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“I Really Missed the Port Fans!”: The Return of Josimar

 

As we speculated on 3 June, 2017 top scorer Josimar Rodrigues has now officially returned to Port on an 18-month deal taking him to the end of the 2020 season. With Port on a poor run and Jadet’s preferred 4-5-1 regularly becoming a 4-6-0 for obvious reasons, Port need a known quantity who can play as a lone striker, and Josi certainly fits the bill. Opinion seems to be divided on whether a player who hasn’t played at the top level in Thailand for two years is the man to rekindle Port’s title ambitions, but if he can bring his 2019 T2 form with him, he will surely get goals and do a good job of holding the ball up for his teammates. And most importantly in the current climate, he’ll actually play as a striker. Just imagine that.

I had a quick chat with Josi yesterday on his return, and found him very happy to be at the PAT again. “I’m very happy and excited to be back” he told me. “I really missed the Port fans – in Thailand there are no other fans like Port fans.” He’s also happy for more practical reasons – “There is no traffic between my home and the PAT!” he laughed – obviously a much easier commute than Police Tero. And he has big ambitions for his second spell at Port: “My goal is to help the club become champions and enter into club history.”

You couldn’t meet a nicer guy in Thai football, so all of us at The Sandpit wish Josi every success in his return to the club and hope to see him starting against Chiang Rai on Sunday.

 

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Tim’s Transfer Talk: Send for Josi!

 

Following last week’s double-signing, the Port transfer window rumour mill went into overdrive yesterday with a story that threatened to shake T1 to its very foundations. Port’s fragrant chairwoman and her no doubt equally fragrant entourage were seen getting on a plane to some unspecified destination. At roughly the same time, former Buriram goal machine Diogo was ALSO seen on a plane to the Philippines, and thence onto Thailand. Several publications jumped to some rather bizarre conclusions and assumed all this air travel added up to one thing: Port were about to announce the signing of Diogo.

After a brief period of excitement during which we planned the Sandpit’s T1 Champions party, it appeared the story was, as we all suspected deep down, groundless. But hours later another equally surprising story emerged, but one that, it seems, is actually true – 2017 top scorer & Sandpit favourite Josimar Rodrigues is coming back to the club!

Since leaving Port, Josi has won a trophy in Brazil and helped PTT Rayong get promoted, and has spent the 2019 season absolutely banging in the goals for T2 side Police Tero. His 11 goals in 15 games have kept Tero in sight of the promotion places and, clearly, impressed his former employers who are sorely lacking in backup forwards, especially since Arthit’s costly miss at Nakhon Ratchasima probably scuppered his chances of regular action this season.

Obviously The Sandpit are big fans of Josi, having interviewed him not long after his arrival at Port & had a very enjoyable couple of hours in his company. He was also a participant in the first ever Sandpit podcast, though such was our inexperience at such things that the results were barely audible. He’s clearly in the form of his life and, unusually, is getting a lot of goals from headers, so will be an excellent addition to a squad still lacking a target man. He also knows how Jadet plays and will be a very good fit if he does join.

Of course if Josi arrives, then one of Port’s current foreign contingent has to make way, and rumours suggest that, sadly, that man could be captain David Rochela. We won’t speculate more on this right now as nothing has been made official, but with Todsapol having played superbly well this season, and Port having already reinforced the defence with Tanaboon and Piyachanok, it might just appear that a foreign CB is something of a luxury at Port 2019…

Josi’s Back! Port to Face PTT Rayong in Chang FA Cup

 

The draw for round 2 (last 32) of the Chang FA Cup has been made, and Port have been drawn at home to T2 side PTT Rayong. This means a reunion with 2017 top scorer and Sandpit favourite Josimar Rodrigues, who joined PTT in the June transfer window. PTT currently lie 3rd in T2, 2 points off the top spot with a game in hand, so Port won’t be taking the game lightly and we can expect Jadet to put out – or at least be told to put out – a strong XI for the game.

The match will take place on Wednesday 4 July, 19:00.

