Well what a season this has been and it has led to me being disillusioned and disinterested in Thai football for the first time in six years since my first trip to the PAT. The constant stop-start bullshit to facilitate the national team is doing my head in. We don’t even have any players in the national team! The King’s Cup? Do me a favour! Milovan Rajevac, the national team coach, is even dismayed and said “It does not happen or would not happen in any other league in the world” His words not mine: we live in the same condominium.
As for our form, it is nothing short of shocking, although I predict a win on Wednesday, which will save Zico’s job if you listen to the media and the fan groups. One win in nine? Poor Frank De Boer would have been delighted with this display of patience. I didn’t get to the Police Tero game, but read a lot of opinion from my Sandpit colleagues and social media, and the general consensus was really negative even amongst the most optimistic Port fans I know.
Paddy Power, the well-known Irish bookmaker, has us at 6/5 to beat Chonburi, who by the standards set last year are not living up to expectations although they outclassed us on our last duel.
They have in their squad an old friend of ours, Thiago Cunha! Since he left us he has turned his attentions to starting street brawls that Belfast city centre would be proud of on a Saturday night, only he likes to have them on the pitch. Whilst playing for Mumbai United against Atletico Kolkata in the Indian Super League semi-final he kicked a player up the arse and proceeded to break the Indian half marathon record whilst getting chased around the pitch by Atletico players and officials. Click here, you won’t regret it. Then he returned to Thailand to his old club Chonburi and as they say about old leopards… again our friend got himself in an old altercation, although this time he got properly dealt with and ended up looking like a butcher’s apron, this time at the hands of a Ratchaburi steward.
Definitely not a game to miss for sure, and hopefully we can turn our recent form around and register a much-needed confidence-boosting victory.
Tom’s Players to Watch
Remember that little guy who turned Port’s defenders inside out when Sukhothai came to town a couple of weeks ago? Well, John Baggio hasn’t morphed from a Fire Bat in to a Shark, but a very similar player – 2 inches taller in fact, at an imposing 5”4 – Nurul Sriyankem (31) will likely be giving Port’s fullbacks another serious examination on Wednesday. The speedy little winger’s form – 15 goals and 8 assists in all competitions – has seen him called up to the National Team consistently under Rajevac. He’s quick, he’s tricky and Port will have to concentrate really, really hard on not kicking him in the penalty area. Or body-checking him. Please, Adisorn!
Step forward, SFS. Yes, Renan Marques (14) is Chonburi’s Scary Foreign Striker. With 24 goals in 27 matches in 2017, perhaps we should call him a VSFS. He’s big, strong and deadly in front of goal, although he makes up for it by matching teammate Thiago Cunha for attitude. The sultry Brazilian is as likely to channel Lindsey Lohan from Mean Girls as he is to score, which isn’t to say he’s unlikely to find the onion bag, rather that he’s extremely unlikely to make it through 90 minutes without either throwing or inspiring some kind of hissy fit. He found the back of the net from the spot against Port in the first half of the season, an outcome precisely no one would be surprised to see repeated on Wednesday.
32 year old Ivorian Fode Diakite (18) must really like Chonburi. He has joined The Sharks no fewer than 3 times, and even had a spell at Regional League team Phantong FC last year, who are based in… yep, you guessed it – Chonburi. Diakite is the main physical presence in the Chonburi rear guard, equally at home at the back or in defensive midfield. His job will be to match Josimar and Suarez for height and strength, although to be honest, even if he was 4 foot tall with a sponge for a head he would probably still be able to stop Port’s forward line doing any damage in the air.
Not all ‘Players to Watch’ have to be any good, right? Well, Chanin Sae-Ear (35) is a funny one. Thai football’s resident hipster enjoyed an impressive spell at Port, before making his way to Chonburi via Chainat, becoming Thailand’s third choice goalkeeper along the way. He’s so not-mainstream he wore the number 9 shirt whilst at Chainat. Dude, man… At his best, Chanin has lightning reflexes, and comes off his line in a flash to help sweep up behind his defenders. At his worst, he makes Neville Southall look nimble, and in true hipster fashion can often be found so far outside the box, he doesn’t even know what the box is. I can’t possibly say which Chanin is going to turn up at PAT Stadium on Wedneday, but he almost certainly won’t be boring to watch.
Tom’s Player Not to Watch
Why exactly did we send one of our best young players to Chonburi again? Oh yeah, that’s right, so he could make four appearances. On the bench. Zero minutes on the pitch. Whilst it won’t be ex-Port player Tatchanon Nakarawong (39) who comes back to PAT Stadium with a bang on Wednesday, this other fella just might…
I must admit, that the thought of driving up to Bangkok, straight from work, for a meaningless end of season midweek fixture, was somewhat less than appealing. However, the news that Zico has promised to resign if Port lose has added a much needed bit of spice to the occasion.
The ex-national team coach hasn’t enjoyed the best of starts during his return to club management, but surely after only a dozen or so games in charge, he deserves better than this. As I’m only looking in from the outside, I don’t know all the details, but such action surely hints at much deeper problems for the Klong Toey club, and further reinforces the fact that football has gone completely mad.
Kiatisuk – to give him his Sunday name – had a brief spell in charge of Chonburi back in 2009. During this time, when he was still learning his trade, he showed signs that he would go on to bigger and better things. Reports from the training sessions were positive and performances on the field yielded results. Unfortunately, the senior management – and, it has to be said, a section of the crowd – weren’t convinced, and he moved on after just one full season at the helm.
Personally, I felt he was unfairly treated and deserved more time to build on the foundations he had put in place. That year we won the Kor Royal Cup (his first competitve match in charge), finished second in the league (taking it right up to the penultimate weekend) and reached the last eight of the AFC Cup. Zico also ended the campaign with a 2.07 points per game average, which is still the best return of any of our coaches. Therefore, whatever happens after tomorrow night’s game, I wish him well. I’m certain that someone will come in for him and give the opportunity to prove himself.
As for the game itself, I’m not really expecting much, and suspect most of the entertainment will be provided by what happens off the field. From a Chonburi perspective, this season can’t end soon enough. It really has been a rotten 2017 and I can’t wait to see the back of it.
We have assembled the worst squad in sixteen years, set a number of unwanted records and seen home and away crowds plummet. The only real bright spots have been provided by the emergence of a couple of academy graduates – Panudech in particular being one to watch – and the return to form of Nurul. Other than that, it’s been one to forget. Roll on the 19th of November!