Bye Bye Chonburi : Why I Won't Be Renewing My Season Ticket
Interview with Klaus Liedecke
Q - What is your name?
A - Klaus Liedecke (Lulu)
Q - How long have you been supporting Chonburi?
A - Since around 2008, I think!
Q - Which was the first match you went to?
A - Chonburi was playing Chula.
Q - What were your impressions at that match?
A - It was good fun. We went with a big bunch of people and drank a lot of beers. I think we paid about 40 THB to get in.
Q - What encouraged you to start going regularly to watch Chonburi?
A - It was definitely the friendly atmosphere in there, and how the people welcomed me to watch football with them just like I did in Europe back then. It’s incredibly important to me to be close to the game, the players, the club.
Q - What are your happiest memories of supporting Chonburi?
A - My two highlights would be when Chonburi won at Muang Thong over Christmas, and when they won the Kor Royal Cup against Buriram.United.
Q - Which stadium used by Chonburi do you prefer the most?
A - It’s IPE, because it was the biggest, and there were no single seats. If they put some effort in and built a roof and quality stands along the open side, it could be an amazing stadium! I recall that school kids were selling drinks inside the stadium, which is a good idea for everyone, because the crowd doesn’t get thirsty and the club can earn some extra cash!
Q - How long have you been a season ticket holder?
A - For three years now.
Q - Why did you become a season ticket holder?
A - I bought mine when Chonburi moved into the new stadium, since it is impossible to sit together with your friends who are also season ticket holders if you don’t have a season ticket because you can’t choose freely where to sit anymore. Unfortunately, this means that I will not bring friends who don’t have season tickets in as often as I used to, because we can’t sit together if they don’t hold a season ticket.
Q - What did the club get wrong last season?
A - As I mentioned before, the fact that you sit on single seats really brings the atmosphere down. Groups don’t get new members as easily anymore since you can’t stand together. The 250 Chula United fans, were much louder than the rest of the stadium put together when they played in Chonburi. I think that says it all! It’s a shame that the club either doesn’t realise all this, or doesn’t really care.
Also, to generally ban food and drinks in the stadium is really not the way forward! I understand that the club had to act after the stadium was closed following the trouble during the Buriram match but banning all food and drink from inside the stadium is completely the wrong way to respond. I have watched football in over thirty countries all around the world and I have never come across anything like this.
The move to Nike is an absolute disaster as well. How can they charge Thai fans such horrendously high prices for merchandising?
Q - What are the main reasons for you not renewing your season ticket?
A - I had high hopes that they would allow drinks back in the stadium this season, and I don’t mean alcohol, although it’s nice to watch football and have a beer…It’s a German tradition. Beer and BBQ sausages are as indispensable to a German football fan as Fish and Chips are to English ones, but even if they only allowed us to drink water from one of those plastic bags, I would be back in! I have to think of my health, and at an average 36 degrees Celsius, they can’t have people be without water for two hours! But the club doesn’t seem to care.
Q - Would anything make you change your mind about renewing your season ticket?
A - Well, my girlfriend has been nagging me for a while now, she loves Chonburi and doesn’t want to accept my decision.
Q - Which was your favourite away trip last season and why?
A - Without a doubt, most definitely when Chonburi played in the League Cup in SamutPrakan. They have a really nice small stadium and the home fans were happy that they didn’t play the match in Ayuthaya, as had been suggested. I also really enjoyed the fixture in Phetchaburi. They have amazing scenery, and the area is generally really nice. I stayed there for 3 days, that area is definitely worth a trip.
Q - Where could Chonburi learn from as regards to how they treat their fans?
A - Just have a look at the Thai National Team! They went back to a Thai company (Grand Sport) for their kits, so prices are affordable again! And at both Rajamangala and Supapalashai you can drink in the stadium!
Q - What would you do if you were in charge of Chonburi FC?
A - I would make sure that the club cares for its fans more. The fans are the backbone of any club, and should never be forgotten! So in more detail:
1. Change the sports kit provider,
2. Free choice of seating in 70% of the stadium,
3. Allow sale of food and drinks,
4. An English page in the matchdayprogramme,
5. Announcements in English over the PA
6. Further extensions to the IPE stadium and then return there once finished.
Q - Were you happy with the team's performance last season?
A - When it’s clear that you won’t be the champion, then it’s wise to try for a cup win, like Buriram United did. Chonburi’s coach doesn’t seem to have a clue what he’s doing, and certainly set completely wrong targets!
Q - What will you do with your time now you won't be coming to watch Chonburi?
A - There are plenty of small but great clubs and stadiums, that are all waiting to be visited. At the moment, I have been going to watch the AFF cup games. Football is here to stay, and I will continue to watch games, just not in Pattaya.
Q - Why is this a better option?
A - Because I will enjoy it more and because I feel I am not being taken advantage of.
Q – Finally, is there anything that you would like to say to the club's management?
A - Take a step back and concentrate on the roots of sport. Think of your fans and make fair and genuine decisions. And beware: The way you are going about things at the moment, Chonburi is going downhill.
With thanks to Charlotte and Louisa
Please note : The opinions expressed by the interviewee are entirely his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of this website. Thank you.
AFF Suzuki Cup 2012
by Jonathan Fairfield
Following a two year wait, the AFF Suzuki Cup sees Southeast Asia’stop national sides battle it out to see can be crowned regional champions. If you live outside the region, it’s probably fair to say that the Suzuki Cup might not make it onto your footballing radar, but for those of us who are lucky enough to call this part of the world home, it’s a pretty big deal.
