When I was growing up, it was easy being a football supporter. You’d turn up at the ground, buy a programme, pay at the turnstiles, take your place on the terraces with your mates andwatch the match. You’d have a pie and a cup of Bovril at half time and then trudge home at the final whistle to fish and chips and a mug of tea. Simple.
However, in the modern age, there are so many more distractions at the stadium (especially in Thailand, with its burgeoning domestic football scene). The whole match going experience has changed. It has become an “event” and the fans are photographed and filmed as much as – if not more than – the action taking place on the pitch.
Grounds are surrounded by a riot of colour and noise (as opposed to just a riot – commonplace in the 70s and 80s) and a festival like atmosphere prevails. It’s not always been to my taste.
So, with a new season just around the corner, I have produced my annual list of thirty things that I will endeavour to do this year. Some are retro and will fill me with a nice warm glow, others are contemporary, stuff that I’ve never felt the urge to do before, but am now willing to try and I’ll also be revisiting a few old favourites.
Over the course of 2019, I will be keeping you up to date with my progress (or otherwise).
Here is The List:
4. Wear a coat, hat and scarf at a match
Up until I was in my early thirties, this was how I dressed for the majority of football matches I attended, especially at the home of my team, Oldham Athletic. Boundary Park is widely considered to be the coldest ground in the UK and was christened “Ice Station Zebra” by former manager, Joe Royle. He wasn’t wrong!
However, since moving to Thailand, my regular terrace wear usually consists of a t-shirt and shorts, and, occasionally, a raincoat. Even though I much prefer the climate here, I do miss “wrapping up” to go to games so I was really looking forward to this.
I had been carrying my “kit” around in the car just waiting for the right time. And that right time arrived last Wednesday. I think I must have been the only person in the Rangsit area who was pleased when it started raining about an hour before kick off. I couldn’t wait to get dressed and head out into the cold and the wet on the open away end.
I did get a few funny looks as I picked my way across the car park, avoiding the puddles, but I was in my element. After collecting my ticket, and buying some hot food – cheese balls and chips – I made my way to the top of the terraces and was immediately transported back to the foot of the Pennines and memories of watching football in the depths of the English winter. Ironically, it gave me a nice, warm glow!
3. Buy match tickets online
When I heard that the club was launching an online ticketing system, I couldn’t wait to try it, especially as I had visitors who wanted to go to a match. So I braced myself and followed the link on the official site. What would the Digital Age have in store for the average Chonburi fan? I was about to find out.
Well, the first part, registering with All Ticket was easy; name, e mail address, credit card details, passport number and Bob’s yer uncle. So far, so good. Next, to buy tickets for the opening home game against Samut Prakan City. Would that be as straightforward?
Actually, yes. After a couple of clicks I was on a map of the stadium that showed me all the available seats. The ones I wanted were free so I moved the cursor across the screen and in just two taps I had made my purchases. Moments later, I received a confirmation e mail, complete with a receipt and a bar code to print off for the shop to scan when I went to pick up my tickets – which I’d been informed I could do at “any 7-11 nationwide”. It was all too good to be true. Surely something would go wrong at the next step. Wouldn’t it?
Sorry to disappoint you, but, no. The staff at my local shop knew exactly what they were doing and within the blink of an eye, I was emerging into the early evening, tickets in hand. It had been a breeze. I’d been extremely impressed with the service and the efficiency with which everything had been done…so far. There was still one last hurdle to overcome – getting into the ground.
If anyone was to cock things up it would surely be my beloved club. But not this time. The two sheets of A4 paper* that I’d been given the night before, were handed over to the lad on the gate. He checked the details, folded over a corner, tore of a strip and waved my companions inside. All done and dusted with the utmost of ease and minimum amount of fuss. A success! Well done to all involved and welcome to the future!
*My only gripe is the amount of paper used in the process. Do the tickets really need to be so big? Or even printed out at all? Otherwise, I was extremely happy with this service.
