These are the dog days of T1, as the league takes a one-month summer break for the Asian Games, and with the futsal on a hiatus too, those of us craving live footy have little option but to plumb new footballing depths and head into the murky world of T4. Football may be known as ‘the beautiful game’, but T4 didn’t get that particular memo, and we will experience things that will leave mental scars for some time.
Today’s fixture is Port FC B vs Kopoon Warrior (named after famous Thai gangster Al Kopoon). With Port sitting second bottom, just two points above the drop zone, it’s a game that Supersperm’s boys can’t afford to lose. Yes, Supersperm – the same ripped jeans-wearing Bollywood villain-resembling coach who replaced Gary Stevens in 2015. This once proud T1 gaffer is now plying his trade at the squeaky bum end of T4, and he doesn’t look like he’s enjoying it much. His team consists of mostly U21 and U23 players, with a handful of very occasional T1 ‘stars’ – rapper and occasional goalkeeper Watchara (1), forgotten left-back Jetjinn (15), and central midfielder Pummared (41), a player I’d previously thought underrated but who will spend 90 minutes disabusing me of that view.
Port B play their home games at Insi Chansaratitya Stadium – the only stadium in Bangkok to contain the word ‘tit’ and thus a firm Sandpit favourite – which is located in the grounds of Kasetsart University. I’ve been here before, after a clueless but well-meaning moto taxi driver brought me here when I was trying to get to Police Tero last season; at least this time there’s a game on, though it isn’t noticeably much busier.
Tickets purchased (100BHT!!!), we head to our seats in the main stand with 20 minutes to spare. What’s this, I hear you cry – no pre-match beers? Well, you may have seen the word “university” above, and that means the stadium is an alcohol-free zone. Having been educated (and I use the term loosely) on a campus with no fewer than nine bars, this never fails to amaze me. However, as Port fans we have the Leo Fairy on our side – that supernatural being who watches over anyone wearing a Port shirt and ensures that they always have access to the amber nectar. It’s truly amazing – no matter how unlikely or hostile the venue (the Saudia Arabian Cup Final; an AA meeting on the moon for example), if you show up wearing a Port shirt and stand around long enough, eventually someone will show up and hand you a Leo. Should you be about to embark on a dangerous desert expedition, simply pack your Port shirt and, should you find yourself stranded hundreds of miles from the nearest oasis, just put it on, and within minutes some lads from Khlong Thoey will show up with a case of the stuff. Truly remarkable. So we take our seats, put all our hopes & dreams in the hands of the Leo Fairy, and wait. And sure enough, five minutes later my phone buzzes, revealing a message from fellow Sandpitter Dave Barraclough, telling me he’s on his way to the stadium and bearing half-time refreshments. The Leo Fairy truly moves in mysterious ways, her wonders to perform.
The game kicks off in front of a hundred or so fans, many of them Port youth players, families and WAGs, and pretty quickly it becomes apparent that we’re not in T1 any more. If you thought T2 was bad, I don’t recommend you trying T4. It’s Sunday League stuff for the most part, with those few players who show a bit of talent – Port’s nippy forward Chanayut (99) and big burly CB Siriwat (86) for example – lost in a sea of hoofing, poorly placed headers and hospital passes. Port have most of the possession, Chanayut frequently getting into good positions but being unable to pick out a teammate in the box, but Kopoon carve out the best chances, with Watchara the busier of the two keepers. On the stroke of half-time, Kopoon’s best player Thammarat (40) skips through the Port defence and beats W-Hot, only for the ball to rebound off the post. And that is as good as it gets.
At half-time the Leo Fairy bestows her blessings upon us as Dave opens his motorbike seat to reveal a big plastic sack full of ice and cold cans of Leo, and we fall on it like hungry lions encountering a wounded antelope, under the watching eyes of the security guards for whom such bacchanalia is clearly the most eventful occurrence of their careers thus far. After discussing the charms of Gillian Anderson (during which Barraclough oversteps the mark with his memories of The X Files – more The Kleenex Files in his case), we give the security guys something to do by trying to take our beers into the stadium; they leap into action and tell us there’s no beer allowed inside. We’ve clearly made their season and given them something to tell their grandchildren about.
The second half is, if such a thing is possible, even worse than the first, with Kopoon getting the upper hand but, like Port, failing to get a shot anywhere near the target. There’s one little vignette that sums up T4 football – Kopoon make a substitution, and the departing player has to hand over his shinpads to his replacement. Life’s hard in the basement. It ends 0-0, a fair result overall, and we see little to encourage us to return. The aforementioned Chanayut and Siriwat show promise, but there’s little spark elsewhere and even Pummared and Jetjinn look like they’ve been dragged down to T4 level when they could by rights be playing in T2 at least.
Tom and I jump in a cab and rush back to the more civilised climes of Sukhumvit 101/1, and park ourselves at the bar of Zinc 101 to watch Liverpool v West Ham and remind ourselves that it is, despite what we witnessed earlier, still a beautiful game. And, here at least, the Leo Fairy’s magic is not required.