“Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in” – Robert Frost
Away, with words.
An away day is a very singular experience. Fanatics, diehards and extremists peel out from the fabric of society and make their way inexorably to a football stadium hundreds of kilometres from home. They go in pairs, they go in packs and they go it alone, ultimately converging where they need to be. They need this. For some reason they need to be here. Like the plot of some piss-poor espionage novel our protagonists emerge from planes, boats, bikes, bathrooms and bad marriages for one more mission. All Clark Kent like, they proceed to remove outer layers revealing their true colours underneath. Blue and Orange. Guerillas in the midst of Thai football. And so it was yesterday in Chiang Rai.
The hundred or so away fans who made the 1000 km trip up were not expecting much. If much is defined purely by a scoreline on the pitch. “We never win away”. Indeed. So why then come to watch? Watch league leaders curve a cross into the penalty area, right in front of you, in their shiny stadium, in the fifteenth minute, into the path of the unmarked Brazilian Azevedo, into the back of the bloody net. Car crash reality. The most likely thing had occurred. And yet we watched on, hoping to defy reality. A controversial penalty decision followed in favour of the league leading leaders. We felt far away from home. And then a most unlikely thing happened. Worawut correctly predicted the penalty going to his bottom right corner and pushed it onto the post and out towards the jubilant gone awray fans in the noisy corner. “Justice” burst loose. Is this what they came for?
The faraway journey into the surreal continued as Genki managed to beat the keeper with a mere two attempts. Surely this was what they came for? The away fanatic astride the fence in the Spiderman costume beckoned the noisy corner into a singular voice. They answered. The game was now carried along with the excitement that only comes with unpredictability.
Suarez made it 2-1 to Port in the 43rd minute with a cool finish from a well taken position and all bets were off. The dark night had come down over Chiang Rai and their Orange Knight stayed firmly seated.
Being away from somewhere denotes you have a home. Being home means there exists somewhere away. You cannot define one without the other. Ultimately you must define both.
Even the moths were watching in their thousands under floodlights as the second half kicked off. The game continued to be extraordinary for its lack of a dominant team. Worawut proved his worth with a number of saves belying his second choice status at Port. You make your own luck.
From here on in it seemed the result was always in doubt until a breakaway move in the 78th minute. It gave Pakorn the chance to deftly dance around the last defender and then audaciously, (my kindest adverb here), take on the long odds through the keepers legs. It was a night where the odds behaved oddly and it oddly worked out. Josimar doubled down with inches to spare. The safest bet of the night.
Is this why they go away? For victories? For the sum total of sweet success surpassing the sum total of sour failure? Of course not. It just doesn’t add up. They go away because it distills down what they value into shouts, jokes, grins and grimaces. A chance for reality to manifest itself right in front of you. When this is why you go, you always win away.
Tim’s Man of the Match: Pakorn