2. Interview a Chonburi player
Over the course of the ten years I’ve been running an independent Chonburi website, I have interviewed hundreds of different people, but very few of them have been connected to the club. There’s no real reason for this, it’s just the way it’s worked out. Still, I suppose it’s always good to hear the opposite viewpoint and a lot of my subjects don’t have to watch what they say!
However, my first interviewee – back in August, 2009 – was a Sharks player. I spent a lovely afternoon with our ex-midfielder, Michael Byrne and we chatted like old mates; it helped that we come from roughly the same area in the north west of England, so, even though there is a big age difference, we found we had a lot in common. When I posted the results of our natter in two parts, it proved to be very popular with the readers, and there was no turning back.
Fast forward to 2019 and I thought I’d have another crack at putting one of our lads through the mill. Sadly, due to timing issues, I wasn’t able to keep my original appointment with Niran, but he was kind, and patient, enough to answer my questions via e mail. The interview went up on the site yesterday (February 12th) and it too has been a big hit with our visitors.
In fact it was such a success, I might be tempted to do another one in the not too distant future. Does anyone have Kroerkrit’s phone number?
1. Watch a pre season friendly
As most of Chonburi’s pre season friendlies thus far have been little more than glorified kickabouts – and played at inconvenient times for those of us who work – it was good to get a competitive game on the schedule. And the 6:00pm Saturday evening kick off was perfect too.
The JLeague Asia Challenge is an interesting concept. Two Japanese teams are drawn against two Thai teams and the matches are played over the course of one weekend. No semi finals and final and no group games. That’s it. Oh, and there’s a nice shiny plate on offer to the winner(s).
Chonburi’s opponents were Sanfrecce Hiroshima, the side who finished second last year. They would provide a stiff test for the Sharks and give us some idea of where the team was at with only a couple of weeks to go before opening weekend. There was quite a lot of trepidation during the build up – our recent record against teams from Japan isn’t great – but there was also a certain amount of excitement too, especially when it was announced admission would be free.
On arrival, I was disappointed to learn that my free ticket would only admit me to the Swimming Pool Stand, which is not where I usually sit. However, it was no great hardship – at least it wasn’t behind the goal – and I took my place on the front row right on the halfway line. It was an entertaining opening forty five minutes and I had enjoyed my alternative view.
Following a couple of half time refreshers and the chance to catch up with a few people I hadn’t seen since the end of the last campaign, I chanced my arm (with a Swimming Pool Stand stamp on it) and tried to enter the Main Stand. Thankfully, the girls on the gate didn’t seem to mind and I was able to enjoy the second period in my “home” end.
The match ended in a deserved 2-1 win for the Sharks and I had a thoroughly good time. Let’s hope that the experience is a sign of good things to come in 2019.
Write and record a Chonburi FC tribute song
Have my photo taken with an opposition coach/manager
Produce a website related unofficial Chonburi FC t-shirt
Add English commentary to a video of match highlights
Take a photo of my dogs on the Chonburi pitch
Draw a Chonburi FC cartoon strip
Recreate an iconic lp sleeve using Chonburi FC imagery
Have my photo taken with the Sponsor girls
Watch a pre season friendly
Visit all four grounds used by Chonburi, in one day
Smuggle popcorn into Chonburi Stadium
Buy a Thai club’s goalkeeper shirt
Go to two matches over one weekend
Buy match tickets online
Watch a televised match at a public venue
Make a new banner and take it to a match
Broadcast “live” from a match
Drink a pot of tea at a match
Share any Chonburi related dream I have
Take a vuvuzela to a match
Hand out blue streamers to fans at an away match
Travel to a match on a motorbike
Send postcards from an away trip
Cook some food before a match
Interview a Chonburi player
Buy a match ticket and give it to a stranger
Organise a Japanese fan style clean up after an away match
Score a goal on the Chonburi pitch
Watch part of the same match from each of the four stands
Wear a coat, hat, and scarf at a match