The tournament itself is still a relatively young completion having only started in 1996 that said, it of course generates quite a following in these parts and is taken seriously by the teams that compete as at this moment in time, World Cup qualification remains unlikely. Thailand and Singapore are generally considered to be the strongest teams in the tournament and have both been champions 3 times previously. However, Malaysia are the current holders and Vietnam won it in 2008 so it is really about time that either Thailand or Singapore got back to winning ways. Extra pressure is on Thailand this year as they are joint hosts with Malaysia.
Admittedly, I’ve not watched half as much of the competition as I would have liked but what I have seen has been pretty good standard wise, with Thailand topping their group with a maximum of 9 points from their first 3 games. Maybe a little biased, but Thailand certainly seem to be standout team and despite resting a few players, made pretty light work of Vietnam on Friday night, winning the game 3-1 despite being reduced to 10 men mid way through the second half. You can see some of the match highlights here.
For me, the highlight of the match was the second goal by Kirati Keawsaumbat, an excellent header that wouldn’t have been out place in any other major international tournament. The game against Vietnam was Kirati’s first start of the tournament and given that he scored two goals could potentially give Thailand manager, Winnie Schafer a bit of a selection headache as his team progressed to the semi final stage, where they will face Malaysia. The first leg is scheduled for Sunday 9th December in Kuala Lumpur with the return slated for four days later at Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok.
Now, one thing I have found since following football in Thailand and throughout Southeast Asia is that region seems to play host to a number of players that have played in the UK but for whatever reason have completely dropped off the radar, never to be heard of again (Christian Nade, Bas Savage, Danny Invincible and Michael Byrne – I’m looking at you).
The football nerd in me (and proud) enjoys being reacquainted with players of this ilk and it kind of makes me raise a smile when I find out that Bas Savage and ex Stockport man Michael Byrne ply their trades in the Land of Smiles.
Anyway, to my delight after watching the highlights of Philippines v Myanmar on Friday night (Nov 30th) I had one such “bloody hell, I’d forgotten all about him moments”. Naturally I was delighted! This time the player in question was Philippines striker Phil Younghusband. Now, I expect most of you will never have heard of him but if you’re life has ever been overtaken by the computer game Football Manager, especially if you played it around 2005/06, then you may be well aware of Mr Younghusband. Randomly, in the game (yes I know it’s not real!!) Younghusband is an extremely promising young player, widely regarded as a ‘Wonderkid’, destined to be one of the world’s greatest players and quite possibly the greatest Asian player of all time.
Well, back to reality and I’m not sure what happened but Younghusband’s has gone from being a rising star in the Chelsea academy to playing in the Filipino United Football League. This would NEVER have happened in Football Manager!
On the plus side, from what I’ve read, Phil Younghusband’s is quite a star in the Philippines and as he is still only 25 it is possible that he could return to play in England in the not too distant future. Of course I’d be delighted to see him play in Thailand…well, you never know!
I’ll leave you with this absolutely worldie of goal (sort of) from the Philippines vs Myanmar match, scored by none other than the man himself.
Here’s to the rest of the tournament, fingers crossed Thailand reach the final.
If you’re a football nerd too, give me a shout on Twitter @jmfairfield
Nappy Days : Football and Fatherhood
by Jonathan Fairfield
It’s been a while since I’ve written for this site. I’ve not gotten lazy; there’s a good reason behind my absence. I’ve recently become a dad for the first time. A little over a month ago (Sept 16th) my girlfriend gave birth to a beautiful baby girl called Kimberley.
As I’m sure any new parent will tell you the joys that a new born baby brings are pretty incredible and whilst, at times, things can be a little overwhelming, I wouldn’t change Kimberley for the world, that really goes without saying. All in all I’m finding becoming a new dad, with everything that fatherhood has so far entailed, just amazing. Amazing.
Now, before I get anymore teary-eyed and before you start thinking you’re reading my personal blog, I’ll leave all emotional stuff to one side (for now).
As I’ve mentioned on this site before I’m a Stockport County fan. And I dare say the only one in Thailand. My following for County has spanned more than 20 years and as I’m currently 28 years old, Stockport County has, for the most part always played a major role in my life. You see me and County, we’re the best of mates. Actually, we’re much more than that, we’re brothers, inseparable. We’re there for each other. We pick each other up when times are tough. We laugh, we cry, we celebrate the good times together (of which there are few). We moan and bitch about the bad times (there’s been bloody loads of them).
Despite being in Thailand, my support for County hasn’t waned. If anything, it’s made me even more fanatical. Every Saturday evening, I religiously listen to the Stockport match online and whilst this falls well short of actually being at the game in person, it still helps to keep up to date with the latest goings on at my place of worship.
So up until a month ago, my little Saturday night ritual of sitting next to the computer listening to County with a couple of beers was often the highlight of my week. But all that’s changed.
Don’t tell my Mrs, but my undivided love and attention, my passion and my heart now has to be shared – Kimberley and Stockport County. (Alright, the Mrs is in there somewhere!)
However, it’s not just my heart that’s now divided, it’s also my time. As you can imagine, Kimberley takes up a fair bit of it. In fact, at times between my girlfriend and I, we feel like we’re holding down about five full time jobs at the moment, such is the extra workload. The truth be told, we’re knackered!
Not only that, but my free time just seems to have vanished! It’s meant that for the first time in a very long time I’ve not been able to keep up with my daily routine of waking up and checking the County message board, official website, BBC Sport and Guardian Football (in exactly that order) – the whole routine seems to have gone completely to pot.
I’ve not been on Twitter as much, which means me trying to keep up with the latest news on Thai football has all but gone out of the window. I heard that Muang Thong won the league (probably doesn’t go down to well in these parts!) but that’s about it.
