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The Blessing of the Light: Singhtarua 2013

 

The referee’s shrill blast brought matters on the pitch to a conclusion, prompting a frenzied vaulting of pitch-side barriers by fans eager to cavort alone, in pairs, or gather in small groups; to wave flags and sing songs of homage to their beloved team. Players and home fans received sporting applause from the away supporters in the stands and, as they drifted away into the still, Klong Toey night, a large group of Port fans remained, hands clasped in a circle, or waving flags, whilst belting out popular club anthems.

The joyous occasion? Port had just been soundly beaten by Chonburi F.C. on the final game of the 2012 season to add further insult to the relegation status sealed in a bad-tempered, 2-1 home defeat to bitter enemies Muang Thong, the pitch ringed by riot police in full body armour to prevent the crowd trouble so popular in this cross-city rivalry.

But this was no funeral dirge. The scenes that night would have been hard to comprehend for anyone without knowledge of the passion and optimism that is shared by the supporters of Thai Port. As one of a relatively small band of foreign supporters, compared to current times, our three to four years of following Port had gradually come to see us welcomed, hesitantly at times, into the rituals of this unique brother and sisterhood, so this seemingly bizarre way to ‘celebrate’ relegation seemed perfectly natural and something to be admired. We recalled a 4-0 battering at Bangkok Glass earlier in the season that had prompted an extended sing-song amongst fans sheltered from the rain under the away stand after the match.

Relegation? So what? Port will be back.

But would we? At times, as the season drew to a conclusion, we had been questioned by some Port fans as to whether we would remain loyal should the club go down; I was even asked by a Thai/American student at my school, “Who will you support next year if Port are relegated?” I politely explained, simply, that this is my team now, why should that change? In those few short years, amongst this club and its community, Port had seeped into our blood and there would be no sudden transfusion. Relegation would be embraced, with so many things to look forward to: the boisterous camaraderie on the many away trips to explore new grounds and towns, and, hopefully, an infusion of decent players and the prospect of a swift return.

We were to be, ‘Singhtarua’, that year; ‘The Lion of Thai Port’, reflected in the more traditional winged lion and anchor badge. However, for the ease of keyboard negotiation during this piece, I will stick with Port.

Our dedication would be quickly put to the test at the start of the new season, as, with much improved floodlights being installed at PAT Stadium, our first four games were away.

The reactions on the faces of the local Port fans gathered outside the Ayuthaya Stadium as we rolled out of our two minibuses, bevvy-fueled, for that first game, said it all. Surprised looks of incredulity were quickly replaced by smiles of respect and affirmation. Yes, we’re still here.

Leandro de Oliveira da Luz (the Light), signed by new manager Dusit Chalermsaen from Hai Phong in Vietnam where Dusit had previously coached, had excitingly impressed during pre-season friendlies and his two goals that day, a trade-mark free-kick and powerful header, confirmed the arrival of a special, if controversial talent. That 2-0 victory was followed by further wins at Trat, Saraburi and Rayong Utd to set Port flying high at the top.

When action re-started at Port with the floodlights finished and impressively towering high above the Klong Toey landscape, expectations were high, but in the most Portsy way possible, we lost 1-2 to an unfancied Big Bang Chula University FC, the second of the muscularly impressive Bouba Abbo’s goals being clearly offside! This is worth watching if only for the familiar, prolonged protests over the Port penalty – things haven’t changed. Nostalgia lovers will also fondly recall the scoreboard in the corner with the temperature thoughtfully displayed, just to confirm that, yes, it was bloody hot!

 

 

Ali Diarra

Abbo clearly won the SFS award for that year, while Port’s own foreigners were the usual mixed bunch of failed-at-homes, past-its and could have-done-betters, the pick of the bunch, of course, being the Brazilian, Leandro, while the stylish midfielder, Ali Diarra (Ivory Coast), a Patrick Viera look-alike, vied with Leandro for my affections for much of the season. His name was actually on my shirt. The lean and mean, take one for the team, Ivan Petrovic (Serbia), and Filipino/German Patrick Reichelt were mid-season signings who played a significant role in Port’s final push: Reichelt’s 4 goals coming across two, consecutive late games, including a hat-trick against TTM. Matthias Christen (Liechenstein), Amara Jerry (Nigeria) and Ri Myong-Jun (North Korea), filled in from time to time without ever making a lasting impact. Home-grown players featured our inspirational, industrious captain Kiatjareon, the perennial, no-nonsense stopper, Todsapol, and the diminutive, tricky winger Kroekrit.

Port’s main rivals that year were Air Force AVIA, PTT Rayong, powered by the petroleum giants, and Bangkok FC, based across the river at the 72nd Anniversary Stadium (Bang Mod). We had lost 1-0 away to Air Force earlier in the season, and the home game will conclude this story for obvious reasons, while fixtures against the other two were skillfully and fiercely competitive and, on one occasion, somewhat troublesome.

