 24-28 The SEA Games team The best players from the U19s A continued search for Thai origin players playing professionally overseas These players are in many cases already identified. What is needed now is a planned competitive program for the national team with a detailed physiological program for the individual players. It is apparent that only a few TPL Clubs are physically developing the players in the best manner. 

2018 World Cup 
Players will need to be identified who are born in the years 1988-1994 1988/89/90 will be developed through the TPL and regional league and current national team Programs 1991 Players could be trained in the WORLD CUP 22 program for 1 year on a regional basis 1992/3 Players could be trained in the WORLD CUP 22 program for 2 years on a regional basis 2022 World Cup Players born between 1994- 2000 

The identification U10 – born 2000 & 2001 U12 – born 1998 & 1999 U14 – born 1996 & 1997 U15 born 1994 & 1995 

WORLD CUP 22 TRAINING PROGRAM 
Football THAILAND could provide players with a training environment specific to their geographical region facilitating an easy option for parents to access player development. The many benefits of a WORLD CUP 22 Program include: International recognition (and possible funding) for Youth development. Access to year-round elite training, coaches and competitions for free Minimal effect on clubs (maybe 42 players per age group to be selected) Training within a periodised program integrated with a specific long term Football Development Program Game specific skill development for players Integrated social, cognitive and emotional development 

Professional development opportunity for coaches working with elite athletes on a full-time basis. Leading to Coach talent Identification and career paths for Thai Coaches. Improved regional selection process through daily contact with the best players in the best environment Country Development Scheme for outside of Bangkok A good plan will improve our chances of success. 

We owe it to our young players to give them the best opportunity. 

Groundhopping

by Klaus Liedecke

Today I`m going to explain the meaning of groundhopping and give you a report of a particular example. First and foremost, groundhopping is about exploring the unknown. Groundhoppers travel all around the world to visit stadiums they haven’t visited before. These trips are documented and recorded in a journal. For each ground you visit you receive one point. To earn this point you have to watch at least 45 minutes of a football match in this new stadium. This must be a scheduled match which has been sanctioned by the football association of the country concerned. 

The ultimate aim is to claim a country point. You receive this point when you do the described procedure in a country in which you`ve never watched a football match before. The top aim is to achieve a continental point (these are very hard to obtain). Myself, I`ve got 22 country points and 2 continental points. So those are the basic rules of this sport (or is it a bad habit?!). 

The motivation for participating is simple. It is fun to meet different people (fans) and to learn about other cultures and stadiums. You just have to be crazy about football to have this hobby. Last week, Juergen and I went on a groundhoppingtrip to Surat Thani. We had an old pick up truck for the week and we had nothing else to do, so we hit the road. It’s only 780kms by road! Since Juergen hasn`t driven a car for years it was my job to take the wheel. We stopped at different places along the road to buy and enjoy the delicacies of the region. 

On our way to Surat Thani we ate sugar – or honey cookies (we`re not sure what it was exactly), bananas (all different forms) and many more exotic dishes. In fact, the sugar cookies gave me the power to drive the whole distance easily. We decided to leave on a Monday so we could visit and admire the empty stadium on the day of our arrival without being disturbed. 

The stadium has 3 stands and is reported to have a 10,000 capacity. However, I would put the figure at slightly less than this. I’d guess there were about 7 000 seats. After checking in at the hotel (“The One”) we went to the pool bar, which is a very nice place with live music. On match day, equipped with our banners and jerseys we set off to the stadium. On our way we stopped at a nice little restaurant where they asked us about our Chonburi outfit. We explained the reason for our trip. 

When we arrived at the stadium, it was very quiet. There was no-one around, except for two people cutting the grass on the playing field. Well, Thai people are known for usually being a little late, but it was very quiet indeed. After a couple of minutes waiting and wondering we asked one of the workers where everybody was. We were told to come back the next day. Yes, we were one day early. That`s groundhopping!!! 

In the evening we had a few drinks and the following day I slept until noon. I avoided everyone we’d met the day before so as to avoid being asked why I was still wearing the jersey. Also we didn’t go back to the little restaurant. How embarrassing. However, the match and the cheerfulness of the friendly people more than helped us forget our mistake and embarrassment. 

As for the match itself, Surat Thani beat Khon Kaen 1-0, in front of about 2 000 spectators. I feel that I must give particular praise to one Khon Kaen fan who had travelled by plane to support his team with drums and sun glasses.

Our last evening in Surat Thani was very quiet and non-alcoholic and we left at 10 o’clock, as intended. We said goodbye to the manager of the hotel and thanked him personally. I would recommend The One Hotel to anyone who may visit the region. On our way back we made another shopping trip. One thing in particular caught our attention. A box. We couldn`t make out what was inside, but we were very curious and so we bought one. When we opened it we found black eggs. We don`t know what to do with it. So if anyone is interested in becoming the proud owner of some black eggs, please let me know! 

Cheers, Lulu 

Many thanks to Sophie for the translation. 

Stadium Lovers Of The World Unite And Take Over

by Paul Hewitt

I belong to that peculiar subculture of football fans who are often more interested in their match day surroundings than by what is happening on the pitch. I refer to the ‘football ground enthusiasts’ or ‘stadium spotters’. Sad individuals such as myself tend to get more excited by cantilever roofs than counter-attacks; more enthused by tribunes and floodlights than tactics and formations. So you can imagine how excited I was (or perhaps not!) when I first moved to the Kingdom at the prospect of visiting new grounds in a new country.

