However, there are one or two exceptions. Up-market folk who own a motorbike or 2 pairs of shoes. It was with one of the latter I journeyed to Sunday’s game – flying up to Phitsanulok, just the 2 of us in his plane. In Sukhothai things got even better. In search of dinner we followed some twinkling lights into a lovely family restaurant that seemed to be having a birthday party BBQ. After the familiar ‘Blimey, it’s a farang!’ stares we were told to help ourselves to anything. A dozen prawns and a couple of crabs later we asked for the bill, only to be told it was free as we’d hardly eaten anything.
Now, to the stadium. The Thung Thalay Luang stadium is a neat 8,000 all-seater job, but the location is like nothing I’ve ever seen. The nearest building must be over 3 miles away and it sits beside a lake. On arrival, I realized I’d left my specs in the hotel, so everything was a bit blurry. And that was before the Chang.
Port’s relationship with Brazilian strikers seems to be characterized by blind faith over reality. When I first saw Port it was the tail end of Leandro’s reign.I remember him showboating with the ball at his feet doing the Grobbelar Wobbly knees routine to the delight of those around. The problem was there were 10 minutes to go and we were 1-3 down. In that moment I realized the Thai league was not like home, where such a display would ensure you’d played your last game.
Then last season we were all aghast at Thiago Cunha – a man who appeared to have bet on himself to get the quickest red card in history. I remember what I think was his last appearance, when he seemed to be having some kind of mental breakdown on the pitch. It was clear to all (except the coach) where things were heading, so much so that Madame had to leave her seat and pull him off herself (so to speak).
Now its Josimar (30). Already derided by some as lacking skill, speed, heart etc. but showing a talent for being in the right place and applying the vital touch. It took him 10 minutes to put Port 1-0 up, heading in an inch-perfect cross from Pakorn (9), who turned smartly on the right hand side and showed impressive accuracy with his weaker foot to curl the ball in to the corridor of uncertainty where Josimar was lurking. Then our tactics became unfathomable, and the Brazilian was left stranded up field as we elected to run the clock down, relying heavily on the Fire Bats incompetence and Worawut’s (36) excellence. About half an hour into the game Port had a free kick on the halfway line, and we kept 6 (honestly – 6) players behind the ball.
In the second half Josimar struck again, pouncing on a mistake from the keeper, who failed to gather Tana’s (99) cross from the left hand side. Josimar applied the simplest of finishes, but he was outshone just minutes later by Sukhothai defender Hiromichi Katano (4) who spectacularly smashed the ball in to the back of his own net in a way Josimar could only have dreamed of. 3-0! Time to relax & have fun… well not quite . 2 goals in 2 minutes got the home fans cheering and our time wasting tactics came to the fore again. We survived. Just about!
There’s nothing better than seeing 2 coach loads of Port fans pull into the car park, making more noise than the home crowd having set off from PAT at 08:30. What a great bunch – my men of the match!
The Sandpit’s Port FC Man of the Match
Josimar’s goals may have both come from inside the 6 yard box, but that’s where you want your striker! Josimar found space to nod in a simple header from Pakorn’s cross in the first half, then smartly followed in Tana’s cross and capitalized on the keeper’s error in the second half.