Undercover Importz: Bricking It In Legoland

 

So the dust has now settled and bragging rights have been secured for the next few months. It’s a good feeling, right? But there’s a bittersweet taste. There’s no point going through the match highlights; Linny did an excellent job here and in turn got someone’s knickers in a twist (Hi “No Name”!) but the article, along with the build-up, highlights that the fans’ experience left a lot to be desired.

Do I need to remind you of the recent history between the two clubs? Probably not but, in a nutshell, we hate each other. A lot. Port fans’ reputation precedes them, and many try to embellish it, but things came to a head a few years back leading to matches being played behind closed doors, followed by an agreement that away fans should not attend derby matches for their own safety and to minimize the risk of violence. This still persists and was in effect last Saturday much to the annoyance of many fans.

The derby fixtures are the first 2 matches you look for when the season schedule is published, and naturally fans were eager to go up to the SCG Stadium for the first time in a couple of seasons, but the way the build-up played out would leave any football fan exasperated. The ineptitude shown in the week before the game by both clubs, the Thai FA and the ticket company outsourced by Muangthong to handle sales, Ticket Me (more on them later), was once again symptomatic of all that is wrong with Thai football. No clear message was broadcasted and tickets for the away end were sold to Port fans; through a cloud of misinformation hopes were raised then dashed then raised again until ultimately wrecked less than 48 hours before kick-off. It’s obvious that football fans anywhere should not be treated like this but situations like this are sadly par for the course. Rumour has it that Madame Pang made the final decision, possibly worried about a points deduction and its effect on the final table (very presumptuous if true) but you could equally argue that our opponents are in a very precarious position already and wouldn’t want to lose points.

So come the day and a bunch of us decided to make the trip incognito for various reasons; tick the stadium off the list, get behind the team even if we can’t cheer, it’s better to see it live than on a screen and generally fuck the ban. Our hopes of ghosting in unnoticed were immediately ended when, on getting out of our taxi outside the stadium, we bumped into ex-MTU employee and Sandpit contributor Gian, who thankfully didn’t raise the alarm. My first thoughts were that the stadium complex is self-contained, but with large spaces around either side which in theory could keep the fans apart, and the police and security presence was much larger than I’ve ever seen at a Thai football match. Black MTU security stand in huddles like European riot police; imposing, but after the travel ban announcement is it really necessary?

My girlfriend decided to tag along at the last moment (of all the away days to pick it had to be this one) so we had to secure another ticket. We were sent around the houses thanks to 2 Ticket Me stewards and 3 ticket offices only to be told that the stand had sold out (it clearly hadn’t but, you know, Thailand) so we had to purchase new tickets. The only tickets available were in the away end at home fan prices; clearly Ticket Me and MTU used this situation to their advantage but you can’t really blame them when there’s money to be made. After being asked by a bunch of farang MTU fans if I was a Port fan – my Borneo FC shirt with Dolphin emblem on an orange shield wasn’t the smartest fashion choice – we took our seats.

The away end, like the first half, was dull and lacked atmosphere; the ultras behind the north stand spiced things up with a “we hate Thai Port” chant but being around their fair-weather fans made the experience pretty lifeless. Thankfully we sneaked into the main stand with our Ticket Me stamps and enjoyed the second half much more. To their credit the Muangthong fans did wake up in the second half, maybe from going two goals down, and the noise from the Yahama Ultra Stand (nice bikes, lovely synths too) ramped up. As for us, we kept schtum for both the goals but Kevin’s thunderbastard had me out of my seat. I clapped Pakorn’s ridiculous keep ball just before the final whistle just because it took the absolute piss, and the press boxes rightfully applauded the second goal to the annoyance of some but all of the incident was contained on the pitch.

So all that was left was to navigate ourselves back to the Irish pub, past the hordes of young teenage girls waiting for part-time footballer Chappuis, for celebratory beers. Sure, we were buzzing from the result and the experience but football without fans lacks the excitement and atmosphere that makes it entertaining in the first place. News had already reached us that the screen at the futsal was a washout (literally) and everyone was streaming it on their phones there. Honestly, did anyone think the club could put on a successful screening? Last year we were squinting at the scoreboard in the PAT and this year there was a crappy stream in the middle of an EDM songkran party. Fun for some, sure, but enough reason for fans to jump into taxis and make their way to The Sportsman.

Ultimately there was nowhere for a Port fan to 100% enjoy the game and what the club offers us is not good enough. In a society where saving face is paramount, plus organisations and establishments are riddled with ineptitude and corruption, we can never expect common sense and logical thought to come to the rescue. It’s clear there are ways to resolve this; strong messages from clubs and the FA that violence will not be tolerated and harsh penalties will be handed out, ticket and travel for away fans purchased in advance and limited to a certain number so they can be policed correctly and separate fan areas would be a start but unless everyone – the clubs, police and fans – is motivated to start planning in advance and make this work then this is just a pipedream. Also factor in that it only takes one dickhead to throw a punch or a bottle and we’re back to square one again, so it seems that we’ll be sneaking in or at the boozer next season and maybe for a few more after.

 

Toby Knight

Toby Knight

North Londoner, Arsenal fan and believer in lucky cigars, Toby decamped to Bangkok 2 years ago and happily stumbled upon Port FC last season. The rest, as they say, is history.

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