Unfortunately my excitement was misplaced. Though the study of Thai football grounds is undoubtedly abstruse, it could never be described as stimulating. The main difference between football grounds here and those in, for example, Europe and South America, is that all stadia here pre-date the teams that play in them. Therefore they were not built for a particular team, and most were not built solely for football. Thus, we find most grounds in Thailand have athletics tracks. All large stadia in Bangkok have them, though you can find some football-only grounds which we will come to later.

Outside of the capital, you will struggle to find any grounds without the atmosphere-wrecking and seldom-used track & field facilities. These are the functional, formulaic and often forlorn municipal stadia, to be found in every large town and city across the country. These featureless, concrete arenas usually have a covered main stand. This structure will have a cantilever roof (no vertical supporting beams or pillars) and typically will not run for the full length of the pitch. There may or may not be seats fitted to the stand. If not, you’re sitting on bare concrete. Opposite, there is likely to be a similar stand but it will probably be without a roof, and definitely without seats.

Underpowered floodlights, a bumpy, patchy pitch and no stands at either end complete the dull, uninspiring ‘stadium’. I know of only two municipal stadia which are worthy of special comment. Where a little imagination has lifted them above the ordinary. The first is the Kleab Bua stadium in Kanchanaburi where four new stands were constructed – two at each end – for the 2009 Thailand Youth Games. Each curving stand has its own cantilever roof which gives the stadium probably the most cover of any outside of Bangkok. Though the new structures are not fitted with seats, they do provide almost total enclosure for the the ground; a feature municipal stadiums sorely lack.

These clever additions to an existing ground show that even the tired municipal stadium model has potential. The other notable municipal ground is the Elephant Stadium in Surin. On one side of the pitch is a plain, single-tiered main stand. But opposite are two very pretty smaller stands. Each stand has been built in dark, faux sandstone in a tribute to the many ancient Khmer temples in the province. Twin stupa-like towers rise from the top of each cantilever roof to leave the onlooker in no doubt as to where the inspiration for the stands came from.

The embellishments are the antithesis of usual stadium design, and a visit to this lovely ground is a must if you are in the area. Curiously enough, most of the more substantial arenas which are used for league football are to be found in the lower divisions. Lowly Phuket F.C of the Regional League play at the 16,000 capacity Surakul Stadium. A small covered main stand and a side and one end of open, concrete seating comprise the supporter accommodation. Though this dated venue has become better known of late, owing to its hosting of several international matches over the past year, it will never be known for having any architectural merit.

Chiang Mai F.C of the Regional League Northern Division play at the 700th Anniversary Stadium: a large concrete bowl of an arena that was built to mark the city’s 700th birthday and was first used for the 18th Southeast Asian Games in 1995. Though two-thirds of this near-circular stadium are just bare concrete seating, it is a more complete and visually satisfying ground than the Surakul.

There is an almost identical stadium several hundred miles to the southeast of Chiang Mai. To give it its full name ‘His Majesty the King’s 80th Birthday Anniversary Stadium, 5th December 2007’ is located in Nakhon Ratchasima. It was the main stadium for the 2007 Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) and is now home to Nakhon Ratchasima F.C of the Regional League Northeast Division. Like the 700th Anniversary Stadium, the Korat version is a twenty-thousand (or thereabouts) capacity, bowl-like multi-purpose arena. Unlike its Chiang Mai antecedent, though, the SEA Games Stadium is fully seated. The 20,141 bright orange seats are a visual treat in comparison with the acres of exposed concrete found at most stadia.

Chula United, now of Division One, play at Chulalongkorn University Stadium. The stadium boasts a well-proportioned, comfortable main stand complete with seats, a cantilever roof and private boxes. But the rest of the ground doesn’t impress as much: tatty, bare, uncovered concrete seating follows the curve of the running track until it is stopped by the presence of the main stand. But being elliptical rather than circular, the stadium does at least afford a closer view of the action than at Chiang Mai and Korat.

The Army Stadium, home of Division One runners-up Royal Thai Army F.C, is all but identical to Chulalongkorn except it’s older and in worse condition. And Songkhla of Division One have variously used Hat Yai’s Jiranakorn Stadium and their own Tinasulanon Stadium. Both are large venues, the latter of which was another 1998 Asian Games venue. In the Thai Premier League (top division) we find stadia considerably less impressive than those aforementioned lower-league grounds. In fact “less impressive” is a severe understatement in some cases.

Take the Nong Jork Stadium for example. This is the home of BEC Tero Sasana F.C. Even though Tero were created by current FAT chief Worawi Makudi; and are owned by Channel 3; and are Arsenal’s ‘team in Thailand’; and are one of the most successful clubs in TPL history, they play in a stadium that wouldn’t gain them access, for example, to the ninth level of English football. The ground consists of one, uncovered, seat-less side stand and, er, that’s it. Best of all, there are no floodlights. A situation which necessitates 15:30 or 16:00 kick-off times for Tero’s midweek games.

Nearly as bad is the Nong Prue ‘Stadium’, home of Pattaya United. Narrow temporary bleachers and a perimeter fence fashioned from upturned pallets do not make for a stadium to grace the top flight. At least we find floodlights here, and there is no athletics track. To be fair, Pattaya are moving on soon to a new stadium: the latest in the Chiang Mai – Korat lineage.