As for listening to the Stockport game on a Saturday night, forget it! A sleepless the night on the Friday before, meant that I fell asleep around 8pm and missed listening to County’s recent games against Hereford, only to be then woken up around midnight when the game was over! The only consolation – County won 2-1!
It remains to be seen when my current exile from keeping up to date with all things football will end. It’s got to be soon, right? I mean, how long can it be before Kimberley is feeding, dressing and cleaning up after herself, leaving me to settle back into my old ways! Not too long…. or is that wishful thinking?
Sven Goran Eriksson
by Jonathan Fairfield
It is normally the case that news from the Thai Premier League is reserved only for the back pages of Thai newspapers, hidden somewhere between a story on a Muay Thai championship fight and the latest goings on from English Premier League. However, this week saw all that change.
The appointment of Sven Goran Eriksson as technical director at BEC Tero not only made headlines in Thailand but also around the world as news of the arrival of the former England manager to the Land of smiles was featured in just about every sports news outlet going. There can’t have been many previous occasions when news from the Thai Premier League has gained such a global audience.
In England especially, news of Sven’s inaugural foray into Asian football was, it’s fair to say, met with a mixed reaction. Popular football websites and podcasts such as Guardian Sport and the Football Ramble all covered the appointment, with the latter suggesting that Sven was probably eager to work in Thailand more out of his love for beautiful women, rather than the beautiful game. They may have a point!
Joking aside, this is kind of how Sven is now viewed by many in England. Such is his fall from grace since his departure from the England job in 2006, that many just see him as nothing more than a real life parody of himself.
From spending just under a year in charge of Manchester City, who at the time was owned by Thasksin Sinawatra, his last game in charge being an 8-1 away defeat to Middlesbrough on the final day of the 2007/2008 season, Sven’s CV has hardly been free from blemishes over the past six years. Unimpressive spells in international management with Mexico and Ivory Coast, as well as managerial roles in one form or another with Notts County and Leicester City, all but confirm that Eriksson’s managerial stock has been on the decline for quite some time.
But it has hasn’t always been like this. Upon his appoint as England manager, Sven was one of the most sought after names in world football.
A managerial career that began in Sweden in the late 70’s, he guided IFK Goteborg to a 1982 trophy treble of league, cup and UEFA Cup. He then moved onto Benfica where he won domestic league and cup titles before moving to Italy with Roma. It was in Italy where Sven would spend most of his club managerial career. Despite a brief return to Benfica in 1982, Sven would go onto win a total of nine trophies with 3 different Serie A sides - Roma, Sampdoria and most notably, Lazio, where the Swede won the Scudetto (Italian league title) in 2000.
Following the resignation of Kevin Keegan later that year, the Football Association quickly identified Eriksson as the ideal replacement and January 2001 saw Sven officially take over as England boss. The national teams’ first foreign manager, he quickly turned round England’s qualification campaign for the 2002 World Cup Finals. Who can forget that famous night in Munich where England crushed their long time rivals Germany 5-1, in what was arguably the national teams proudest moment since 1966.
A last minute David Beckham free kick saw England qualify in dramatic fashion for the 2002 finals, where they would go onto beat their other long time footballing foes, Argentina, before being knocked out by eventual winners Brazil in the quarter finals. In fact, it would be the quarter final stage that England would reach in their next major tournament (Euro 2004), where they would lose on penalties to Portugal.
It was around this time that some of the antipathy towards Eriksson by both fans and certain sections of the media began to surface. Booed by fans on the pitch, who grew tired of his seemingly negative tactics and dull style of play (a 1-0 away defeat to Northern Ireland did not help matters), Sven became an easy target for tabloid hacks with stories from his private life.
Despite the increasing pressure from the media, the England players always maintained that they had total confidence in their boss, even threatening to strike if one particular tabloid campaign to oust him didn’t stop.
However, by January 2006, Sven and the media circus that now followed him seemed to be making the front pages of the newspapers more frequently than he would the back pages, often for stories that were anything other than football related. The final straw came in his interview with undercover News of the World reporter Mazher Mahmood, otherwise known as the ‘Fake Sheik’. It was not long after this the FA decided to call time on Eriksson’s England career announcing that he would step down as manager after the 2006 World Cup finals.
The finals themselves ended, now somewhat predictably, with England being knocked out in the quarter finals to Luiz Felipe Scolari’s Portgual, who defeated England 3-1 on penalties.
It’s fair to say that by now, many in England were glad to see the back of Sven as national coach. Despite some memorable results and encouraging performances in major tournaments, the decline in the reputation of Sven as a world class manager was well underway.
Six years later, the next chapter in Sven’s 35 year coaching career sees him join BEC Tero. It remains to be seen what sort of an impact Sven will have on his new team. There is no doubt that he has a wealth of knowledge and experience to pass onto BEC’s players and staff.
However, there is some uncertainty with regards to how long we can expect to see the Swede at BEC. One part of the Sven to Thailand story that wasn’t really reported in the English media was that he has only signed a contract with the Bangkok club until the end of the Thai Premier League season, which has just over a month left to play. It could be that Sven is in Thailand for little more than a long holiday! Whether Sven’s managerial future lies in Thailand is unclear, with his agent even confirming that the deal with BEC ‘could be very short term’.
In an interview with Sven here, he even seemed to suggest that he ended up at BEC Tero almost by accident after a deal to move into Chinese football fell through.
Whilst Twitter and various Thai football blogs have been awash with jokes of girls on Soi Cowboy hurriedly taking Swedish lessons, one thing that is for sure is that Sven has helped to draw positive, international media attention to the Thai Premier League, which can only be a good thing.