 

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How to Train Your Dragons: Ratchaburi Mitr Phol FC 2-3 Port FC

 

“We were somewhere around Samut Sakhon, on the edge of the desert, when the Amaretto began to take hold…”

 

I began following Port FC in the summer of 2014, yet due to some curse put on me by a vengeful Burmese gypsy in Khlong Thoey market after I refused to buy her kumquats, as yesterday dawned I had still to see my team win an away league game. Such was the gravity of the Russell jinx that there was widespread relief that I was out of the country for the recent trip to Super Power (though that may have just been relief at the fact that I was out of the country full stop), and I headed to Ratchaburi in hope (with Port on a run of 5 unbeaten games) rather than expectation.

 

The Farang Army

 

Ratchaburi is a short 2-hour journey away, and we pass the time with the usual erudite discussions on Port-related matters as well as the varying quality of hotel pillows, Japanese psychedelia and the health-giving properties of Amaretto, which for some reason Dom is passing around the bus. Possibly the first Amaretto-fuelled football away trip in history. Certainly in Thai history anyway.

Ratchaburi’s new Mitr Phol Stadium is, at first glance at least, very impressive: a modern, running-track free ground with a bloody great orange dragon covering the main stand. Up close it’s still suffering teething troubles though – there’s very little food or beer available, the beer at the away end runs out before kick-off, there’s only one ticket office, and the long-anticipated stadium pub is closed.

But once we’re in the away end, with comfortable seats and excellent views, and the sun sets spectacularly behind the main stand, it’s pretty clear that we’re in probably the best stadium in Thailand – it’s just a shame there are so few home fans in it. But the away end is packed and in good voice, and as the game kicks off Port tear into their opponents with the vigour we’ve come to expect in recent weeks, and take a mere 10 minutes to take the lead. Ratchaburi’s keeper makes a mess of a corner, his attempted punch as limp as one of the stadium sausages; the ball is swung back across the area, to be nodded into the centre by Rochela (22), and once again the keeper comes out waving to his mother (c Big Ron) and misses the ball, allowing Todsapol (6) to nod it into an empty net. It’s a great start and no more than Port deserve.

 

The beautiful Mitr Phol Stadium

 

Port continue to dominate for the next 20 minutes or so, with both Josimar (30) and Pakorn (9) coming close with long-range screamers. But on the half-hour mark Ratchaburi’s quality starts to show and they boss the remainder of the half. And right on the 45-minute mark their pressure tells, with big Congolese defender Joel Sami, a living monument to the fortifying effects of Um Bongo, muscling Rochela out of the way and nodding in a corner at the near post to make it 1-1.

Over half-time Changs (note to Mitr Phol: you can’t build a sexy new stadium and then stock it with the Devil’s Piss. You just can’t) the consensus is that 1-1 is pretty much fair. Ratchaburi have more quality throughout the squad than Port do, but Port have the team spirit and the intensity, and so in the second half it could go either way.

And what a second half it turns out to be, a fitting final 45 minutes of an enjoyable and often batshit mental 2017 season. Port are on top for most of it – I can hardly remember young Rattanai (17) having to make a save – and get the lead back on 66 minutes, when Josimar (yes, Josimar) skins a Ratchaburi defender, bursts into the box and unleashes a fierce left-foot shot which the keeper can only parry onto the foot of Suarez (5), who taps it in for 2-1.

 

Amaretto & cigars – who said Port fans were all hooligans?

 

Port continue to dominate and on 85 minutes get the third goal their pressure deserves, with Pakorn cheekily taking out three Ratch defenders and putting in a cross which skims off Josi’s boot onto the head of a defender and into the net for 3-1.

But just as I’m taking pats on the back from my colleagues in celebration of the lifting of the Gypsy’s Curse, Operation Fuckup briefly rears its ugly head on 90 minutes as Dragons’ striker Nattawut manages to calmly wander past six static Port defenders to get on the end of a pass and stick it past Rattanai. When the ref adds on 4 minutes’ stoppage time, the gypsy begins to rub her gnarled, wrinkled hands together and cackle over her kumquats, but luckily Port manage to play out the remaining time with a combination of possession and feigning injury, and finally, after over three years, the curse is lifted and I get to celebrate an away league win.