Other TPL teams on the move soon include Chonburi, who are moving to their own new stadium after a couple of seasons of ground-sharing with Siracha. Bangkok Glass are returning to a redeveloped Leo Stadium. And TOT are leaving the capital altogether as they move to Buriram. Their proposed 100 million baht, 40,000 all-seater stadium (yes, seriously!) hasn’t even been designed yet, so presumably they will use Buriram F.C’s municipal stadium for the foreseeable future.

As well as new stadia being built, others are being, or have been redeveloped. Thai Port F.C put up temporary aluminium bleachers along the touchline and, half-way through the season, at one end, to complement the existing grandstand. Though roof-less, the new additions are functional and have made for a tight, atmospheric little ground. Further expansion is expected soon which will take the capacity up to 10,000. And Navy Rayong F.C are to put up stands at each end of the Rayong Municipal Stadium which will take the capacity up to as much as 25,000. If they have a successful 2010, then they will probably fill it too, as Navy Rayong emerged from the 2009 boom as probably the best supported club in the TPL.

But the most dramatic redevelopment occurred at the ‘Thunderdome’: home of 2009 champions Muang Thong United. At the start of the season, the stadium comprised one, large, single-tiered main stand with a somewhat ineffective cover at the back. Over the course of the season, this solitary stand was joined by three others to make the stadium the largest football-only ground in the country. First, a permanent stand was built opposite the main stand. The new structure is similar in design to the old one but is made from red steel instead of grey concrete, and there are VIP facilities at the top of the stand.

As Muang Thong’s popularity rocketed, two apparently temporary stands were hastily thrown up at each end. Both are uncovered and are made from tubular steel similar to the new side stand. Original plans for the redevelopment of the Thunderdome showed intended constructions much different to the finished products. The hope is that Muang Thong will eventually realise these plans.

This whistle-stop tour of the Kingdom’s football homes makes its final calls at the three most significant stadia in the capital. The first stop is at the behemoth that is the Rajamangala National Stadium. Any number of hyperbolic adjectives could be used to describe this astonishing structure. But owing to the exterior’s vast expanses of arcaded, grey concrete, without a shred of glass or scrap of metal to soften its lines, ‘beautiful’ is not one of them.

Amazingly, for a stadium this size and in this day and age, we find floodlight pylons; two of them. Each gantry sits atop two staggeringly tall legs – like a ‘War of the Worlds’ Martian but with one leg missing. The stadium and surrounding sporting facilities were purpose-built for the 1998 Asian Games, and the main stadium has been used on and off by the national team since then. It was also a venue for the 2007 AFC Asian Cup.

As with the arenas in Chiang Mai and Korat, the stadium is a continuous, circular construction but on a far greater scale. The roof-less eastern side is two-tiered. The lower tier is relatively small when compared with the immense upper tier which looms above. Its height peaks level with the halfway line and dramatically falls away as the tribune curves round to the identical north and south ends. In the middle of each end, the ever narrowing upper tier, now just a dozen or so rows deep, is interrupted by a monolithic white, concrete block.

At the northern end this ugly lump is topped by an ‘Olympic’ torch; at the southern end the face of the block has a scoreboard on it. Presumably both blocks were originally intended to get scoreboards. As it is is, they rudely disrupt the flowing, undulating line of the upper tier, and the stark appearance of the block at the northern end is somewhat inexplicable. Beyond these blocks, the upper tier rises up once more to form the towering west stand. The same dimensions as the east, the west benefits from being fully covered by a gigantic, arching, cantilever roof.

A wide, decorative, crisscross fascia gives the roof added distinction. This stand houses the press boxes, VIP seats and, within, all the facilities one would expect from a major national stadium. So it’s not a beautiful stadium. And its by no means the only large, multi-purpose bowl in the region. But thanks to its dramatic sweeps and curves, and its sky-scraper-like height, there’s nothing quite like it.

The original national stadium – the Suphachalasai – is much more modest and more likeable than its ostentatious younger brother. Situated at the western end of the Rama I Road, this venerable ground is far more conveniently located than the Rajamangala, too. It is also well-served by public transport as it has its own sky-train station: ‘National Stadium’. Its external appearance is more pleasing than that of the giant a few miles to the east.

Though still a long way from the world of remarkable architecture, the columnar mouldings, mullioned windows and cream-coloured cladding of the north stand facade have a dignified charm. The stadium is rectangular in shape but with curved corners. This enables one to be far closer to the action than at the Rajamangala. At each side, the edge of the athletics track almost touches the front of each stand but is separatated from doing so by a very well-maintained hedge which continues round to each end.

The main stand is plain and neat. A single-tiered affair with a flat cantilever roof, the stand was considerably brightened up a couple years ago by the addition of brilliant-red tip-up seats. The other three sides of the ground are identical to each other in height and depth. The northern end of the ground, to the left of the main stand, is topped by a rather dated electronic scoreboard. This end continues round to the popular eastern side which in turn extends round to the rarely used southern end. All three sides are uncovered and are fitted with backrest-less red bench seats which went in at the same time as the main stand seats. The gaps between each bench seat, the profusion of stairways which separate each block and the large seat-less areas around each vomitory have reduced the capacity from 35,000 to nearer 20,000.

Though the Suphachalasai lacks the drama of the Rajamangala, its good sight lines, accessibility and history have ensured its continued use despite its current status as ‘Thailand’s other national stadium’.

