Stuck In The Middle With Ubon: Ubon UMT United 2-1 Port FC

“Monks, these two extremes ought not to be practiced by one who has gone forth from the household life. (What are the two?) There is addiction to indulgence of sense-pleasures, which is low, coarse, the way of ordinary people, unworthy, and unprofitable; and there is addiction to self-mortification, which is painful, unworthy, and unprofitable.
Avoiding both these extremes, the Tathagata (the Perfect One) has realized the Middle Path; it gives vision, gives knowledge, and leads to calm, to insight, to enlightenment and to Nibbana” – Buddhist Teaching



This weekend saw the start of Buddhist lent. A time for all Buddhists to reflect on Buddhist teachings while the monks hide out from the rain and hibernate. Buddhist teaching is centred on following the central path; the middle way. It cautions against extremity in action and in thought. And so it was in Ubon Ratchantani yesterday as two great proponents of the middle way battled it out in attempting to be the most average, centre of the road team.



Ubon UMT United have some great credentials when it comes to being average. They play their football nestled between Cambodia below and Laos above. We all know they are somewhere over there but they remain very much off the radar, much like a secret US army base. They sat last week in tenth place in an eighteen team league. BEC Tero Sasana for now holding the most envious league postion of ninth. But Ubon have their eyes on becoming that most plain Jane before the rains stop in November. The wonderful and safe space found only in the middle ground, unburdened as it is by feast or famine. They do other things medicore teams do to ensure their continued unexceptional existence, like selling their best player from the first half of the season lest they might look vainglorious and finish in the top half of the table. That would be low, going so high. Having purged themselves of national team striker Siroch Chatthong and all thoughts of glory, Ubon have bedded comfortably in as snug  as a bug in a discounted rug. Like most average Thai teams Ubon have a big foreign centre-half and a Brazilian named Thiago.  They are not adverse to sharing two points rather than gorging alone on three having drawn six games this year. Their win and loss balance was in perfect equilibrium at eight each before kick off yesterday. They like their rice porridge not too hot and not too cold.



Port FC are no slouches when it comes to table slouching themselves, although their eightfold path to encentrement manifests itself in other ways too. They have some wonderfully average players of course. But that alone is not enough to temper extremist tendencies. The season started in a greedy fashion as Port somehow managed to elbow their way to the top five buffet table like a maniacal Chinese tourist coming off hunger strike. They took more than their fill from the big boys. The dressing room became more instagrammed than The Emirates in London. There was decadent ripped jeans and self-assured selfies galore down at PAT. The old mad dame might have even blushed. Home crowds were consistently boisterous and are proudly the one aspect of Port FC that never follows the middle way. (Perhaps closer to the middle finger.) Long may that last. But in the context of mediocrity, they’d become dangerously out of sync. They’d lost their way, the middle way. But small sample size gave way to reality check with a little help from tactical naivety and questionable player choice. We have some consistently useful release valves at Port to insure we keep ourselves humdrum. Average goals conceded is one such lever. It is hard to keep your head above seasonal floodwater when you concede two goals every ninety minutes. We also like to have a new manager at the start of every season, be it of the rainy or football variety. We’ve also tried a new severe austerity technique by denying ourselves of our best player and captain for an entire game (Rochela). Either rainy season sniffles got him or Zico did. Lets hope that whatever the root cause was soon ceases to hold sway.



Buddhist ascetics or recovering addicts to sense pleasures need not have worried about any such temptations last night in a game so middle way it felt like your brain was being dissected by its ordinariness. Two average teams playing average football. After the fifth time the ball got stuck in a puddle on the pitch it was easy to relax about the threat of excessive excitement. Indian-era Beatles encouraged us to turn off your mind, relax and float down stream, this is not dying. But its not exactly living either. Simple passes were over played. Passable would have been a welcome relief. Players bunched in bee hives on the sideline without lifting their heads. Kalu (10) can be singled out for his exceedingly poor finishing. Missing easy opportunities early in the game marks you out as extreme and not in a good way. Two goals for Ubon in the first twenty-eight minutes was seen as immoderate by any one watching and not exactly reflective of the game as a whole. Ubon also saw it as such and decided that they had taken as much as they could take in any average alms bowl. No sense in being accused of gluttony. They waded back through the Ubon rice paddy and sat out the game with lententidinal patience. Port FC made a game of it when Kalu made merit in the forty-eighth minute. It was to prove the last major incident of note. Rather than single out many players for their poor decision making, woeful crossing and lethargic movement lets just say the players looked happy for the break in fixtures now imminent. The game veered much the nearer to self mortification than to self indulgence and the reality of what middle of the road in the Thai Premier league looks like was made painfully evident. The equaliser that seemed so fitting never came and it was Ubon’s sporadic counter attacks that looked most likely to unbalance this petering out. Port’s substitutions in the second half only reminded us of the paucity of quality on show. This mid-year, mid-season, middling affair in muddy waters, mired in maudlin performances had come to an end. The journey to the centre of inadequacy was over with much for us all to reflect on. Thank Buddhist teachings for small mercies. Thai Port FC now sit in ninth place in the Thai Premier league standings.


Dom’s Man of the Match: Adisorn




Thaigo – not not that one, another Thiago – Ferreira Dos Santos – scored the first goal and looked a constant threat to a shaky Port defence. Ubon looked a bit more relaxed in the second half but Thiago had opportunities. If I had to pick the best Port player I’d say Adisorn (13) was as industrious as ever and seemed to relish the captain’s role. Tana(99) took over as captain for the second half but the armband should’ve stayed where it was.


Brian Blanchfield

Brian Blanchfield

Originally from Ireland, Brian is a long-time Bangkok resident and Port FC fan. Lest his loyalty be in any doubt, in 2015 he achieved the rare feat of attending every single Port FC game, home and away!

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