Watching Football In Thailand
by Jonathan Fairfield
Thais certainly love their football. Or at least, they love the English Premier League, which is great news, for many expat football supporters who have chosen to settle in the Land of Smiles.
The truth is that few places offer a better opportunity to watch English football on TV than Thailand.
Here you can expect to find more EPL games on the box than you ever would in England. Whether it be via a cable TV subscription or by visiting just about any bar on a Saturday or Sunday evening (taking into account the time difference), the chances are you will be able to watch more than one Premier League game.
And I’m not just talking about bars in the big cities or areas popular with tourists. Even the smallest bars in the most far flung of places will regularly show games. Stories of tourists or expats, getting lost, finding themselves way off the beaten track, only to stumble across some bar in the middle of nowhere showing one game or another are not uncommon.
Domestic Football in Thailand
Now, watching all this English football on TV is great, but for many nothing beats actually being at a game, taking in the atmosphere of a match day and watching some decent football in the flesh.
The good news is that the domestic game in Thailand is arguably as popular now as it has ever been. And should you be in need of getting your dose of live football then a Thai Premier League game is the place to do just that.
Often overlooked, particularly amongst the expat community in Thailand, Thai football is very much on the up.
Many consider Thai league football to be very much in its infancy, but the truth is that league and cup football has been played here in one form or another since the 1960’s. However, it wasn’t until 2006 and containing only 12 teams, that the ‘Thailand Premier League’ was formed, which helped to lay the foundations for Thailand’s premier division as it is known today.
By 2009 Thai football underwent major rebranding and reorganization and it was from this point that Thailand’s top division was to be officially known as ‘Thai Premier League’, or TPL. This latest set of rebranding also saw the formation of the TPL Division 1 (Thai football’s second tier), as well as 5 regional divisions, containing between 8 and 12 teams.
Today, the TPL can boast rising attendances and revenues, ever improving stadia and of course, wildly passionate fans (more on these later!) Combine this with some good homegrown players and a small, but significant influx of foreigners then you have the makings of a pretty decent league. Comparatively speaking, it wouldn’t be unfair to say that in terms of the standard, the TPL is somewhat similar to England’s League 2 or Blue Square Premier League.
Attending a Thai Football Match
Where there might be a distinct lack of meat and potato pies and warm Bovril, what Thai football has in abundance is passionate fans, fanatical support and a fantastic match day atmosphere. It’s not unusual for supporters from both teams to turn up at the stadium several hours before kickoff, where they will start to sing and chant right up until the final whistle.
It’s fair to say that you don’t always find this kind of atmosphere at an English Premier League game, where ever increasing ticket prices have slowly but surely meant that the average man in the street can no longer afford to go an watch his team week in, week out.
This isn’t the case in Thailand, and as you can probably imagine, ticket prices for a TPL game cost just a fraction of what you can pay in England. And this isn’t in comparison to an EPL game either. Ticket prices in the lower leagues in England, relatively speaking, can be just as expensive as in the Premier League, where paying between GBP15 and GBP22 to watch a fourth or fifth division game is the norm. In Thailand you can expect to pay between 100 and 200 Baht (roughly between £2 and £4)
In England, particularly in the Premier League, the average fan has been replaced by a new breed, one where prawn sandwiches, corporate boxes and even a pre match champagne reception is all part of the ‘match day experience’.
One thing you haven’t got to worry about at a TPL game is bumping into anyone from the prawn sandwich brigade!
Let’s face it, it’s the fans that make football tick (or at least it should be) and what the TPL might lack in skill or ability on the pitch, the majority of Thai football fans are just as passionate any you will find in England, Germany, Spain or anywhere else for that matter.
Aside from a good atmosphere and cheap ticket prices, another reason to attend a football game in Thailand is the novelty (for fans for the UK at least) of being allowed to enjoy a nice cold beer in the stands during the game. It’s great, particularly in the warm weather and beats drinking Bovril any day of the week!
With beer (and sometimes whisky) being readily available in stadiums, you might expect this to lead to all kinds of problems amongst supporters, and being honest, occasionally it does. Recent weeks have seen a couple of incidents of bottle throwing and near rioting amongst sets of rival fans. However, don’t let this put you off; it’s far removed from anything ‘hooligan’ related that has been common place throughout most major leagues in Europe and incidents of this nature in Thailand are few and far between.
As with most places in Thailand foreigners are normally made to feel welcome and inside a football stadium is no different. Some clubs actually have quite large numbers of ‘farang’ supporters, especially around the areas of Thailand that has large expat communities.
Sounds Too Good To Be True?
So, Thai football is all about reasonably priced tickets, great atmosphere, ever improving stadia and drinking in the stands? It sounds too good to be true, right? Well, almost. There are some downsides to the Thai game and these can be found both on and off the pitch.
On the pitch, players can often to ground far too easily. Diving, cheating, simulation or whatever else you want to call it, unfortunately, is all too common in the TPL. This can then lead to a break in play, especially by the time a stretcher has been brought onto the pitch only for the player to jump back up to his feet moments later.
In the worst cases the whole flow of the game can be interrupted by players trying to gain an advantage through simulation. This whole problem is one that has sparked many a debate amongst expat fans and commentators from a number of different teams on Twitter, most notably between @swatcat_fc , @chonburi_fc and @BKKFootballBlog.
Another problem with the game in Thailand is the standard of refereeing. Now, what football fan doesn’t complain about the ref, its par for the course! But, it has to be said, the standard of refereeing at all levels of the Thai game is pretty poor. This combined with players diving all the time can sometimes ruin the game as a spectacle.