This tour of what Thailand has to offer the football ground enthusiast comes to a halt some miles north of the Suphachalasai: at the Rangsit campus of the Thammasat University to be precise, and Thammasat Stadium. Like the Rajamangala, Thammasat was purpose-built for the 1998 Asian Games and was designed and constructed by Christiani & Nielsen: the same company that built the Democracy Monument.

Whereas Rajamangala is all brutal, dominant, uncomplicated concrete; Thammasat is soothing steel and clever detail. In shape, it is not quite so circular as the Chiang Mai or Korat stadiums; not quite so rectangular as the Suphachalasai. It is best viewed from the outside where a network of crisscrossing beams, struts and wires demonstrate exactly how the stands and roofs are held up. Also note the floodlights which seem to hold onto the outside of the stadium with outstretched limbs – giant praying mantises in metal form. Superbly engineered, they are a world away from the twin monsters at the Rajamangala.

Within, and things are not quite so satisfactory. The stadium has similar lines to the Rajamangala but none of the grandeur. Students of football ground architecture will be reminded of Huddersfield Town’s Galpharm stadium by the two side stands, and of Korat’s 80th Birthday stadium by the continuous all-seated tribune. But at Korat, all of the seats, bar those in the covered main stand, are accessed by rear staircases which lead spectators to the top of the tribune whereupon they then filter down into the seats. This system gives the stadium a clean, uncluttered appearance. But at Thammasat there are no fewer than forty vomitories (entrance and exit points) in the stands. If each large side-stand is ably served by ten vomitories, then why are ten required at each, much smaller, end? This profusion of exits produces a messy, fussy effect when the stadium is empty.

This messiness is exacerbated in the main stand. Just over half of the stand is given over to spectator seating, but the other portion is taken up by a – surely far too large – press area and an athletics judges’ viewing box. These features give the stand a horribly uneven look. To the left and right are two near-identical ends. The end to the right has a large scoreboard which, instead of being fitted at the back of the stand, has been inserted in the middle of the block behind the goal, cutting its size in half: more clutter.

The stand opposite the main stand is the same as that which it mirrors but without all the irritating intrusions: just a large, covered bank of seating. Despite these complaints, thanks to the dazzling exterior, Thammasat is still Thailand’s most compelling stadium. As I complete this article news has come though that Police United F.C, newly of the Thai Premier League, will use Thammasat for the 2010 season. It’s great to hear that the place will be in regular use again. Keen followers of Thai football may smile at the irony that a club which, for many, is a ghost of Thai football past, will move into a stadium which still seems to point to the future.


Thai Port’s 16 Year Wait Comes To An End

by Marco

TPL side, Thai Port F.C recently ended a 16 year wait for a major trophy, by winning the FA Cup final against BEC Tero. For me, the wait wasn’t so long. I’ve only been a fan of the club for about 6 months, after discovering them during a 2 month stay in Bangkok. Before you call me a glory supporter, I also follow Everton, so I know what it feels like to go for over a decade without winning a trophy! 

I was unable to attend the final, as I was back in the U.K. Oddly enough I was unable to watch Everton in the English FA Cup final as was I was in Thailand…I think it’s called sod’s law?! I had to settle for watching the match from the comfort of my home, via the internet. 

Those of us brought up in England are used to 4 or 5 hours televised FA Cup final build up. Interviews with the players, pundits reminiscing about past finals, and most importantly, footage of the teams arriving at Wembley Stadium are all part of Cup final day tradition. There are no such luxuries afforded to Thai football fans. Just a quick run through of the starting elevens, some shots of dignitaries in the crowd and it was time for kick off. 

The noise generated by the 10,000+ orange and blue clad Thai Port fans inside Suphachalasai Stadium as the game kicked off was fantastic. They kept up their vocal support for the whole match, and to use an obvious cliché, they really were our 12th player. They were however, momentarily silenced in the 15th minute, when BEC Tero’s early pressure paid off. Wuttichai Tathong headed ‘the fire dragons’ into the lead, after good work from Noppol Pitifai. 

Thai Port responded well after going a goal down, and forced their way back into the match on 24 minutes. Port’s midfield dynamo, Jirawat Makarom swung a fantastic cross into the 6 yard box, which was flicked on by Pipat Tonkanya, leaving Brazilan striker Edvaldo with the task of heading the ball into the net for the equaliser. 

The rest of the 90 minutes was a frenetic end-to-end match, but neither side could score the winning goal. Just as I was settling down for the 30 minutes of extra-time, the Thai TV channel I was watching, decided to go for an extremely long news bulletin. To say I disagreed with their decision would be an understatement! I ended up missing the whole of the extra-time period, as I desperately searched for an alternative streaming of the match. 

I was lucky enough to re-connect to the action, just as the penalty kicks were being taken. Both teams scored their first 4, and the tension was becoming unbearable. Thritthi Nonsrichai nervously stepped up to take BEC Tero’s fifth penalty, which he slammed against the crossbar. Thai Port fans sensed victory. The clubs talismanic striker, Pipat Tonkanya placed the ball on the penalty spot. He paused to steady his nerves before slowly running up to the ball. Just as his foot made contact, the picture froze. I had an agonizing 5 second wait before the streaming kicked back into life, and I saw the BEC Tero players with their heads in their hands, and the Thai Port players embracing each other. The relief was immense. 