PTT beat Port 2-1 at PAT during a run of 21 unbeaten games, while the reverse fixture, at their splendidly appointed stadium near Bang Chang, witnessed a pulsating 2-2 draw. Less splendidly appointed that day was Phil Reid, who had decided to turn up, daringly attired in a pair of blue denim dungarees, much to the amused bafflement of the Thai fans gathered outside the ground and the mocking scorn of his fellow ‘farangs’. “Come on, Eileen, what the f*ck is that about?” To his credit, Phil weathered the abuse and went on, quite rightly, to win the, ‘Brass Neck of the Year’, award for this brave, sartorial statement. I thought you looked very smart, Phil.

 

Bangkok FC was a solid, highly combative (dirty) team that year, powered by former English professional, Lee Tuck (Halifax and Bradford Park Avenue) and former Port striker, Olaf Watson. Tuck, 23 goals, was to finish second behind Golden Boot winner Leandro (24) in the scoring table, though somewhat oddly winning the, ‘Striker of the Year’, award, ahead of Leandro, while Watson weighed in with 16. Port’s 2-0 win at PAT was probably the most fiercely fought home game of the season with Tuck, totally shackled by Todsapol, raucously abused by Zone B, spending most of the second half looking forlorn, bedraggled, and wishing he was back at home cuddled up in front o’fire dunking a digestive into a cup of Yorkshire tea.

The away fixture was a battle. Literally. All-ticket, vitally important, corruptible; and, with the animosity between players and fans palpable, this was not going to end well, both on and off the pitch. Port lost 2-1, controversially (don’t we always?) and, while it was not clear exactly who started it (allegedly, them), the post-match, running battles on the terraces and in the streets outside, threatened for a while to derail both teams’ season. Fortunately, no points were deducted, leaving a tense run-in between these four teams at the top.

 

Saturday, November 2nd 2013: Singhtarua FC v Air Force Avia FC

I was awakened by my phone pinging at 7 a.m. I knew, without looking. It was Keith: “Match Day”. No more need be said.

We were really hoping it wouldn’t come to this. For a glorious, delirious, thirty minutes the previous week at Nakhon Pathom, we sincerely believed that our 3-2 away win had secured us promotion, with one of our close rivals (I forget which) losing, only to find that the match had been held up by a lengthy delay while a sending-off was sorted out and the rival had actually gone on to win. This day then, this final match, was going to be both exhilarating and tortuous.

I had spent the previous week studying various permutations to outline in my weekly Port newsletter to Patana teachers and, without going into the complexities, I believe Port had to win or at least match the result of PTT Rayong or Bangkok F.C. to go up, most likely in third place. Air Force was already up, which, as it turned out, actually sealed the day. I needn’t have worried.

In those days our usual pre-match warm up was conducted in The Black Swan, just near the BTS exit at Asok by Sukhumvit 14. It was ideal: good, homely British pub atmosphere, great food (mine was a liver, bacon and fried onions baguette) and near to a motor-cycle taxi rank with easy access down Ratchadapisek Road to the ground. It was owned by a Sheffield Utd fan and, ostensibly, a ‘football pub’, but, oddly, in all the years we went in there, dressed in our Port shirts with, ‘Proper Football Men’, literally dripping from our pores, nobody asked us who we were, what we were doing or where we were going. It moved to Soi 19 a while ago and we miss it more than they miss us, clearly.

Nearly everyone who had taken the journey with us, at home and all over the country, was in the pub that lunchtime. I imagine that between us we had seen every game that season. And what away trips they were: Dinosaur Demolition in Khon Kaen, Songkran Splashed at Sri Racha, Car-boot Confinement at Navy; and we survived the Battle of Ban Mod! It was bloody family, man! At that moment, the Sandpit, although we didn’t call it that in those days, was the only place to be.

It was heaving and in all the time I have supported Port, even in bigger crowds, I truly cannot recall an atmosphere like it. The foreign Port fans, and we were much fewer then, were simply in awe. Port had won Cups before but this was the culmination of a whole season. Relegation, for the first time, had stung and now they were here to witness a wrong, righted. In my twenty years in the country, I had never felt so connected.

To be honest, and this may come as a huge disappointment to those who have stayed with me so far, I remember very little of the game. What I do remember, after an opening thirty minutes of desultory passing, half-hearted challenges and the tepid enthusiasm of the Air Force players reflecting the dull grey of their shirts, is a sudden realization, ‘They’re not bothered!’. They are promoted already. We are the two oldest teams in the country and if you can’t help out an old mate, then what’s up? All we had to do was stay focused, not do anything stupid, find one piece of inspiration, probably from Leandro, and we could win this. I almost had a sudden moment of calm. Almost. Late in the half, Ali Diarra had the ball in the net but the effort was disallowed, the ball having gone over the line before Leandro’s cut-back, while Petrovic just failed to get on to a neat, dinked Diarra through ball. And then it was half-time. 0-0.

The second half followed the same pattern until Air Force thought they had better give us an extra hand and a clumsy challenge in the box resulted in a penalty for Port. It probably wasn’t and Air Force put on the pretence of a protest, but Leandro, as was his wont in those days, put the kick away with aplomb and we could breathe a little more easily.