But tonight is all about Port ending a successful season on a high, with 16 points taken out of the last 18 and a top-half finish secured, in front of one of the biggest and most boisterous away crowds of the season. One of those nights when you forget the away drubbing at Honda, the home defeat to Pattaya, the existence of Tana, and the Zico Experiment, and just thank your lucky stars that you support this team and are surrounded by these wonderful, wonderful fans. We sing ourselves hoarse, Genki (18) sheds a few tears as he says farewell, and we head to the disco tuk-tuk to carry on the party in the car park.

 

 

Due to logistical issues our journey home is beer-free, which makes it somewhat less fun but also means we get home in 2 hours without having to make multiple toilet stops, and we bid sad farewells at Bang Chak and promise to meet again in 3 months’ time. Well, apart from the Thai FA Cup Final next Saturday of course. Oh, and there’s the futsal too. Football – and friendship – never stop.

 

Man of the Match: Josimar Rodrigues

Fittingly for his last game in a Port shirt, Josi put in one of his best performances of the season today, adding a few bursts of pace to his usual hard graft in the lone striker role, setting up the second goal for Suarez, and – possibly – staking a claim to the third. Whether he touched it or not, he’s beaten his 2016 goal tally and become the highest-scoring Port striker since Leandro, and tonight’s bustling, productive performance was a great way to bow out after a great season.

 

Sayonara & Adeus! Genki & Josimar to Leave Port

 

‘Tis a sad day at Sandpit Towers as we learn of the departure of two of our, or at least my, favourite Port FC stars. As I type this, my salt tears drip onto the keyboard, my wife drapes a consoling arm around my shoulder, and I stare disconsolately into the bottom of my wine glass. Because, dear readers, on Saturday, messrs Genki Nagasato and Josimar Rodrigues will put on the hallowed blue & orange for the last time, for both are moving on at the end of the 2017 season.

Genki Nagasato

Genki joined us from Ratchaburi – where, fittingly, he will play his last game in Thailand on Saturday – at the start of the 2016 T2 season, and quickly won the hearts of Port fans with his hard-working, all-action style. No, he’s never going to be mistaken for a Messi or a Neymar, and he may have the delicate first touch of a chest of drawers, but there are few sights in Thai football that gladden the heart more than seeing the Genk, socks down, pelting down the left (or occasionally, for reasons best known to Jadet, the right) wing, and his sheer joy at scoring a goal, or simply playing football in general, is infectious. In his 2 years at Port, Genki always gave 110%, was never seen diving or play-acting, and very obviously enjoyed every single bloody minute on the pitch, which is a lot rarer than it should be.

Favourite Genki Moment

We didn’t expect him to figure much in 2017 – indeed many were surprised that he was still on Port’s books when the season started – but he popped up 5 minutes into injury time in our first game at home to Ratchaburi to head home a late equaliser and spark wild scenes of celebration on the terraces amongst fans who’d been starved of football for nearly 6 months; since when he’s pretty much been a first-team regular.

Josimar Rodrigues

The Brazilian striker joined Port a couple of games into 2017 on the back of an impressive 2016 T1 season at relegated Army Utd, where he bagged 16 goals. He may not have turned out to be the Scary Foreign Striker Port fans have long craved, but his 17-goal haul so far this season is the best return for any Port striker since King Leandro in 2014. And he’s always done it with a smile on his face and, like Genki, by working his knackers off in every game, despite being in a team that has consistently failed to give him the kind of service he thrives on. He’s a good honest player and, as we found when we interviewed him earlier this year, he’s also a lovely bloke with a great sense of humour. He also featured in the first ever Portcast, and for that alone he will go down in Sandpit folklore.

Favourite Josi Moment

He scored twice in 2 minutes at Muangthong to help Port to a 3-2 win. What more need I say.

 

Genki is apparently heading back to Japan; Josi’s next destination is as yet unknown. As they played together in Japan and again at Port it’s possible they may move together. But whichever team takes them on will get players who put in a shift every game, and play the game as it’s meant to be played – with great sportsmanship and a big smile. The Sandpit thanks them for their contribution to Port, bids them farewell, wishes them the best of luck for the future, and hopes we see them back at the PAT in the very near future – and we’ll make sure to give them a good send-off at Ratchaburi on Saturday!