I was shouting and cheering loudly in the U.K, while the fans at the Stadium who were illuminated by the bright orange glow from hundreds of flares, celebrated wildly. I regret that I wasn’t at Suphachalasai to witness Khun Pichet, Khun Sasom and the players lift the trophy, and that I wasn’t able to celebrate with the Thai Port fans, but all in all it was a great day that I’ll never forget. Next season I’m determined to go and watch Thai Port in an AFC Cup away match, which will go some way to making up for missing final. If we are drawn against a team from the Maldives, you won’t hear any complaints from me that’s for sure! 

Bangkok Glass

by Andy Potten

My first taste of live Thai football came with the Xmas games of the Suzuki cup, the Semi vs Indonesia and the final vs Vietnam. I was impressed by the atmosphere and even the quality of play was better than I expected. Also being an Everton fan, I was eager to see how Peter Reid was coping with the job. These couple of games got me interested and I started looking into Thai club football. 

I had just started living in Pathum Thani and at this time there wasn’t a particualy local team (as I was unaware of the pending arrival of Bangkok Glass FC). This was as far as it went for a while, as the TPL season was a few months off and without a logical team to follow, I kind of forgot about Thai football. That was until the English season drew to a close in May and I decided to investigate again. I then discovered Bangkok Glass FC had brought out Krung Thai bank FC and were a new TPL team. True, it was not the real way to get into the TPL and I know it created a bit of ill feeling towards us from other clubs fans, but I had a club right on my doorstep and that’s all that mattered to me. 

My first match was Navy Rayong at home and the rest is history. What I have been impressed with most is that I have been embraced by the club and our fans. I have also had very warm, good humoured and kind receptions from other TPL teams’ fans. It’s a community spirit that is hard to get back in England, even within smaller lower division clubs. Yes, of course there are countless problems that need addressing in the TPL, but there are problems that need addressing at every level of football through every country. It gives us fans things to moan about and create debates and after all, isn’t that why we all love football, because it gives us so many talking points. 

I have had some of my best moments in Thailand whilst at matches. We recently lost 2-0 away to Osotspa, but you would never have guessed it, it looked and felt like we had won the league. You couldn’t pay money for the experience I had that day. As I am sure you will read elsewhere the TPL is progressing at an alarming rate, in my short time, I have seen our attendances triple, whether such rapid progress is a good thing or bad remains open to debate, but I for one am loving every minute of it. 

Thai Football Culture v English Football Culture

by Greg Hill

Pubs near the ground? Singing and chanting? Yobs? Service stations charging obscene amounts for a cheese sandwich? Just how similar is a game of premier league footie in Thailand compared to back home? As any ex-pat will tell you, the This have their own way of doing things. Even when it involves foreign ideas or fashions that find their way to the country,the locals love to put their own spin on things. Football is no different, but the good news is that most of the differences are positive. 

For football fans in the UK and most of Europe, a game of top flight football can be the focus of a whole day or even a whole weekend. For younger supporters, the day can involve travel (long distance travel for away games) , time lost at service stations, time drinking and eating before the game, a lot of shouting and singing and, sadly, the threat of violence. Luckily, that threat is far lower than it used to be, though a general culture of tribal hostility still exists, especially between local rival teams. 

So just how similar is a day at the football in Thailand? Well, in all the important ways, it’s very similar. When travelling to a Thai Premier League game – especially if it involves Muangthong United – you’ll be in no doubt that there’s a big match atmosphere. Thais love to take sides. This habit starts early at school sports days, where the wearing of team colours and yells of support takes far greater presidence than the actual sports themselves. It’s a similar affair in the football, and you’ll notice the ratio of fans wearing team colours is far higher than back home. 

Likewise, you’ll be in no doubt of the passion involved. Every team has noisy supporters, every team has its own song and every team has a unique badge and nickname. Though attendances in the TPL are around the same as the English League One, the fans are capable of generating a whole lot of noise when they want to. Admittedly, this is often done with the use of horns and drums, which are more welcome here than amongst most fans in the UK. 

With so much partisan noise and displaying of colours, is there a threat of trouble? After all, only this year, the world witnessed scenes of red shirts and yellow shirts fighting over politics in the streets of Bangkok. Well, here’s the good news: Thai football fans must rank as some of the friendliest, if not the friendliest, in the world. The psyche of tribal violence that plagued English football in the seventies and still lingers in some places simply does not exist here.

Away fans are treated as visiting friends and often exchange food, drink and conversation with the home supporters. It is customary for the visiting team to approach the home supporters and salute them at the end of a game, for which they receive applause. Imagine Manchester United doing this at Anfield! Although very recent TPL rules state away fans must be segregated, it is still common to see visiting fans wearing their shirt whilst standing in the home end. 

Of course, any event involving thousands of people getting worked up cannot be said to have zero danger of trouble,but this is probably the closest you can get. Behave, join in the fun and you will be as safe as houses. Some fans might ask as I did at first: won’t the friendliness of the fans might take a little bit of the intensity and passion away from the fans or the teams? The answer is no. One game should be enough to lay any doubts to rest. There’s more good news. 

Any followers of the English game will be all too familiar with the argument that the working class English fan is being “priced out of the matches”. A family of four, going to a game in the EPL can easily, easily spend well over one hundred pounds on transport, food, parking, matchday programmes and of course the tickets. At Chelsea, the ticket prices alone can reach treble figures. Compare that to Thailand, where every TPL team charges…wait for this…fifty baht (just under one pound) for adults and twenty baht for kids!