Off the pitch, it’s fair to say that things could be a little more organized. It’s not uncommon for a team to change the day of a game with very little in the way of prior notice. For example, a game might be changed from a Sunday to Saturday (or vice versa), with fans only being given as little as 24 hour notice, sometimes even less. It’s hardly ideal! As long as you don’t plan more than a week ahead, then you shouldn’t get caught out by some random fixture change!
Having said all that, the plus points to watching a live TPL game far outweigh the negatives and if you are a football fan living in Thailand who hasn’t been to a football game then you are missing out on a great, if not an altogether different, football experience.
If your town or province has a team then you should really make the effort to go and watch them play. Thai football is definitely on the up and watching a game live certainly beats watching a game on TV played in a league over 5000 miles away!
Phetchaburi v Chonburi
by Jonathan Fairfield
Admittedly, I’m somewhat of a newcomer to Thai football, despite being a huge fan of all things to do with the beautiful game.
Coming from England, I couldn’t think of many better ways to spend a Saturday afternoon than watching my local team, Stockport County. You might well ask, “Who are Stockport County”? It’s a fair question and one that I hear often in Thailand, especially where the English Premier League is king.
County currently plies their trade in the Blue Square Premier League – English football’s 5th tier. Located in the sunnier, more appealing area of greater Manchester, we are just a stone’s throw from the two more famous Manchester teams who play in red and blue, respectively.
Having recently moved to Phetchaburi and suffering from serious football withdrawal symptoms, I was eager to take in a Thai football game. In fact, I was eager to watch any football game but when I found out that Phetchaburi had a local team then I figured that this was a good as place as any to get my live football fix.
After taking in my first Phetchaburi game the week before, a friend informed me that their next game would be in the League Cup, against Chonburi (nicknamed The Sharks), who are one of the biggest and most successful teams in Thailand.
Phetchaburi are semi professional and currently play in the Thai Regional League Division 2, where as Chonburi currently lie 2nd in the Thai Premier League, 8 points off leaders Muang Thong Utd. To put it into English terms – it would kind of be like my team, Stockport County playing Manchester United in the Carling Cup.
With this in mind, I reckoned that this was one Phethcaburi game I should probably go and watch. So after rushing straight from work to the Phetchaburi’s Donkhan Stadium, I arrived just in time for kick off.
As I approached the stadium, the first thing I noticed was how busier it was compared the previous weeks Division 2 game. The car park and areas surrounding the stadium were packed with cars, motorbikes and a number of large coaches. Before entering the stadium, I passed what I assumed was the Chonburi team bus, complete with its large Nike swoosh emblazoned on the side. It was clear that big boys were in town!
In fact, outside the ground there was even a stall selling Chonburi replica shirts and other merchandise, which was, it has to be said, much busier than the Phetchaburi club shop!
Before anyone could try to sell me a Chonburi shirt, I made a dash for the stadium entrance and handed over my 30Baht admission fee. Before I could take another step the woman behind the counter pointed to a sign in Thai (which I didn’t understand!) that had ‘100’ written in big bold letters, underneath the Thai script. With Chonburi being in town, the owners of Phetchaburi were obviously looking for a big pay day and instead of the usual 30 Baht, the price of a ticket for this game was now 100 Baht (about £2!)
Upon entering the stadium, I soon spotted my friend and took my place in the stand shortly after kick off. The stadium was busy; I dare say it was probably the busiest it has been for a number of years, with both sides of the ground looking at least three quarters full, mainly due to the large away contingent, who were very vocal right from the kick off. The match report here sums the game up pretty well.
As for the two teams, the gulf in class between them was fairly evident within the first few minutes of the game, with Chonburi putting together a string of nice passing, one and two touch moves, which is no mean feat on Phetchaburi’s truly awful playing surface. Highbury circa 2003/2004, it certainly isn’t!
Now, one of the good things about watching football in Thailand, or at Petchaburi at least, is that you can enjoy a nice cold beer whilst watching the game. And not long after finishing my first Chang Phetchaburi found themselves already two goals down. The first of which was a neat turn and finish, with the second coming from The Sharks big centre forward Thomas Dossevi, who headed in a cross from the right hand side.
I have since been told that Chonburi played a weakened team, with many of their regular starters sitting this one out. Not that it really mattered as there was very little chance of Phetchaburi coming back from 2 goals down at half time, such was Chonburi’s dominance.
The second half started much in the same way as the first, the only exception being that Phetchabri actually managed an effort on goal. However, despite a bit of good pressure, the home side were unable to take advantage and before too long Chonburi had scored another making it 3-0, putting the game out of sight for Phetchaburi.
Soon after Chonburi were able to bring on some fresh legs by the way of a double substitution.
Now, like I said I am a definite new comer to Thai football and know virtually nothing about any of the players who play in the Thai Premier League. I know Robbie Fowler played here for a while (fairly unsuccessfully) and that Michael Byrne (ex Stockport) plays for Chainat but apart from that I would struggle to name another player, although this is beginning to change!
However, one player that I am now familiar with and who immediately caught my eye in the Chonburi game was Therdsak Chaiman, who came on as a second half substitute. I have to admit that I’d never heard of Chaiman before (excuse my ignorance!) and to my knowledge, had never seen him play but for the 30 or so minutes that he was on the pitch against Petchaburi he was head and shoulders above every other player out there.
Actually, that’s not strictly true as he can’t be much taller than about 5ft 5 but in terms of ability, it is now obvious to me why Chaiman is a fans favorite and has more than 70 international caps to his name.
Not long after he came on, Chaiman was at the heart of a pretty much relentless onslaught from Chonburi. His good first touch and obvious eye for a pass, helped to create chance after chance for his teammates. In particular, one diagonal pass that left a Phetchaburi defender on his backside. Chaiman even managed to get himself on the score sheet, scoring the 4th and final goal in a comfortable away victory.
