Warts and All: Supporting Thai Football

by Absolute Thai Football

Last week’s Swansea and Norwich game saw free flowing passes, players colliding and getting up (even after coming in contact with Grant Holte) and the only player whose injury halted play was unable to continue. At 3:1 up Norwich chased a fourth rather than kill the clock and a passionate game ended with both sides feeling positive. There were more high profile, “glamorous” games played, but this was a dead cert for entertainment.
In Thailand Holte would have his own seat in the stands for a rolling sequence of suspensions, the away team would rarely play two up front with two wingers (as Norwich did) and the stretcher bearers would need Olympian lungs if the visiting team went two up. But, perhaps perversely, the flaws and frustrations of the game in the Kingdom make us feel closer to an unfinished product, the glaring weaknesses like your children’s endearing eccentricities and your acceptance of what is about to happen creates a curious calm.

EPL games are the product of a century and a half of evolution. Mistakes by officials and players occupy the topmost margins of human error as we sit in the box at Saddlers Wells watching the finest global show, but sometimes it’s more fun at the pantomime.
The advent of extensive TPL coverage has eliminated the worst excesses of the early days. Players bullying referees and the infamous gun brandishing after the Nakhon Pathom and Si Sa Ket game are rightfully (hopefully) consigned to the bin of history. But part of me misses the walkoffs. In most countries this would be an incendiary prelude to tribal violence, but in Thailand it was a selective comfort break with a beautifully Thai response from the FA. Teams walking off were given a fifteen minute limit. Now beer is allowed at stadiums, I submit a subsection correlating the duration of walk offs with the length of the queue at the bar. Stranger things have happened. I was refused entry into my local stadium as the beer cup I was holding did not have a Leo logo. Explaining that no other beer was available and they were unlikely to show a close up of me in ad mode supping my amber nectar in the ten thousand strong crowd was enjoyably pointless, as was the request at the stadium bar to pour my contents into a logo’d cup.

“Partnerships” with massive European clubs and a lack of an academy structure creates a brand without a product. Thai football should should embrace its identity, warts and all. Fans constantly cheer their own team, not attack the opposition with the “filth” that shocked Harry Redknapp, families come to games and travel the country together, the hard core fans drink towers of whiskey through the day but don’t slip into the late night violence seen on English High Streets. There’s plenty to love in Thai football, but it will never be the EPL. And that’s why we love it.