With the 3 week T1 mid-season break now upon us, sad live sports addicts like myself who feel incomplete without their weekly fix of shouting at people are faced with a tough decision. Do we let the unfulfilled urge to vocalize our deep-seated disdain for humanity fester and force its’ way out at a particularly inopportune moment? At the 7-11 cashier who under-heats that morning sandwich, perhaps? “You don’t know what you’re doing! You don’t know what you’re doing!” Or maybe a phone-zombie on the BTS? “Even fucking Pakorn gets his head up more than you do!” Surely there must be an alternative…
With this cumbersome conundrum weighing heavy on my mind, I thought it would be the perfect time to take in my second Port Futsal game of 2017. As I reached Port’s warehouse stadium, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Port’s current kit was on sale outside. At 598 baht for a shirt, 300 for a scarf and 100 for your ticket you can be fully kitted out in Port regalia for less than a thousand baht. Not bad!
Having made sure to arrive early this time, I found a prime position in a near-empty Zone B. Just high enough up to get a decent view of the action, but still in range of a fan. A big improvement on last time’s sweat-fest! Port’s high-flying futsal stars faced Samut Sakhon, with Port in 3rd place – just 3 points off the top of the 14 team Futsal Thailand League – with 5 games to play before the mid-season interval. Port’s superbly nicknamed opponents are The Mudskippers, who have skipped up to 5thplace. I expected a hard-fought game, and the first half didn’t disappoint.
Port’s Brazilian star Marcos (10) looked excellent from the off, although in the early action he was playing predominantly in defence, with Thai national team star Lertchai (6) pushing further up. I was gutted not to see Noppadol (13), who had scored a hattrick and busted out some Ketsbaia-level celebrations in my last game, but his replacement up front was the bulky and useful-looking Sarawut (11). Midfielder Watchara (3) and Thailand goalkeeper Kanison (18) completed the starting 5, but curiously Port seemed determined to use their best players as little as possible.
After Watchara had tapped in a simple set-piece goal for Port inside the first minute, the fringe players saw most of the action. The action was pretty slow in happening, though. In contrast to the attentive ball-boys we’re used to seeing in T1, futsal ball-boys have the look of students in detention. Mopping up other people’s sweat will have that effect, I suppose. It probably didn’t help that pantomime villain Surat (2), The Mudkipper’s keeper, was playing them like a fiddle. Whenever the ball went out of play he immediately called for a ball from one side. As it was reluctantly slow-rolled in his direction he would turn around and demand a ball from the other side. Waiting patiently for the other ball-boys to wake up and trickle another ball towards him, he would then pretend to try and take a quick throw, but be foiled by the extra ball on the pitch. He fooled the time-keepers a few times with this maneuver, as they started the clock while he was still fiddling with his balls, but the Port faithful were having none of it, and chants of “Oi, Oi, Tarua Woi!” are soon echoing off the walls of the warehouse. It would be rude not to join in! Port 1-0 Mudskippers
All around Bangkok I felt the innocent Bangkok bystander breathe a little easier knowing that I’d reached my weekly abuse quota. That’s probably not much of a consolation to Surat, though. At the other end, Port’s stopper Kanison (18) seemed determined to throw the ball as far as possible whenever he had it. Without Marcos (10) and Lertchai (6) on the pitch to move the ball through midfield, route one was too regularly the preferred option, and it wasn’t pretty. Nevertheless, in the seventh minute (on the clock, although it had probably taken about 30 minutes) Port doubled their lead. A rare passing move lead to an exhibition in close control by Anukul (22), and although he couldn’t find the finish his dribbling skills deserved, Thananchai (17) was on hand to volley in the rebound. Port 2-0 Mudskippers
Samut Sakhon, egged on by their chief MudSkipper (8), began to really get in to the game. Port managed to survive a few waves of attack, but in the 15th minute, a Port defender felled the excellent Sittichai (9) just as he was about to pull the trigger, and the ref blew for a penalty. It seemed pretty clear-cut to me, although that didn’t stop Marcos pulling out some of the most expressive shrugging I’ve ever seen by way of protest. Port pulled out all the stops, even employing the tactic the Dutch used to great effect in the World Cup quarter-final, where Tim Krul was brought on as a specialist penalty stopper. Before pacing around the area and caressing his goalposts a worrying amount, Port’s sub stopper was easily beaten by Sittichai, who rifled his penalty in to the bottom left hand corner. Krul trudged back to the bench, where he would stay for the remainder of the match. Port 2-1 Mudskippers
There was still time for more action before the half ended, and it was Port’s Shrugdinho himself Marcos in the thick of the action. With just a few minutes left, Marcos single-handedly decided he was going to draw as many fouls as humanly possible, and it wasn’t long before he had put The Mudskippers on 5, one away from the crucial 6 which would mean a 10 meter penalty kick for Port. Ironically, after all of Marcos’ cheeky gamesmanship, it was a genuinely quite nasty challenge that gave Port the penalty. Surpisingly (to me, anyway) Marcos stood aside and allowed Sarawut (11) to blast the shot in, but from 10 meters beating the keeper is far from academic. Sarawut struck the ball firmly, but the ‘keeper reacted well to palm the ball away and keep The Mudskippers within a goal. The dozen or so away fans cheered, the Port fans groaned, and Marcos shrugged.
About half way through a competitive second half, The Mudskippers lack of discipline came back to haunt them again. A second yellow card was awarded to Mudskipper number 19 for a desperate lunge on Sarawut (11), and with Samut Sakhon down to 4 players, it was only a matter of time before Port made the advantage count. Sure enough the 4 man resistance was broken by Anukul (22), who had been so unlucky not to score in the first half. This time he beat Surat with a firm strike in to the bottom left from outside the area. Port 3-1 Mudskippers
At 2 goals down and with 6 minutes left on the clock, the Mudskippers decided it was time to go for broke. Out came a rush-goalie, who skipped around in front of Kanison (18) trying to create confusion. It took less than a minute for Port to punish their opponents on the break though, and it was Sarawut (11) who finally got the goal that his battling performance deserved. Whilst he did give his celebration some welly, he’s no Noppadol… Port 4-1 Mudskippers
The Mudskippers continued to bomb forward, resigned to a loss but determined that every Port player should score before the game was over. It was Port Keeper Kanison’s turn, and he took advantage of an empty goal to hit a mighty accurate drop-kick from his own area, which flew over the rush-goalie’s head and took one bounce on it’s way in. Port 5-1 Mudskippers
For those interested in coming along to one of Port’s 4 remaining games, the fixtures can be found here. Port’s next home game is on Saturday 10th June against 10th place Nonthaburi, and kicks off at a pretty convenient and hopefully not to roasting time of 18:00.