It’s not just the tickets that are reasonablly priced however. Replica shirts – made by the usual big name brands – are also notably cheaper. For most teams, the shirt is about six hundred baht. And with Thailand being an inexpensive country in general, you won’t need a second mortgage to get to the stadium. Back home in Southampton, a taxi to St Mary’s Stadium from my home would cost me about twenty pounds for a journey of about eight miles. Here in Siam, the journey from home to stadium is about the same distance, and costs me about one hundred and seventy baht, or about three pounds fifty in British money. 

Matchday programmes weigh in at twenty baht, snacks and drinks (the same stuff that’s priced at five quid back home) cost less than fifty baht. In summary, you can enjoy a day out at the football without even making a dent in your wallet. Once you arrive at the stadium, pre-match build ups are very similar, though they can vary depending on where you are. Teams with bigger support (like Muangthong) have a lot of local amenities such as fast food joints, shops, places to buy drinks, and areas to simply wait around picking the next England or Thailand squad with your friends. 

Don’t expect to find ‘The Red Lion’ on the street corner though. Although alcohol is available outside most grounds, the beer guzzling culture is not so popular in Thailand. Smaller clubs will be more likely to provide local food stalls selling Thai food next to plastic chairs and tables rather than greasy burgers. 

Other differences between the two football cultures also exist. I’d say that the ratio of families and female supporters is slightly higher in Thailand, though that’s based purely on observation and I welcome other opinions on this. Thais seem to enjoy cheerleaders and ‘cute’ female guests as well as Thai style comedy for pre, half time and post-match entertainment. This is not to my personal taste and perhaps other foreigners will feel likewise, but of course this is not a negative point, it is simply different culture. 

The local teams play on Sunday, for reasons readers can probably take a stab at. They often kick off at five o’clock. Again, I’m sure readers can work out the reasons for that. 

Are there any downsides to the Thai football culture? The one obvious drawback is the standard of football, anyone going to a match expecting to see world class football will be left disappointed. I would estimate the standard of football in the TPL to be somewhere between League Two and Blue Square Premier standard in the UK.

One side effect of this problem is frequent stoppages of the game and low standards of referring, both of which can be frustrating. But that’s not to say there are no moments of skill or excitement, there can be plenty of both. Other than this, and the aforementioned tendency for cheerleaders and local style comedy (which is my problem) it’s hard to point out any drawbacks for fans. Perhaps some of this is down to my own personal feelings though. As a dedicated Southampton FC fan, it’s just sheer relief for me to have a local team not plagued by successive relegations and boardroom negativity. 

As an ex-pat, it’s nice to follow one of my home pastimes while enjoying local life. Of course, many of the points I’ve raised here could change in the next few years, and I think some of them probably will. It’s important to be aware that Thai football has recently seen an explosion of popularity, triggered by large sponsorship deals and reforms by the Thai FA. That explosion is still in its early days, and the biggest struggle for Thai football remains one of recognition. 

Many locals are blissfully unaware that they even have a local team, let alone the chance to go to a match. However, if current trends continue, support will soon become widespread. That new interest will create changes. Most notably, more money is likely to pour into the leagues. That expectation is obvious from the check list of major businesses that have recently become sponsors of the TPL – Yamaha, Chang and Coca Cola to name but three – who will obviously expect returns on their investments. 

Now, Thailand is known to have problems with corruption and I fear that increased turnovers could attract interest from various unwelcome sources. Moreover, it is almost certain to cause a large increase in ticket and merchandising costs. When the league has attracted as many fans as possible, I fear it will then attempt to bleed them dry. But those challenges lay in the future. For now, it’s fun to be part of – and hopefully promote – a place where football is still affordable and fun.

If you’re an ex-pat in the land of smiles, get along and support your local team. If you’re a tourist looking for an interesting aspect of Thai culture that is off the tourist trail, go along to see a match. Enjoy the game, and please remember not to spoil the friendly, welcoming atmosphere of Thai football. 

Is Division Two The Loser, As The TPL Bandwagon Gathers Pace?

by Paul Hewitt

What happened to Thai League football this year was extraordinary to the point of being inexplicable. I never thought I would see tens of thousands of replica-shirt-clad Thais packing out stadiums to cheer on their teams. A bit of renaming here; some increased media coverage there, and the Kingdom’s top division exploded into life. But how many of these enthusiastic fans who have belatedly discovered the domestic game have also paid a visit to their local Division Two (Regional League) club? 

There is a trickle-down theory that says that as the popularity of the Thai Premier League (TPL) grows exponentially, so too awareness, popularity and attendances will grow in the lower divisions. After all, it happened in the UK during the post-war and post-Hillsborough booms, and it is happening in Germany now. The thing is; it won’t happen here. How can I put this delicately…Thais are glory hunters. OK, not too delicate. But true nonetheless. It’s no secret that the two best supported clubs in Thailand are Liverpool and Man U. Closely followed by Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, Man City et al, etc, ad nauseum and any other appropriate Latinisms. 

When the Reds took on the Thai National team at the Rajamangala in July, far, far more Thais were cheering on the Merseysiders than their own national team And the Thai fans’ instincts to throw their weight behind the best teams are in evidence here too. Chonburi’s attendances rose from a few hundred to a few thousand as they climbed through the leagues on their way to TPL glory in 2007. PEA saw a huge surge in crowd numbers as they pipped Chonburi to the title in 2008. And nowhere was the Thai attraction to success more in evidence than in Nonthaburi as Muang Thong United, the 2009 champions, saw attendances rocket from several hundred to a TPL record of 16,600 over the course of the 2009 season. 