A Thai friend of mine described Chaiman as Thailand’s Paul Scholes and I can sort of see what he means. Now, I’m not saying that Chaiman is as good as Scholes, of course not, but there are some similarities there. Both players are of a similar age, play in the same position, good technique, great passing ability, have an eye for goal and above all else, they both make the game look so easy to play. Something that is often said about Scholes is that he always looks like he has so much time on the ball. This was the same with Chaiman and is always the sign of a good player, whatever level they happen to playing their football at.
So, the final score in an otherwise mediocre game was Phetchaburi 0 – Chonburi 4. The game itself probably won’t live too long in the memory but the 30 minute cameo from Therdsak Chaiman certainly will.
Good luck with the rest of your season Chonburi!
Swimming With Sharks
by Shaneza Jaafar
My name is Shaneza Jaafar from Singapore. I am a huge fan of football. I am not a supporter of any club in particular. However, Fabio Cannavaro is my favourite player and yes, I do support the Azzuri! I was very lucky to be able to meet Fabio last year and got a chance to be up close and personal with him.
The name Chonburi FC became familiar to me in the early years of the 21st century. They came to Singapore during one of the AFC tournaments. I could clearly remember hearing one of my friends saying this, “Yes, it is a good team! The Thais play with class!” Sadly, I never had any opportunities to watch them play until last Tuesday. After the game on Tuesday with Home United, I realised what my friend said then was really true. This team plays with class!
Despite being almost half an hour late for the game, upon reaching the stadium, I felt I was being transported to Thailand. The view of the sea of blue jerseys and the intense cheering in the Thai language made me smile. I was at the right section of the stadium, with the away fans. I wondered if these fans are living or working here in Singapore. I am not surprised if some of them actually travelled from Thailand to support their team.
After settling down in my seat, upon looking at the score board, I realised I have missed one goal from Chonburi, also affectionately known as the Sharks. The guy who sat beside me filled me on the name of the player who scored. It was their talented captain, Pipob On-Mo. I was thrilled that the team was leading and they were still hungry for more goals. The game swung from end to end as Home was not ready to admit defeat. Meanwhile the Sharks did all that they could to maintain control of it.
Therdsak Chaiman, a former S.League star, was the key figure of the team. He played beautifully, edging his team mates into Home’s half and provided non-stop crosses as the forwards attempted to score more goals. Despite his age, Therdsak displayed his proficiencies in controlling the midfield as his side gained confidence. It was such a waste that the S.League allowed Therdsak to return to his homeland after donning the colours of SAF FC for many years.
When the half time whistle was blown, the away fans came together towards the stand and cheered for their team as the players made their way to the changing room. The fans gathered and took pictures with each other as they were fully equipped with banners, shawls, caps, face paints and Shark figurines. The children amongst the supporters were also dressed in the team’s blue and black jerseys. I am still impressed by the number of supporters that came and the vibrant environment they provided for the team and themselves. Without hesitation, I joined in their half time celebrations and photo taking. As the Thais are known for being friendly in nature, I saw the passion in their eyes for their team. They are indeed the die-hard fans!
The team received a warm second half welcome by their supporters as they made their way back to the pitch. Substitutions were made and the game commenced. The Protectors was determined to make a comeback in the second half while the Sharks continued to dominate the game, looking for chances to extend their lead. With the assistance from Therdsak, Kotchaplayuk managed to find the net and score the second goal for Chonburi in the 77th minute. The stadium shook, as Chonburi supporters roared with extreme joy!
Sinthaweechai, the rock-hard goalkeeper, was another key player in the match. He saved numerous attempts made by Home players. The highlight of his contribution was when he saved the bicycle kick made by Franklin, the Protector’s tall defender. Sinthaweechai jumped up and tipped the ball across the bar and this time, the crowd stood up and cheered his amazing save!
After several attempts, the Protectors managed to score a consolation goal through substitute Indra Sahdan in the 86th minute. Chonburi did not sit back to relax. They almost scored in the 87th minute and during the added time as well. Relentlessly, they tried and made several attempts until the final whistle was blown.
Before leaving the pitch, the Chonburi players stood in line and bowed to their die-hard fans. The supporters beamed with pride as they cheered for their players. The celebration continued as the supporters proceeded out of the stadium. There were also friendly encounters with Home supporters as there were handshakes and photo taking of fans from both teams.
It was indeed an exciting and unforgettable experience for me watching Chonburi play. I look forward to watching them play in their home ground when I come to visit Thailand soon! Thank you, Dale for allowing me to share my enriching experience with you.
Football : The Beautiful Game
by Klaus Liedecke
People say that football is the Beautiful Game. But that certainly wasn’t the case when Chonburi played Chula United on Saturday. It was poor and boring.
If this is the future of Thai professional football, then...goodnight! The two coaches on Saturday are supposed to represent the modern approach to the game. But it was such a terrible affair.
The Chula goalkeeper was the biggest culprit for spoiling tactics. He wasn’t interested in playing football, only in time wasting.
It may have been different if we’d had an early goal but it never really looked like happening.
The referee seemed unable to cope with the situation and I was surprised that he didn’t issue any cards for time wasting. He also failed to get a grip of the Chula players who went down at every opportunity after slightest hint of contact. In addition, he was guilty of allowing the players to stay on the field after they’d received treatment for their “injuries”. This happened on at least three occasions.
Another annoying feature of Chula’s play was their players’ reluctance to retreat ten yards when a free kick was awarded against them. Please allow me to quote Rule 12 from the laws of the game which covers such incidents:
A player is cautioned and shown the yellow card if he commits any of the following seven offences:
Now I wonder…Do these laws apply in Thailand? Or is it down to the referee?