With about fifteen minutes to go, came one of the most priceless moments I have ever witnessed at Port. A fan, leaning on the touchline fence in Zone C, put his hands over the barrier and proceeded to give a shoulder massage to an opposing Air Force player who had stepped back to take a throw-in. It was touching and affectionate and almost completely captured the madcap, benevolent mood of the day. Unfortunately, it seemed to distract the Port players more than their opponents and from the finally taken throw-in, a comedy of errors in the Port box led to the Air Force equalizer. With reports coming through of our closest rivals possibly drawing, and within sight of victory, we now desperately needed that win to ensure promotion.

Then came the moment that I can still replay in my head a hundred times a day, and one of the few bits of genuine class in the entire game. Seeket played the ball out to Diarra on the right touchline; the Ivorian made his way to the bye-line, evading a couple of challenges, before sending in a floating cross to the far post for Super-Sub Sarawut to rise high, power the ball down and in.

Sarawut’s shirt came off before he was engulfed by his team-mates, while PAT stadium erupted with a wave of noise supercharged by exultation and relief. Zone B was a mass of uncontrollable humanity; hugs and tears of joy and relief in equal proportion. I had just come down to earth when I was lifted off my feet again by Ralph Gosling in our customary goal celebration. By the time the crowd had finally settled, news had started to filter through of results elsewhere going in our favour and the final minutes were played out in an atmosphere of unhindered celebration.

 

Some of the crowd are on the pitch…

Then, once again, with the final, shrill blast of the referee’s whistle, the game was over. There was to be no hesitancy this time. I had made my way, along with many others, down to the barrier and was one of the first to hit the pitch running to find any player to back-slap or delirious fan to embrace. It was going to be a long night.

And it was. This was in the days when the club knew how to throw a party and the field in front of the club shop had been set up from very early on with food and beer outlets to spark celebrations that would go on long into the night and early next morning. The players came on to a stage to receive the adulation of the crowd; Ali Diarra signed the back of my Diarra number 7 shirt, goalkeeper Sukawat signed the front. I am sure I can also recall some Air Force officials and players joining in the celebration. Or maybe I didn’t. It would have been in keeping with the charitable mood of the match.

In the end, Port had snuck up above PTT Rayong into second place, both teams promoted with Air Force, whose coach Narasak Boon Khleng won the Coach of the Year Award. Bangkok FC missed out. Shame. The two Rayongs, FC and Utd were relegated, the latter having hosted, in their final game, the season’s lowest attendance of 107. Just out of interest, the highest was 23,884 for Nakhon Ratchasima v Khon Kaen.

Highlights of that final match below. Whatever happened to the pre-match pretties?

 

 

Singhtarua Team: Sukawat (31); Seekat (15), Sudjarit (35), Todsapol (4), Pawarit (2); Diarra (7), Kiatjareon(Capt) (27), Petrovic (18); Reichelt (29), Leandro (10), Kroekrit (34).

Port were to start the next season with an incredible opening run of games which saw us beat Champions Buriram and top the League. In the end, we barely survived a nine-point deduction after another, traditional Muang Thong brawl, and the following season we were relegated again. Once more, promotion swiftly followed but in anti-climactic circumstances; the sad passing of King Rama IX prompting an early closure of the Leagues with Port’s promotion placing to stand.

Nothing though, would surpass that Season in Yamaha League One and this adaptation of the opening line from, ‘A Tale of Two Cities’, is dedicated to all my fellow Port fans with whom I shared that season:

“It was the best of times, it was the best of times.”

For those of you that would like to relive or be introduced to that magical season, Dominick’s superb video highlights compilation, opening with that ‘relegation celebration’, will bring a tear to many an eye.

 

Leandro de Oliveira da Luz

This was, of course, the season that was dominated by one player more than any other I have witnessed at Port; we were truly blessed by his presence. Anyone interested in learning more about the mercurial Brazilian can take a dip into this article. 

 

Leandro scores again

Author’s Note: This started off as, ‘My Favourite Game’, in response to Marco’s excellent recent article, but the more I researched through print and video, the more the memories came flooding back until I felt that this remarkable season deserved a piece all of its own.

 

My All-Time Port XI: James

 

After reading Andy’s all-time Port XI, and then hearing Tim and Tom’s teams on the most recent Portcast, it got me thinking as to who would make my team. With no live football to watch at the moment [unless you can get a stream for the games in Belarus] it’s a case of either watching old live streams on YouTube or not watching any football at all.

I’ve only been watching Port since the 2016 season that we spent in T2, so my team may lack variety in a sense, although there’s one player that I just couldn’t not include in my team: he had to be in it regardless, purely due to the stories I’ve had told about him from either Port fans or players that have personally played against him.

I’ll be sticking with the 4-4-2 system that the others have used, and this is my team:

 

GK – Watchara Buathong

 

 

Arguably the best goalkeeper we have on our books at the moment, so it’s no surprise that he’s third choice and not getting a look in. Probably the only goalkeeper that we have that is comfortable catching the ball, and I thought he did quite well for a while last season before a couple of mistakes cost him his place in the side.

