Nitipong Selan-OFF: Air Force Central FC 3-2 Port FC

 

 

Brevity isn’t in my wheelhouse at the best of times, but today, with Super Sunday’s Double Header on the agenda, I’m going to have to give it my best shot. Sunday’s bumper ticket saw not only Port’s away trip to Air Force, but also Port Futsal Club’s trip to Kasem Bundit University scheduled one after another. The famous Port fan bus, with its’ superhero captain at the helm, was taking in both games, and despite the hefty 80 baht price tag, I thought I’d dip in to my savings for the experience. You know the bus I’m talking about: the one that could probably have solved the Waco stand-off in a couple of hours flat just by pointing its’ speakers at the Branch Davidians and hitting shuffle. Let me sum up the experience as concisely as I can.

 

Godang Stadium, greetings, ball-grabbing, music, beer, selfies, unidentifiable food, dancing, Facebook live, beer, dancing, random plane, whiskey, Kasem Bundit University.

 

 

The Futsal

And just like that we’re at Kasem Bundit University a full hour before kickoff. No sooner had we chosen a patch of grass to colonize with beer, snacks and gratuitous whistling, free tickets from the Birthday Boy Mr. Chairman were being gratefully accepted by the Port traveling faithful. Then it was up to the 12th floor and the University gymnasium where Port’s Futsal Professors wasted no time teaching the Kasem Bundit Younglings a thing or two about how top-class futsal is played.

Within a minute Port were two goals to the good, with classy Brazilian Marcos (10) and Thai national team defender Chaivat (7) pinging two long-range efforts past a pretty useless Kasem ‘keeper. Port continued controlling the game without threatening a great deal before a comedy third goal was gifted to the impressive Anukul (22). The hapless Kasem stopper came at Anukul with something more akin to airborne attempted murder than a tackle, but the Thai forward calmly evaded the pilot-in-training and passed the ball in to an empty net.

A few Kasem players and the linesman provided most of the entertainment to the traveling fans in the second half, as several pairs of glasses were routinely offered to the linesman whenever he passed the Port fans. There were a couple of good old-fashioned pantomime villains in there too, including the dangerous heavy-set Kasem number 8 and his buddy Jahja (Binks), a pasty, gangly looking fella with a shit moustache. Number 8 scored a walloping freekick, Port replied with a couple more goals and Jahja got mercilessly abused for the rest of the game. With Port 5-1 winners however, the home players were warmly welcomed by the traveling support, and Jahja even made his peace with the black-clad Port ultras. Kasem Bundit University 1-5 Port Futsal Club. Easy!

 

 

Happy Birthday was sung to Port’s generous chairman and sweaty shirts were handed out by veteran midfielder Thananchai (17) and exquisitely named new striker Keerati (9), who looks and celebrates just like former Thai national team star Leesaw. With the organizational skills of the one and only Spiderming we were quickly back on the bus and on our way to Air Force. There was more…

 

Beer, shirtlessness, music, videos, dancing, beer, karaoke, pole-dancing, u-turns, Isaan music, whiskey, selfies, Thupatemi Stadium.

 

The Football

And just like that, we arrive at Air Force with barely a couple of minutes to go before kickoff. A traveling car-boot Leo saleswoman provides the only humane alternative to the Chang piss-water favoured by the official sellers, and as beer is allowed inside, we’re straight in just as the action is getting going. It’s an even more makeshift Port XI than expected on display, with Siwakorn (16) – presumably injured – absent from the match day squad altogether. That means a long-overdue first start for Indonesian starlet Terens Puhiri (28) on the right wing, with Bodin (10) and Pakorn (7) rotating between midfield and the left wing. There was also a first league start for on-loan Thai under 23 centre half Worawut Namvech (24), and a number of new faces on the bench. Sammy Slot (11) and Somprasong (14) have made a couple of match-day squads in recent weeks without making it on to the pitch, but Anon (20), Chanayut (99) and Sarawin (48) were all included in a first team squad for the first time.

 

 

Port started pretty sluggishly, unable to impose themselves on an Air Force team short on quality but armed to the teeth with energy. Nevertheless, the opening goal did come as a shock, with a nicely crafted passing move finding diminutive Thai forward Yodsak (9) in space on the edge of the area. I’m sure even Yodsak’s biggest fan wouldn’t have expected what happened next. The forward without a goal in 20 games in 2018 cut in, looked up and bent a sublime, unstoppable finish in to the top right-hand corner. As much as anyone has to justify why they’re being picked ahead of Kayne Vincent, Yodsak most certainly did with that finish. Questions must be asked of Nitipong (34) who was MIA, and Worawut, who was too slow to close down the forward. Wait, what just happened? Air Force 1-0 Port. Bugger.

Things quickly went from bad to worse, too. Boskovic fired wide after Pakorn put a chance on a plate for him, although he was then flagged offside, but Air Force looked the more dangerous side. Speaking of danger, Nitipong then broke forward down the right, and was absolutely annihilated from behind by a savage challenge from midfielder Phichit (28). Both feet were off the ground as Phichit scissored Nitipong like a randy lesbian porn star, but the Air Enforcer was lucky to only see yellow, although clips of his ‘tackle’ could well end up on redtube. The referee somehow got it into his head that someone had to see red though, and if not the assaulter, then why not the assaulted? As Nitipong landed, legs understandably flailing, his left boot caught Phichit in the face, and the ref, making his first but certainly not his last ridiculous decision of the day, gave Port’s mild-mannered right back his marching orders, despite the protests (and by protests I mean abuse) meted out by Boskovic.