If the standard of refereeing is so poor, I believe that coaches like Zico (Chula) and Heng (Chonburi) have a duty to teach their players good habits and not disrespect the laws and engage in such tactics, in order to improve the overall quality in Thailand.
The truth is, football is a beautiful game – fast paced and dynamic - and this is partly down to the simplicity of the laws. I believe that the local FA should be working to stamp out the kind of cheating we saw on Saturday.
It’s no surprise to me that teams like TOT and Chula United find it hard to attract fans to their games when they play like this. Nobody wants to watch this rubbish. Football is about entertainment. The sponsors like to portray a colourful image but this isn’t always the way on the pitch.
Excitement and passion are what draw the crowds to the stadium, not having to watch players indulging in play acting and time wasting.
Players should be trying to improve themselves and fight for success on the field.
Wake up, Thailand! Otherwise your league will go downhill and people will lose interest.
Hoping for better times ahead
Football's Not Fair
by Klaus Liedecke
When I was driving home from Bangkok on Saturday, I was thinking about my first article for the site. However, I had absolutely no idea what I was going to write. My mind was still thinking about the late equalizer, the missed chances, the supporters, who stood in the rain and the builder of the stadium who forgot to put a roof over the stand. But these are all topics for another day. And then it struck me : football is not fair!
One hundred kilometers further down the road I was still thinking. I tried to remember some nice moments of football, to clear my head of all the bad thoughts for the report I had to write. Then the late equalizer we scored in Yangon and the last minute goal from Ludo in the Kor Royal Cup crossed my mind, and how much I appreciated these moments. These two incidents happened in the past few weeks ago and I remember them very well. And I was asking myself, how did the supporters from Yangon and Buriram feel at this moment? They probably also thought: football is not fair! Yeah man, football is not fair! But it shouldn’t be. There are winners and losers and emotions!
And I want to share these emotions with you now, through my flippant comments. There are so many good stories about football on and off the field that we could discuss. Over the years, I have written many reports about the football games I’ve seen and I’ve always kept my personal opinions to myself. But know I can set my mind free. It was only after my long journey on the motorway, that I realized that I had written the first article already without even realizing it.
Keep being emotional.
My First Away Trip
by Hans Nord
On Saturday 31st March we went with the Chonburi FC supporters bus from Sri Racha to TOT's stadium near Don Muang. It was great fun and not a very different experience from the Swedish equivalent.
We started at 1:00pm as planned. We’ve found that we have become more and more impressed by the Thai way to stick to advertised timings.
At Nong Mon (about 8kms north of SriRacha) the driver started the DVD recorder and the entertainment began.
Further up the road at Big C Extra just outside Chonburi, we stopped to pick up more supporters. After another kilometer, we stopped again to pick up one more lady. Also, the supplies of whiskey and soda were drying up so the fans took the opportunity to stock up from a local shop.
Half an hour later it was time for a toilet and smoke break. We took the opportunity to purchase coffee and ice cream.
The fans on the bus were getting louder and louder, but it wasn’t really disturbing us. The sound on the TV was also unusually low for a bus in Thailand. The only thing that bothered us a little, was the volume of the girls chatter. It was incredibly loud.
Soon, a second toilet and smoke break was needed. We used the time to solve our Sudoku and crossword puzzles.
After travelling for three and a half hours, we finally made it to the stadium. We had been told the trip would take about two hours. What was I saying about sticking to the schedule?
At the stadium, the rain clouds had started to gather and we were well the only ones who did not have an umbrella or a raincoat. We also found out that the section for the away fans had no roof.
The rain clouds were looking more and more threatening so we went over to the main stand to see if we could buy an umbrella or a raincoat. Unfortunately, neither were on sale. Then I came up with the brilliant idea to swap our away stand tickets for home stand tickets, which meant we would be under a roof. We didn’t have any problems despite the fact that we were both wearing Chonburi shirts.
The match began and so did the rain.
I thought Chonburi FC played very well, even though the rain made it very difficult. I thought they played very similar to Manchester United, with long, accurate passes. There were times when TOT had possession but finally Chonburi took the lead, after a mistake by the goalkeeper. It was a very well deserved lead.
Shortly after the goal, TOT’s burly number 36 was sent off. I think he made a lunge for the referee, but I am not sure.
Then, for some unfathomable reason, Chonburi tried to play like Barcelona. Short passes, and prefering to go backwards. These weren’t the best tactics and they let TOT back into the match with a late equaliser. This was something of a shock. We gave away two points and this is not something we can afford to do.
Of course, the trip home was a little miserable, but at least the return journey was much quicker. We only had one toilet and smoke break, and bought coffee and pork balls.
We arrived home just before 11:00pm..
The whole day was very enjoyable. I thought that my wife wouldn’t really enjoy it – she doesn’t like football – but she too had a good time.
ZICO - THE INTERNATIONAL SUPERSTAR ARRIVES IN SLEEPY WEST YORKSIRE
Huddersfield Town fan, Paul Hirst, writes exclusively for this site about Zico's short, but memorable stint at his club.
When Huddersfield Town signed a 26 year old Thai striker called Kiatisuk Senamuang on the 22nd of November 1999, local fans could have been forgiven for scratching their heads. That was certainly the case in West Yorkshire but in his native country Kiatisuk's face was instantly recognizable. He was captain of the national team and had lent himself to advertising PlayStation and Nike boots.
His move to England created a lot of interest back home in Thailand with the Bangkok Post regularly featuring updates of the Thai star's progress in the White Rose county. Kiatisuk, also known as "Zico" like the Brazilian great of the same name on whom he based his playing style, was recommended to Town by the then Premier League side Middlesbrough, where he had been on trial the previous summer.