 

RB – Nitipong Selanon

One of the easiest selections to make. His consistency is pretty much unrivalled across the entire league, and I’m glad that he’s finally getting a look in on the international stage. Whilst he may not be as good as an attacker as Tristan, he’s ten times the defender, and that should count more on the bigger stage. I imagine he’ll be in most peoples team to be honest.

 

CB – Elias Dolah

 

 

Tough as nails, and puts his body on the line to keep the opposition from scoring. He’s an absolute handful at set-pieces, and if he can add more goals to his locker: an argument could be made for him going to an even higher stage. Has improved a hell of a lot since signing, and I look forward to more games with him in the line-up.

 

CB – David Rochela

It’s no secret that I feel as though we will need to replace Rochela sooner rather than later, but I’ll also admit that he’s a talented player whose done well for the club in the past. I have nothing but respect for the way he conducts himself and goes about his business, and his calmness helps the rest of the squad to settle down too.

 

LB – Kevin Deeromran

This is a position where we have incredible depth at the moment, and the likes of Steuble, Jaturapat and Yossawat can all count themselves unlucky to be at a club with the best Thai left-back to be playing in Thailand at the moment. Kevin’s solid defensively, and there’s always that feeling that he could produce something memorable in the attacking-third too. Brownie points for the way he trolled Muangthong and signed for us instead.

 

RM – Pakorn Prempak

 

 

I missed the spell of Saruta unfortunately, and I can’t remember Ekkapoom playing too much during the 2016-17 seasons unfortunately. What I do remember of 2016-17 is seeing Tana suit up on the right at times, and it’s for that reason that I ended up going with Pakorn. There’s no doubting that he can be the source of incredible frustration, but there’s also no doubting that he has the ability to deliver some fantastic set-pieces that we score from, or score himself.

 

CM – Siwakorn Jakkuprasat

Another easy selection to make: he’s my favourite player at the club. I actually thought he was going to lose his spot last season with the abundance of central-midfielders we went out and purchased, but it actually had the opposite effect. He’s somewhat mellowed out and isn’t constantly getting unnecessary bookings, whilst he’s still the first player that’ll dive into a 50-50 and come out with the ball and leave the opposition player requiring treatment. He’s the only former Muangthong player we have that I like, and I’d prefer it if we didn’t go about signing our biggest rivals players personally.

 

CM – Go Seul-Ki

Probably the most important player at the club at the moment. Go oozes class with almost everything he does, but his ability to attack doesn’t affect his ability to defend. He can do it all, and at a high level too, which makes it crazy that Buriram let him sign for us considering the Korean players that they have had since his departure: not that that I’m complaining..! If he can play until he’s 40 like he says he thinks he can, I’d love it to be with us, as I’d love to see him retire as a Port player.

 

LM – Genki Nagasato

I really enjoyed watching Genki play, because I knew that I’d get a fully committed performance from him every time he stepped onto the pitch. Whilst he may not have had the same level of technical ability of some of the wingers that have played for the club, he was incredibly consistent [I thought] and for that reason alone he became someone that I enjoyed having in the line-up during his spell at the club.

 

ST – Leandro de Oliveira da Luz

I missed his spell at the club, but ever since my first trip to PAT Stadium in 2016: I’ve been told stories involving him. A former club of his in Vietnam has been posting nostalgic clips of him during the virus-induced break, and the level of his talents is clear as day. Watching videos of someone online and seeing them live cannot be compared, and I’m somewhat disappointed that I never got to see the Brazilian play in person.

 

ST – Arthit Boodjinda

 

 

It’d be quite funny watching ‘Pele’ play alongside Leandro to be honest, with it either being completely awesome or something that would have the Brazilian ripping his hair out. Arthit is underrated in my opinion [bar by Tom!] and I’d love to have him back at the club instead of some of our current attackers [I’m looking at you Chenrop and Adisak]. Honorable mentions would go to Josimar and Rodrigo Maranhão too, with both of them providing some moments of jubilation.

 


 

We are open to more ‘All-Time XI’ submissions, so feel free to send us your team and we’ll publish it.

 

My All-Time Port XI: Andy Hailstone

 

Having won the F.A. Cup last season, and with no football happening right now, it seemed a good opportunity to take stock of my Port watching experiences dating back to the last F.A. Cup win in 2009 and come up with the best combined team that I have seen over those years and later inevitably the worst combined team too.

Some of this took a great deal of effort and painful recollection, and numerous re-jigs and re-writes as a better or worse player either lit up or plopped into my consciousness. If you know me and my endless incoherent ramblings, you may be expecting the best team to consist of only one player, namely; Moudourou Moise! And yes, I would be interested to see how a team of Moises may function in each position, for example; Moise passes out from the back into midfield where Moise nonchalantly collects it and loops a diagonal ball up front, where Moise controls it effortlessly on his muscular chest and hammers it home, that makes it 5-0, with Moise getting all of them. But, spoiler alert, he is in the team but there are 10 lesser mortals with him too, and also the team could almost be called balanced too.