Muang Thong aren’t the only team to play in Nonthaburi, though. Rajpracha FC, one of the most decorated and historic of all Thai football clubs, also play in that province. They have enjoyed recent success too. In 2009 they were champions of the Bangkok Division in the Regional League (RL). But whilst Muang Thong were getting five-figure home gates; Rajpracha were struggling to attract 200. Thai fans wil not ‘trickle-down’ to clubs like Rajpracha. That’s the sad and concerning reality. At least Rajpracha are successful. 

Over at Bangkok Bravo the situation is even sadder. For years Bravo were a bright, green rebuttal to the criticism that all teams from the capital represent banks, other businesses or state institutions. Bravo had always been around ever since the inception of the old Provincial League. It’s just hardly anyone bothered to go and watch them in those ‘pre-boom’ days. Now, as the TPL goes through the roof, Bravo are on the canvas. A mediocre debut season in the Bangkok Division, and bigger, brighter attractions a few miles to the west, have caused Bravo’s attendances to plummet towards double figures. Bangkok Bravo may not appear for an encore next season as rumours of a merger with TPL side Bangkok United surface. 

Outside of Bangkok the situation is not quite so concerning but there are problems. Most Thai League fans in the provinces don’t have a nearby TPL team, and so must go to watch their local RL team if they want to see a live game. Clubs as disparate as Nakhon Ratchasima, Narathiwat and Chiang Rai all enjoy a good level of support – although they also enjoyed successful seasons, too. But for every well-run, well-supported lower-league club, there are many clubs run on a shoestring budget, playing in a municipal dump of a stadium, in front of a couple of hundred people. 

I saw Korat play Mukdahan back in May, and the travelling Mukdahan party comprised the starting eleven, three subs and one coach. The problem was that the RL, with its five geographical sections, was very hastily constucted. The Football Association of Thailand’s (FAT) reorganisation of the lower reaches of the pyramid was fine in theory but there simply weren’t enough clubs around this time last year to make it viable. New clubs sprang up overnight all over the country as the FAT encouraged local governments to form teams to enter the new league. 

Some of these new clubs were a success; some were a disaster. Tak, of the Northern Division, took just five points from their twenty games losing by scorelines such as 11-1 and 10-2 along the way. Roiet of the Northeast Division did little better as they took seven points from their twenty games. Their particular claim to ‘infamy’ was to concede eight goals in consecutive matches. And Rose Asia Pathum Thani earned just eight points from twenty-two games, winning just one match all season. 

What future for these clubs: hurriedly thrown together and hopelessly out of their depth? The RL should have been gradually phased in and prospective entrants means-tested more thoroughly in order to obviate huge gaps in class between the member clubs. The 2009 FA Cup was another good idea in theory: a knockout cup competition based on the venerated English version. In reality? Most RL clubs didn’t enter. The early rounds should have been regionalised. Instead, they were played on neutral territory in Bangkok. Far-flung, cash-strapped clubs were never going to make the long journey to the capital for the sake of a preliminary round. And so potential exposure and success for RL clubs were dealt another blow. 

The formation of a Southern Division was undoubtedly a plus-point for the RL. Although only eight-teams strong, the division produced an exciting finish as Satun and Narathiwat battled for the title. Romantics everywhere smiled as Thailand’s most southerly and most deeply troubled province saw its team claim the championship. Equally satisfying was the dismal failure of the over-hyped, self-aggrandizing Phuket F.C. But how far can Narathiwat realistically go? At the time of writing they are contesting the Regional League play-offs with the four other champions. They are well-supported and an away trip there will always be a daunting one for any team. And therein lies the problem. If they made it all the way to the TPL, would the relatively coddled players of Muang Thong, Bangkok Glass and the like be prepared to make the journey to the deep south? I fear not. And so a club which could be a shining beacon for the region may encounter a glass ceiling in the pyramid. 

There are three provincial towns and cities which are home to both RL and TPL clubs. The maritime town of Rayong is home to Navy Rayong of the TPL and Rayong F.C of the Central & East Division. The ancient capital of Ayutthaya hosts 2008 TPL champions PEA and Ayutthaya F.C – also of the Central & East Division. And, as of next season, Buriram will be the home town of TOT F.C as they move in alongside existing club Buriram F.C of the Northeast Division. Of the three aforementioned RL teams, I fear for Buriram the most. PEA seem to be imploding and may not stay in Ayutthaya anyway – which would obviously benefit Ayutthaya F.C. Navy Rayong are so well supported that even if only one in ten Navy fans bothers to go and watch their RL sister club, then Rayong F.C will still get gates in excess of 1,000. 

But in Buriram the situation is very different. Politician Newin Chidchob will move the Army to the south Issan town. And he has big plans for ‘Army-Buriram’ including the construction of a new stadium. All of which is portentous for Buriram F.C. They had a reasonable debut season in Thai football but, unlike their neighbours Surin and Korat, they struggled to attract fans. Buriram is a small town by comparison to those two and I don’t think there is room for the Army FC and Buriram F.C in the town. Expect the RL club to be swallowed up or trodden underfoot by Thailand’s latest Frankenstein club. 

