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Livin’ it Up at the Hotel Kanchanaburia: Thamuang FC 1-5 Port FC (Chang FA Cup R1)

 

 

“I’m going to stay up & watch Argentina v Nigeria” Linny tells me the night before. “I’ll be OK, I can sleep in the van”. Ten minutes into the van journey, with ‘Singh Chao Ta’ blasting out of the speakers and the Thai fans in good voice after a Full Khlongthoey Breakfast (two big Leos), sleep is clearly an impossibility. There are 16 people crammed into the van (along with several iceboxes full of Leo and a drumkit), most of whom started drinking before they brushed their teeth this morning, and as the Port songs are replaced by Blondie, The Clash, The Scorpions and three different versions of ‘Hotel bastard California’, there’s little alternative other than to crack open a bottle and sing along, which we do (and Linny even manages to get some sleep, further proving that the Vietnamese can sleep literally anywhere).

 

The Party Bus in full swing

 

Yes, we’re on the Port Fanclub bus to Kanchanaburi to watch Port take on T5 minnows Thamuang FC in round 1 of the Chang FA Cup, and spirits are high. Toilet stops are frequent (we make four in two hours, beating the now infamous Saraburi farang van in 2015), and even being pulled over by the traffic police fails to dampen the mood; it seems our van is missing its number plates, and when questioned as to their whereabouts, our driver – a man who has already shown that he cares little for traffic laws – produces one from behind his seat and makes an excuse about having to respray it and the paint still being wet, whilst the rest of us chant “WE ARE TARUA!” behind him. The cop sensibly decides that a bullshitting driver and a van full of drunk Port fans are the last things he needs to be dealing with on a quiet stretch of road at 11am on a Wednesday morning, and waves us on.

We arrive in Kanchanaburi and head straight to the Bridge over the River Kwai, one of the biggest con jobs in Thai tourism (albeit a very scenic one) for group photos and a visit to the nearby pagoda (even walking around the temple I can hear chants of “TARUA!” from the bridge above). Tim and I have a chat with the local tourist police, whose leader speaks excellent English, asking me “May I ask why you have come to Kanchanaburi to watch football?” and, upon hearing that I’m from Coventry, informs me “Your team was in the Premiership for many years, but they are now in the third divsion I believe”. Truly a credit to the force.

 

 

After an underwhelming lunch by the river, we head to Kanchanaburi Sports Stadium which, if you stand at a considerable distance and squint, looks a little like the old Wembley and has clearly been spruced up for the arrival of footballing royalty (apart from the gents’ toilets, which don’t appear to have received any attention since the Japanese bailed out in 1945). Tickets are a bargain 50BHT, beers are allowed inside, around 50-60 Port fans have made the trip, and the local fans are clearly treating this like their own cup final.

Port are taking it pretty seriously too, starting with a strong XI including Boskovic, Pakorn, Bodin, Nitipong and Dolah. But they sit back for the first 15 minutes, letting a very young Thamuang side (apart from the keeper who looks about 70) have the ball, sizing them up & seeing just how good they are. “Not very” quickly becomes the obvious answer and so Port release the handbrake, and are 3-0 up within 15 minutes thanks to the quickest – and easiest – hat-trick that Boskovic (23) will ever score, with two tap-ins and a penalty. Port, clearly intent on despatching this game with a minimum of effort, then sit back and even manage to concede a goal, when a speculative Thamuang shot deflects off Todsapol (6) and loops over the keeper’s head into the goal, to ironic cheers from the away end.

 

 

3-1 at half-time, and after braving the swamp that is the gents we bump into our old friends the tourist police again who, intrigued by our talk of Port FC, have decided to come & check out the game themselves, their leader greeting me with a Bond villain-esque “We meet again! It is, as they say, a small world”, before launching into a lament about his love life. “This lady you see here” he says, indicating a female colleague, “has broken my heart. Many times I have pledged my love to her, but she rejects me. I believe her heart is promised to another, and I am sad.” Quite why he’s decided a random Leo’d-up farang football fan is the shoulder to cry on he’s been looking for is beyond me, but I make sympathetic noises and give him a manly hug before returning to the away end for what is a fairly uneventful second half. Pakorn (7), who has looked uninterested throughout, scores 6 minutes in and then promptly sits down and makes it clear he wants to come off, and is replaced by Terens (28), who runs about a lot but fails to make much of an impression (note to Pakorn: when 50 people – who’ve taken a day off work to travel for 3 hours to watch you – chant your name, you might at least acknowledge them). On the hour mark Todsapol taps in a 5th from close range, and from then on it’s an exercise in damage limitation for the hosts and energy saving for the visitors.

 

Caught by the tourist fuzz

 

5-1 it finishes, face saved by both sides, and after the whistle Boskovic, clearly the big draw for the local fans, stays out on the pitch for a good half an hour posing for pictures & signing everything that’s proffered to him (apart from Tim Walker’s sweaty sock, which gets thrown back at him – at least it wasn’t Tim’s blue underpants, which everyone got a good view of just before half-time). The Port fans hand over scarves and flags to the local kids, winning hearts & minds; and we also chant tributes to the Moo Paa kids and hope for their safe return.

We make a quick beer stop and then head home, and the big difference between Thai & farang away trips becomes apparent – whilst we’re usually quiet on the way to games the Thais are boisterous, on the return journey the opposites apply and it is a very quiet van that arrives back at the PAT, just in time for us to get home to watch South Korea dump Germany out of the World Cup and provide the perfect end to a wonderful day. Big, big thanks to Spiderming & friends for their wonderful hospitality and beer service, and to all at Thamuang FC for the warm welcome.

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match – Dragan Boskovic

A hat-trick and a one-man diplomatic mission for Port FC – there can be only one. Hats off to Bosko. He even gave Linny her pen back.

 

Bosko signs his 785th autograph of the day

 

Tim Russell

Tim Russell

The founder and editor of The Sandpit, Tim has been in SE Asia since 2003 and in Bangkok since 2012, where he runs a travel tech business. Tim has followed Port FC since 2014, and is also a fan of his hometown club Coventry City, and French club AS St-Etienne. He has written for the likes of Football365, ITV.com, NME and The Quietus, and is a regular contributor to God Is In the TV. He's a keen photographer and his work can be seen on his website.

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