As all the best teams line up in a traditional 4-4-2 formation, this is what I have gone for. The team includes only players I have watched play and was impressed by, and would obviously be unbeatable.

So, here goes-

GK – Chanin Sae-ear

2014
35 appearances

 

 

We got him on loan from Chonburi and he really truly seemed like a real goalkeeper, you know one that did things like saving the ball, catching, kicking, not looking like a 12-year-old, didn’t have a chronic inner ear infection leading him to repeatedly fall over for no apparent reason, or being made out of balsawood. He did really well for us and was a pleasure to watch, I would really have loved to have seen him sign with us permanently but sadly the evil that is Chainat signed him up permanently instead and we have had a series of unsatisfactory keepers ever since, I would have him back between the sticks in a heartbeat. The other choice could have been Ulrich Munze but his antics playing for Esan United against us in 2013 rather soured the memory of him, despite me meeting him at an away game and him being a nice guy.

RB – Nitipong Selanon

2016-present
108 appearances, 4 goals

 

 

It took me a while to decide that actually we have never had anyone as good as Nitipong at right-back, I kept thinking of other players but no, they have failed to fly at Nitipong’s rarified heights. Many haven’t been close to rivalling all the things that Nitipong does so well and so energetically, I was reminded of the Prakasit era, but he for some reason always reminded me of a poor man’s Gary Neville, tidy and sensible yet unspectacular but with a nice side parting and a teenage boy’s attempt at facial hair, Seeket’s loan period was good, and he was decent enough but didn’t stay very long. So, it would seem that Nitipong rules and is probably one of the most valuable players we have and he is so ridiculously consistent, and being consistently good is a pretty good thing to be.

CB – Moudourdou Moise

2009-10
58 appearances, 4 goals

 

A Port FC legend. and Moise.

 

In my head he had at least 1,000 appearances and almost an equal amount of goals, and I still think he could probably do a job for us now, despite the genuinely competent array of centre backs we have now (excluding Tanaboon) who are pretty darn good, it would be great to see him on the bench as a powerhouse option. I have spoken to some fellow Port fans who claim that they saw Moise make mistakes in games and that maybe he wasn’t as amazing as I claim, but remember they’re nothing but god-damn liars. LIARS, I tell you!

CB – David Rochela

2015-present
86 appearances, 17 goals

 

 

I will be honest I have had periods where I didn’t think much of Rochela, his languid style didn’t always wash with me and I know many Port fans have championed him throughout his time with us, but now he has really grown on me over time, much like mold. Taking penalties always helps a player’s goal scoring record but he always seems the epitome of calm and poise and that bizarre shunting him out the squad last year to make way for Tanaboom, only makes me realize just how good he is for us. Him and Dolah or Todsapol are a good pairing and one that on the whole inspires confidence. Much more than any of his predecessors and for this reason he’s in the best 11.

LB – Kevin Deeromram

2018-present
50 appearances, 5 goals

 

 

I realise that I have both our present fullbacks in the best 11 and that may seem like I can’t actually remember anything beyond what I have just seen, but I do genuinely think that Kevin is one of the best players we have had in this position, it seems to me all parts of his game tick boxes for me, and as far as I can remember only two other left backs really stick in my mind; Ittipol and Pongpipat, who were (in my opinion) god awful, I mean like really awful, totally awful, like the worst awful you can imagine. There was a left back we signed in 2012 who played into the 2013 season called Narongrit, who I rated, but he doesn’t hold a candle to young Kev!

RM – Ekkapoom Potharungroj

2010-11, 2015-7
78 appearances, 10 goals

 

 

This spot could have easily gone to any of Ekkapoom, Ekkachai or Sarawut. Ekkachai misses out due to his success at Buriram and tragically I am a sad bitter little man. Sarawut misses partly because I couldn’t find anything about him on the internet and so think maybe I imagined him and partly because despite his best efforts (which I may have imagained) I remember many promising situations falling apart as he seemed to always fall over running to the byline (seemingly from exhaustion) while failing to put in a good enough cross, he also (possibly) often played as a (unconvincing) makeshift striker too. But on to Ekkapoom who regularly excited fans with his effort and commitment and maybe skill too, at times. His second spell with us wasn’t quite as good as his first, when he deserted us for Muangthong, but then had the decency to score an own goal for his in a 4-1 defeat at their place, which was sadly marred by their fans throwing objects down on the port fans, leaving the less violent contingent of fans to watch the remainder of the match in the area next to the stands, while other fans attempted to get up to where the Muangthong medieval-esque defenders of the stadium were located. Still a good player though.

CM – Kiatjaroen Ruangparn

2005-16
104 appearances, 10 goals

 

 

A player of great longevity for us, even if he did seem to be on the verge of leaving us on several occasions. In fact, there was one rumour (I think) at one point during the Big Ben ownership debacle that stated it was the actual Port Authorities that employed him, not the club. Which created amusing images for me of him in a shirt and tie, doing some photocopying, making some coffee, doing a bit of filing while wearing his footie shorts and boots just waiting for training to start. He is and was one of the few players I have ever considered getting his name and number on a shirt. Such was his class and ability, he was rarely outfought, always seemed to be in the right place at the right time to do the right thing. And doing so while also having to contend with needing to cover for the whichever of the contractually required South Koreans that we had “filling” the space next to him in midfield at that time. A club Legend for me.