So to answer the title question ‘Is Divison Two the loser…?’. In many ways, yes. But there are measures which can and should be taken to safeguard the future of the fledgling league and its member clubs, and to make the league more attractive to sponsors and fans who currently only have eyes for the TPL. First, clubs must be means-tested thoroughly to gauge financial viability. Second, all divisions should contain the same number of teams, or as near as damn it. Is it fair that in order to become champions Narathiwat only had to top an eight-team division whilst Samut Prakan had to win a twelve-team division? 

The FA Cup needs to be regionalised so as to encourage RL clubs to enter. And there should be financial rewards as teams make it through each round, just as there are in the English FA Cup. Finally, and this is absolutely fundamental. The champions of each region MUST be guaranteed automatic promotion. No more play-off mini-league. If this was introduced as the league is currently structured, it would mean five teams would have to be relegated from Division One: a far from ideal situation. 

So what’s the solution? I can think of but one way out of it. At the moment the pyramid is bottom-heavy. There is a 5-1-1 formation with the five-division RL at the bottom and the national Division One and TPL above. Five into one doesn’t go. We need a 4-2-1 formation which means getting rid of one RL divison: the Bangkok one. The TPL and Division One are still numerically dominated by teams from the capital. A division full of Bangkok teams in the RL is overkill. Fortunately, owing to the capital’s central location, teams that currently occupy that division could comfortably slip into any of the four remaining regions. I would then have two national divisions A & B, as was the case in 2007, at the Division One level. If this system was introduced, the maths would make far more sense. Each champion from the reduced four division RL would be promoted to Division One. Two promoted teams would go into Division One ‘A’ and two into Division One ‘B’. And the top two from each Division One section progress to the TPL as four come down the other way. 

This is just pie in the sky, though. And, if I do say so myself, makes good sense. So don’t expect the powers that be to implement anything of the sort any time soon. Depressingly, I can confidently predict that legitimate RL champions will once again be denied promotion next season. In some ways the RL is the best thing to happen to Thai league football for years: affordable, nationwide, local football being played by teams which represent towns, cities and provinces. But we need to know that those running the league have a clear strategy for the future and are capable of exploiting the huge potential the league has. 

48 Hours In Bangkok

by Antony Sutton

SONY DSC

Sunday morning I was down the Thai Port shop checking out a couple of things. Even at the relatively early time of 10 am there were people hanging around and buying things. They were due to play PEA that same day but I had to be elsewhere. Muang Thong Thani is pretty new I think. I don’t recall it from my early days in Bangkok anyway. Bloody miles away it is as well. From the centre of town anyway.

Met up with the lad behind the Muang Thong United blog and bored the poor lad senseless with my desire for a beer. Serious question. Do they drink beer up that way? I was in the Thunderome more than 2 hours before kick off and meeting up with Dale we reminisced about the last time we had got into the ground so early. For both of us it was a while back.

Large following from Chonburi of course. If they can take a couple of dozen to Vietnam for an AFC Cup tie in the middle of a typhoon they’re always gonna take alot more just up the road. The Muang Thong United fans filled the new stand, one with executive boxes, but gotta say they looked a poncey lot with all them brollies. It was bloody hot agreed but lads, mai mee lom!

The kick off was delayed. Some police dogs came on the pitch and, such is the funfair atmosphere that seems to surround many Thai games, people queued to to take pictures of the mutts. In fact the whole day there were people snapping and filming (!) and them there You Tubes and Flickrs have a lot to answer for!

Second half was delayed for about half an hour for nothing. Ther terraces behind the enclosure was chocca and some fans spilled onto the pitch. The police got involved and a few plastic water bottles were thrown. My bloody feet were killing me so I took advantage of the extended break to rest my weary bones. But every few moments there would be a roar that would ripple along the terrace and everyone would stand up to see what all the fuss was about. Usually it was about nothing. And nothing kept the second half delayed.

Behind one temporary stand was a mini construction site but true to Thai form, in the fading light a group of Thais gathered for a bite to eat. For verily it is written Where three or more Thais are gathered they shall eat and they shall say aroi as often as possible. Be it the Oriental Hotel or the Thunderdome it’s all the same.

Monday morning I was up with the local pigeons at the crack of dawn, formatting, cropping and editing before heading off to the Thai FA where I was due to meet a senior TPL official. So there I am sat in the lobby of the FA in a pair of shorts, t shirt and a handycam when suddenly in comes Teerathep. And Pipat. And Rangsan. And others. The Thai national first team squad and the SEA Games squad all piled in. To be followed by assistant manager Steve Darby who invited me into the press conference.

So there I am squeezed against a wall surrounded by camera crews from all the major Thai channels, the players all sat down and at the head of the table Steve and various FA bods including Worwai. And me in my shorts and handycam. I looked like an Aussie backpacker out looking for Khao San Road and had got off at the wrong bus stop. Steve and the players were off to a sponsored event at such a such a time and said I was welcome to join them so I arranged to meet him back in the lobby while I went off in search of the TPL official.

By the time I returned everyone had already gone! As had my phone credit which meant I wasn’t able to contact Muang Thong United to let them know I was running late for my appointment there. Arranging to meet people is always fraught with danger but I gotta say this trip went pretty bloody smoothly. Everyone I wanted to meet was met with the exception of Muang Thong United while nattering with Steve and Pipat was an unexpected bonus.

Thanks to, in no particular order, Khun Vijit at TPL, Khun Jew and Janat at Muang Thong United, Dale and Nui for sorting tickets and beer, Kosin, Pipat for pretending to understand my poor Thai and Greg for ordering 12 inches for his missus with a straight face.