Known for his flair on the pitch and trademark back flip after scoring, he first featured for the Terriers reserve team at home to Preston North End. And, after an impressive debut, the initial signs looked. Had he made the step up, Zico would have been the first Thai player to play in the English football league, but unfortunately he never featured in the first team and only played a handful of games for the reserves. However, he did hit the target a few times for the "Stiffs" and followed these goals with his acrobatic celebration.
Less than a year after signing for Huddersfield, Zico was off back to his homeland to play for Rajpracha Sports Club. He later joined Singapore Armed Forces FC, in the S League, where he scored 15 goals in 20 games. In March 2002 he moved once again to become a star in Vietnam with Hoang Anh-Gia Lai, who he helped win the league title several times. Zico was in fact awarded a medal for his contributions to Vietnamese football. He returned to play for Thailand national football Team in the King's Cup in which he lead his team to victory.
In 2007 Zico gave an interview to a local paper, the Asia One News, during which he talked about his short time in England. "It was so difficult to adjust to the climate in England, trying to speak English and not eating any Thai food," he said. Adding,"I wasn't happy, I wasn't good enough, it was too cold and I was homesick. I learned how hard football in England can be, but in turn the experience made me stronger". Sadly, the Huddersfield public never really got to see the best of Zico, the man who was dubbed as important in Thailand as the prime minister and as popular as David Beckham.
Other than the select few who saw him perform in the reserve team he remains a mystery to most fans but has become a part of Huddersfield Town folklore.
For Queen And Country
by Stephen Ackroyd
There are two experiences I’ll never forget about my time in Thailand. I arrived in the country in May 2008, just over 4 weeks into an amazing ten month trip around the world, from Hong Kong. China had been an immense culture shock, I’d never travelled before and with so few people speaking English it was an amazing feeling to be so magnificently detached from the world I knew. The food was at times unusual and at times horrific (lamb spine on the bone, ladies and gentlemen!). Thailand, on the other hand, seemed to be packed full of friendly (that’s not to say the Chinese were not friendly – far from it), English speaking people and so immediately felt more accessible.
After a few days of getting to know Bangkok, doing the usual touristy things like pottering about the Khaosan Road and eating my own body weight in Massaman curry, we were privileged and honoured to see Her Majesty Queen Regent Sirikit. It was a surreal experience, returning to our hotel completely unaware that Her Majesty had been attending the temple at the end of the Khaosan Road for a religious festival.
At the time I wasn’t fully aware of just how revered the Royal family in Thailand were and when I attempted to photograph Her Majesty, as she left the temple, I was abruptly told - in Thai - to stop being such an idiot. My cheeky second attempt didn’t go unnoticed either and it took a student who spoke English to turn to me and warn that the military would shoot me, without hesitation, if I didn’t stop, it to make me think better of it and give up.
But, seeing the Queen wasn’t to be the only excitement of my time in the Thai capital, on May 25th I ventured out of the tourist trap centre to reach the Rajamangala Stadium to watch a friendly between Thailand and Iraq. The entire idea came courtesy of ThaiLatic, who I’d met at OWTB.co.uk whilst gibbering on about Oldham Athletic and our life in League One (where we currently reside under the stewardship of Paul Dickov).
Getting to the stadium was not as hard as I'd expected, and once there Dale was easy to find, as he was the only white guy at the place! He introduced me to his wife Nui and she kindly gave me an official supporters club shirt for Chonburi (which is in my cherished pile of souvenirs of my trip), who at the time were the current Thai champions, and her and Dale’s favourite team.
The Rajamangala stadium is decent, if somewhat basic, and holds an impressive 65,000 people. Not that it really mattered for this game, as there couldn't have been more than about 5,000 fans there - although they were certainly vocal! After a while sat at a small stall outside the stadium, observing those passing into the ground and drinking a couple of very welcome ice cold beers we headed towards the entrance.
There I discovered a very strange rule. You are welcome to take your own beer in to the game, but not the cans or bottles (presumably to prevent them being used as a missile). So you have to put it in small plastic bags and drink it with a straw. By plastic bags that’s exactly what I mean. A plastic bag akin to those you keep your packed lunch in back home. Very strange but it kind of added to the experience really. And certainly made the guards laugh as we tried to pour out all our beers.
So, my indoctrination into Thai football was well underway. My beer was cold and bagged and we were ready for kick off. The game itself was not as bad as I'd feared. After a goalless first half in which there were only a couple of chances, Thailand took the lead early in the second with a nicely worked goal from Theeratep Winothai. Shortly after a scrappier goal, this time from Teerasil Dangda, made it two nil before Iraq scored a consolation with 10 minutes left to play.
Having been on the road for so long it was great to see some live football again, and more so to meet Dale and his lovely wife. We chatted about everything under the sun, as you do and were literally under the sun at the time which only added to the enjoyment. Leaving Dale and Nui I took a taxi ride home, which was great fun when the taxi driver saw my shirt and proclaimed himself to also be a Chonburi fan. He spoke pretty decent English (far better than my ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ in Thai, that’s for sure!) and we were able to get across enough for a fun conversation about Alan Shearer and Chonburi’s chances for the season.
And that was that. A curry for dinner and a bus ride out of town was all that was left for us in the Capital, as we headed out towards the islands of Koh Tao and Koh Samui in the morning. I loved my time at the football in Thailand, where there’s such an obvious passion for the game even if it comes from a somewhat minority following, and I hope dearly to return there someday to see another match (or ten!).
This feature is currently in development but will be available soon.