CM-Siwakorn Jakkuprasat

2011-12, 2015-present
123 appearances, 13 goals

 

 

 

A player who over time I have come to appreciate, like broccoli and cauliflower. He started off, seeming to be the one of angriest of players we had and seemed to be perpetually on the verge of launching a mindlessly silly or leg-breaking challenge despite only appearing to weigh 6 stones. Thankfully he has grown up and blossomed in a fantastic player who is creative and really makes our play tick with his intelligent passing. He really is one of the more important players in the team and has now mastered how to tackle without it being a guaranteed yellow. If he could stamp out his perchance for trying to referee the game, I could fully embrace him as much as Peter does. We can overlook his time at Muang Thong as forgivable, as didn’t really do much there (if I remember correctly), due to what he now does for us game in game out.

LM – Steven Robb

2011-3
49 appearances, 5 goals

 

 

Robb is a very interesting case, he was a true western player, schooled in the arts of how westerners play football and for that reason was both a breath of fresh air for our team but was also a tragic wasted opportunity. I can’t remember the number of games that I watched where he was either in acres of space waiting for the ball to be switched to him only then not receive it, much to his clear and obvious frustration. Or he would play an intelligent raking diagonal ball to space only for the player to totally misread the ball and not be anywhere near it, making Robb just look odd. I remember one game (T.O.T. away) especially where he had Mongkol as the left back and the level of frustration was clear as Mongkol, instead of playing the ball forward or out wide to Robb, would continually turn back inside and play a short ball to the centre midfielders, it’s amazing really that Robb played as often as he did as he really didn’t seem to fit in with how we played at all. He was also a really nice guy who I chatted with on at least three separate occasions (yes, at least three, quite the name dropper aren’t I) and the insights he offered up about Thai football were either breathtaking, bizarre, shocking or deeply depressing. What he told me about the finances was chillingly alarming. It would have been great if it had worked out better for him, and there are probably other choices for his spot, he will always be a legend for Port for me.

FW – Leandro de Oliveira da Luz

2013-4
36 appearances, 34 goals

 

Four more Port legends

 

Here is a player that I have both been thrilled and excited by but also annoyed and despairing about often, on occasion, at the same time. His ability made him a justifiable hero to the Port fans and the things he did on the pitch were extraordinary and routinely unroutine-like. It was a pleasure to watch him score amazing goals which defied belief in games that mattered. But it was also his ability to wind up opposition players with a dexterity and skill few could match. When Leandro played against us in 2016 for PTT Rayong, and was up against our then Brazilian dabbler of the dark arts; Cunha, it was like watching a chess match between two grand masters as to see who would be superior and be able to roll over more times after feigning an injury from a nothing tackle, or who could remonstrate with the ref more vigorously over an imaginary elbow to the head. And despite his not playing for us I felt he outclassed Cunha in his ability to rile up the opposition (us) and make Cunha lose focus. I think it is fair to say that clearly Cunha would have killed him if he had been able to really get hold of him, but that only made Leanadro’s effort more impressive.

FW – Rodrigo Maranhao

2016-17 (sort of)
31 appearances, 10 goals

 

 

This one may be a strange choice due to all the other amazing foreign or Thai strikers we have had over the years, like …………….. erm ……………. errrrr ……………. you know …………. er what was his name again? …………. erm. Mmmmmmm maybe not so strange after all, I genuinely thought he was a quality, underutilized and underused player for us, and he was really exciting to watch. I also think he was very cruelly treated and utterly disrespected which also helped to show what utterly shambolic recruitment strategies we have for planning a coherent team. Again, how many times have we seen worse players come in late in a transfer window (possibly on a whim) only for the better players we already have to then be shunted out the team, and often out the registered playing squad while bizarrely still be contracted to the team with just the potential of cup games dangled in front of them as if that somehow makes things ok. We let go a really talented striker who I think would have done great things for, but mismanagement and interference meant we never saw the best of Rodrigo.

 

Thanks Andy! Want to tell us your favourite Port XI? Email us!

 

A Moment’s Silence: Port FC vs. Nakhon Ratchasima FC Preview

 

Port kick off their 2020 campaign with what looks to be the ideal kind of fixture. A home match against Korat, who are expected to finish mid to bottom half this season, may well allow an under-performing Port to still eke out victory, which is what we need after a less than promising pre-season. Rather than labouring this point once again, I will point you towards Dom’s, Tim’s and my 2020 Previews, which examined our off-season shortcomings in excruciating detail.

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The Queen Bees’ Knees & the Return of a King: Port FC 5-3 Sisaket FC

 

In the end, this was a thoroughly entertaining match to round off what has been, despite some frustrations, a solid season from Port. Any place from 10th–8th is now possible and would represent progress. The last time we went into a season sitting comfortably in mid-table with no excitement of promotion to look forward to, or relegation to fear, was in 2011! So, joining the rest of the Sandpit in Zone B in a carefree, happy, Leo enhanced mood was indeed a rare treat.