With 10 men and down a goal, things could only get better. Oh no, wait, they could definitely get worse. Former Port winger Pinyo (44) played the lead role in the next chapter in Port’s tragic tale, with his weak shot bouncing awkwardly off Rochela (22) and spinning up and over a wrong-footed Rattanai (17) and in off the post. Air Force 2-0 Port. Bastard.

Then somehow, Port started to play. Poor old Terens (28) was stuck playing 2 positions on the right hand side, with Jadet loathe to remove an attacking player and shore up the defence. He stuck to his task admirably though, and although it limited his attacking opportunities Terens did a surprisingly good job at right wing back. It was Kim with the breakthrough, though. Having stormed out of the stadium in search of beer after the second goal went in, I was just passing by a gap in the stadium as The Korean stooped to meet Pakorn’s out-swinging corner and direct it in to the bottom left corner. It wasn’t quite Southgate’s conga line, but it did the job, and Port were back in the game at the half way point. Air Force 2-1 Port. Get in!

A reinvigorated Port took just 3 minutes after the restart to draw level. What?! Don’t we have 10 men? Boskovic put 21 year old Air Force captain Sarayut (23) under pressure with some high pressing and the Buriram loanee panicked, gifting the ball to Boskovic, who showed just how he scored 38 goals last season, lofting the cheekiest of finishes over the keeper and in to the net. Air Force 2-2 Port. Class.

What happened between Port’s equalizer and the outrageous conclusion can basically be summed up like this: Great save, Rattanai! Port’s young ‘keeper has been much less busy this season than in previous years, where he would routinely make match-altering contributions, but with Port down to 10 and both sides going hell for leather, his interventions were required on several occasions. Whether it was because of the linesman failing to flag clear offsides, the referee awarding soft free kicks or Air Force actually mounting an attack on their own merit, Rattanai stood alone a couple of times to keep Port level, with the 10 men really starting to tire.

That tiredness showed in the 86th minute when Pakorn poleaxed a marauding Air Force winger on the edge of the box. You’ll notice that I said on the edge of the box, rather than in it; a detail that the referee and linesman with the help of video technology somehow still managed to miss. Air Force forward Greg Houla (19) vociferously made the completely redundant point that Pakorn’s standing leg had kicked up some turf in the area, but the leg he tackled with looked outside the box. Still, as True’s presumably poorly placed cameras couldn’t definitively overrule the referee’s decision, it stood and Houla stepped up to take the penalty.

Rattanai, not yet done with the heroics, dived to his left and sent the admittedly poor penalty back where it came from, but Houla, struggling to regain control of the ball, hacked it back towards goal. Rattanai might still have saved his second attempt was there not a flailing Kim in front of him, but his brave resistance was finally breached and Port’s unlikely comeback attempt was shot down. Air Force 3-2 Port. Done.

After the final whistle the Air Force team was booed and shooed away from the Port end with chants of “Cheat” and “You’re going down” ringing in their ears. Opposition transgressions and refereeing incompetence are much easier to forgive after a 5-1 win than a 2-3 loss. Port’s players, and Madame Pang in particular, were given a rousing sing-song and a hearty post-game cheer. It may have taken them until they were two goals and a man down, but they mounted a gutsy comeback which could easily earned them all three points on another day. With a different referee. Madame Pang also had one her finest moments on the Port bench when she came storming out of the technical area with a face like thunder looking like she wanted to scratch the linesman’s eyes out. It could have made him any less blind, that’s for sure. Ultimately she was restrained by the best-paid bodyguard in Thailand Boskovic, and was given a soothing lullaby by the Port faithful.

Yet another chance to close the gap on second placed Bangkok United squandered. You wouldn’t have guessed it from the bus ride back, though!

 

Disco lights, karaoke, beer, shirtlessness, celebration, inappropriate touching, song requests, dancing, whiskey, lap-dancing, hastily-improvised earplugs, Godang Stadium, awesomeness.

 

The Sandpit’s Man of the Match

It could only be Rattanai, really. Terens put in a good shift, although his final ball was pretty poor when he got the chance to go forward, Boskovic worked hard and scored an excellent goal, Adisorn (13) ran himself silly, although in one sequence of play he lost the ball and won it back on two consecutive occasions. Muppet.

 

Worrying News Update

Apparently Pakorn collapsed after the game and was taken to the hospital from what may have been exhaustion. We’re hearing that on top of Port’s already packed schedule Pakorn played some kind of match for the police between Wednesday and Sunday. We wish him a speedy recovery and hope that this kind of absurd unprofessionalism isn’t allowed to happen again. Apparently his decision making is as bad off the pitch as it is on it.

 

Tom Earls

Tom Earls

Having moved to Thailand aged 10, Tom has been playing or watching football in Thailand for more than 18 years. A keen follower of the Thai National Team and an avid fan of Port FC, he is a regular contributor to The Sandpit.

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