Following the latest outbreak of hostilities with those lovely people at Muangthong Utd, Port fans once again found ourselves locked out of the last three games of the season. But having already booked two minibuses for the away jaunt to Nakhon Pathom, we decided to stick it to The Man and go there anyway, and it turned out to be the most memorable game of the season.
A few cold beers in the bag for the journey (I always vow not to drink on the bus but there are few sights more tempting than tiny beads of condensation forming on a can of Leo as it’s removed from the fridge, and I rapidly cave in), we embark for Nakhon Pathom in a two-bus convoy. Whilst bus two apparently have a Northern Soul party, we spend the journey coming up with new Port songs, generally on the themes of Hockers’ hat, our friends at Muangthong and their myriad deficiencies, or Keith calling his grandmother and eating nachos. You had to be there.
Our pre-match drinking plans are thrown into confusion when it transpires that our mooted venue is in fact a nightclub and doesn’t actually open until 10pm, but on arrival in Nakhon Pathom we find a suitable restaurant and are greeted with looks of terror by a waitress who had clearly planned to spend the afternoon staring at her phone rather than serving food & beers to 20 farang football fans.
Pre-match bracers consumed, we head on to Nakhon Pathom Stadium and do our best to arrive discreetly, given the fact that our presence is officially illegal. We’re not wearing Port colours – lower-division English football shirts are the order of the day – and as we park some distance away from the main stand we’re convinced we might just pull this off. Until we open the bus doors, step out and are greeted with shouts of “TARUA!” from the local kids. Fuck.
We notice a conveniently-placed grassy knoll behind one of the goals, which becomes a Plan B should we fail to negotiate tickets, but we needn’t worry, as the baffled ticket office girl, who looks as if she’s never seen a foreigner before, takes our money and hands over the tickets with glassy-eyed incomprehension, and we’re in.
The friendly, horizontally laid-back stewards (so laid-back they disappear at half time) in the opposite stand tell us we can bring in cans and bottles as long as we don’t throw them on the pitch – they’ve obviously met Port fans before – and so we send one of the buses to the local Sewen to stock up.
The home fans clearly know who we are but seem to find our presence more entertaining than confrontational, and as the game begins, 3 more Port fans in disguise shuffle in, identify us as compadres, and come to sit with us. Making a total away following of 23. We may be keeping quiet, but the home fans around us aren’t and – expertly led by Thailand’s youngest ultra, a shirtless 8-year old kid – they make a wonderful racket.
The game itself is fairly forgettable. Port go 1-up in the first half and pound the home team’s goal without increasing their lead, then it all goes tits-up in the last few minutes with Port inexplicably pushing forward and leaving huge gaps at the back which Pathom exploit – twice – with the last kick of the game bringing a winning goal. 2-1. Bollocks.
At the final whistle wonderful things happen, as the home fans stand up and give us all a round of applause, which is a very moving moment that brings a tear to my jaded old eye, and provides a welcome reminder that, despite the unpleasantness of our recent visit to Muangthong, Thai football is generally a very friendly affair. We sing a few Port songs outside the stadium, and then return to the vans for the journey home, the usual 2 hours of drinking, singing and multiple toilet stops.
A wonderful, unexpected away trip and one that none of us will forget for a long while. Thanks as usual to Keith for organising the buses, and of course to the fans and stewards at Nakhon Pathom for making us so welcome. We look forward to returning – when they come up to the TPL of course…