The Port line-up raised a few eyebrows but every cloud has a silver lining. Some players were being given, we suspected, a final run-out in a Port shirt, most notably, the often, deservedly maligned Tana (99) and he was certainly to live down to expectations. 33 year old Ittipol (7) is already confirmed to be on his way at the end of the season, and he was also given a final 90 minutes at PAT Stadium.

Apart from some typical left wing raids from Genki (18) and a header which went close from the same player, the opening half an hour was typical of Thai League football: great first touch, fast, neat, incisive passing, tricky wing play, rash tackles and the odd dash of theatrics but, like a Japanese tourist in a Nana Plaza pay-by-the-hour hotel, short on penetration.

It might be an age thing, but at times like this my mind does wander; random thoughts started to meander through my head, though still obscurely connected to the scene unfolding before me:

  • Madame Pang’s legs are far too pale for her to be wearing skimpy shorts on a wet Saturday in November
  • I wonder how much it would cost to rent a flat in the orange and blue painted apartment block behind Zone D
  • I miss seeing the temperature updates on the old scoreboard
  • Is Tana the square root of nothing?

 

 

Then, just as my thinking delved into the existential, a goal of infinite beauty, yet stark simplicity, lit up PAT Stadium in the 37th minute; Pakorn (9) delivering a defence splitting pass for Suarez (5) to race on to and power past the keeper. The Spaniard has been on fire recently and was having another of his better games.

Half-time did nothing to disturb Port’s new-found momentum and, after a couple of narrow misses, on 53 minutes, Genki Nagasato ran on to another through ball to the right of the penalty area and smashed in a shot off the post. Beats ‘working as a waitress in a cocktail bar’, the Sandpit in Zone B reminded him. He had laboured hard for that goal and it was well deserved.

 

 

Three minutes later, Zone B was again in raptures when Todsapol (6) seemed the most likely scorer with a glancing header from a corner. At one point it appeared that Tana was about to claim the goal but the hapless midget would have needed a stepladder to have nodded that one in, so his celebrations were largely ignored.

Port were rampant now and chances came and went, at both ends of the pitch to be fair, with Rattanai (17), who had been superb, pulling off a couple of acrobatic saves to deny Sisaket a consolation goal. Then, in the 73rd minute, came possibly Port’s best worked goal of the season, Suarez expertly side-footing the ball into the net after a rapid exchange of passes in the box, the final assist from the recently introduced Ekkapoom (8): 4-0.

 

Image by การท่าเรือ เอฟซี Port FC

 

Sisaket pulled one back before the always energetic ‘Poom’, who adds more to our attack in two minutes than Tana (whom he replaced) does in 200, was to figure prominently for the 5th goal in the 85th minute; the Sisaket keeper bringing him down illegally after another burst into the box. As soon as the penalty was given, David Rochela (22, or David Roosevelt according to Google Translate) left his place at the back to assume his duties and, despite some muted protest from Josimar, duly dispatched it well out of the keeper’s reach.

 

Image by การท่าเรือ เอฟซี Port FC

 

And that, really, should have been it. Port were leading comfortably, and quite deservedly, after a compelling second half performance. But, just as if to remind us that old habits die hard, Port performed at their most Portsy in extra time, conceding two sloppy goals to give a slightly distorted look to the result. Still, none of us would begrudge Sisaket and their wonderful travelling fans this belated consolation.

So, some home comfort to send the fans away happy, which is more than I can say about the club’s, and Queen Bee Madame Pang has to be heavily implicated in this, feeble attempts to commemorate 50 years of Thai Port football and appropriately reward her worker bees. I did mention this in my match preview, but quite frankly, it has been pathetic. My memory may be playing tricks, but I am sure we have had end-of-season parties on the field outside the club shop in recent years, the two most memorable being the promotion party in 2013 and the relegation party (!) the season before.  For various reasons I am sure, the turn out today was very disappointing, but those of us who were there deserved better.

Still, there was one supreme consolation at the end, which will live long in my memory certainly. King Leandro was in the Sandpit. And looking trim. He shook my hand, signed my shirt and said, in a warm, cuddly tone, “I remember you”. Amazingly, all this after we had just been discussing his Port career over post match beers. Those of you who have read my footballing love letter to him: ‘Leandro, Portrait of an Icon’ will understand my turning into jelly – it was man-love at its finest and no doubt cringingly embarrassing for those who witnessed it. I offer no apologies.  Ratchaburi – here we come!

 

 

Tim’s Man of the Match – Sergio Suarez

OK, I hold my hands up on this one – I’ve spent most of the season criticising Suarez for only showing up for one game every 3-4, but in the last few weeks he’s been absolutely superb, and last night he was magnificent. Two goals, and bossing the game like no player I’ve seen since Zidane tearing Howard Wilkinson’s England a new one in 1999, or the peerless Berndt Schuster silencing Old Trafford for Atletico Madrid in 1991. Admittedly this is a slightly lower level than that but if he can keep up this kind of form then SS (er, maybe not) may be lining up in Port’s midfield next season. And maybe he’ll unblock the Sandpit on Instagram now…

 

Portrait of an Icon: Leandro Oliveira da Luz

“Leandro! One-nil”

It could have been John Motson or Barry Davies, screaming those words with accustomed familiarity on Match of the Day, but for us, in those first few games of the TPL season 2014, it was probably just in our heads. Leandro had, inevitably, scored and we were ahead, and for a while, top of the League. They were giddy times, and Leandro, his exploits in the previous season’s promotion campaign still buzzing through the memory banks, was our hero. I loved him and, to show my devotion, popped down to MBK to buy a Port blue t-shirt to have it emblazoned, in bright orange lettering, with that commentary above and, ‘The Perfect 10’ on the back. So, what of the man who had inspired this devotion?

 

The Pedigree (courtesy of Wikipedia)

Leandro was born in Candido Mota in Brazil on March 3rd, 1983. At the age of 19, he joined the legendary Santos in the top echelon of Brazilian football, Pele numbering amongst its former luminaries. The following year, he represented his country at U23 level, scoring one goal in 4 appearances. His career took on a rather wayward, nomadic turn after this, as he wandered through a number of home-based teams before making his way to Hai Phong in Vietnam in 2008.

 

It was here that he reached his own personal level of excellence, scoring 53 goals in 68 appearances, being made captain and winning Player of the Year 2009 in an on-line, unofficial poll. Leandro left Vietnam in 2012 to return to Brazil, but it was no doubt during his time in the V League that he had come under the radar of Dusit Chalermsan, Port manager 2013-14, who was coaching in Vietnam at the time.

 

The Goals 2013-14

Leandro announced his arrival with a stunning, left foot volleyed goal against Bangkok Glass in a rather meaningless, pre-season tournament in Chiang Rai. A header and a trademark free-kick in the first, victorious, away game at Ayuthaya confirmed that we had something special on our hands. ‘Getting a Brazilian’ became a subject that could now be discussed in Port family circles without any hint of embarrassment or recrimination. We won the first four away games in a row, were top of the League and the promotion adventure had begun.

 

The goals flowed: twenty-four that season, to win Leandro the Golden Boot. And they were, often than not, spectacular. Left foot shots and volleys, long and short range, of all description – meeting the ball dropping out of the air; crosses from the right; crosses from the left. Had they been scored by.. (insert here the name of a top Premier League striker) they would have been talked about incessantly. But they weren’t and they were.

 

Then came the headers, dispatched with deadly accuracy: diving with power; hanging in the air with placement; deftly cushioned into the corner. And, the penalties – he never missed. Every corner, free-kick and penalty was met with an expectant intake of breath, ready to be discharged in an exultant roar to announce yet another Leandro goal. We almost expected him to score direct from a throw-in.

 

His goals took us to promotion in 2013, to the top of the TPL at the beginning of 2014, and helped to save us from an unjust relegation after a 9-point deduction following the annual Battle of Muang Thong.

Leandro: what was there not to like…….?

 

The Dark Side

Quite a lot, according to some, and there is no doubt that Leandro had his detractors. He was, without doubt, egotistical; he wanted the game to revolve around him, often berating team-mates for some perceived indiscretion. In the true Latin tradition, he was, to put it kindly, theatrical. He dived, he rolled over, he screamed, clutching numerous body parts with varying degrees of pain intolerance. He argued with officials and had tantrums. He carried his baby into the pre-match line-up. In other words, he was the epitome of the modern footballer.

 

Whether you loved him or hated him (it was hard to be indifferent), you just couldn’t stop talking about him. Still, as Oscar Wilde once said, “There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” I suspect Oscar would have admired Leandro.

 

My question to his detractors is: “Would you rather have had him for those two years or not had him? Would we have won promotion and climbed to 9th place in the League without him? If not Leandro, then who?”

 

He could be a rogue, but to my mind, a loveable one, and we English love a loveable rogue – just look at the Krays!

 

The Dismantling of an Icon

So, how will we look back on Leandro? For two years he was our God, our mercurial wizard; his left foot – his magic wand. We all knew he could be a bit of a twat. But, he was our twat, and we adored him. To watch him on his last return to Port with Air Force was to only feel sad at how much he had lost that magic. Never possessing a sylph-like figure, he looked overweight and well off the pace; even his aim letting him down. His once feared free-kicks never surmounted the wall and he spent most of the game in a running battle with the ref, Port players (and his own), and, ultimately, the crowd, that had once adored him and chanted his name. When he was sent off after a second yellow card for a nasty foul on the young Port keeper, Rattanai, his departure was greeted with ironic cheers, or were they jeers? This was the third time he had returned to Port as an opposition player; on the first occasion, he did a lap of honour around the ground, signing autographs and posing for selfies.

 

With each subsequent visit, his allure had diminished.

 

I, for one, will not forget him. Thanks for the memories, Leandro – Once You Were King.