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MATCH REPORT: Port FC 1-1 Pahang FA

 

Pahang FA held Port to a 1-1 draw on Sunday, but the result didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the home fans, who brought the noise to PAT Stadium for the first time since the stadium ban took effect in September.

The Zone B Fans

Since then Port fans have been itching to get back on the terraces to cheer on their team, and yesterday they finally had their chance. A few hundred fans hungry for football – and a few dozen particularly thirsty for Leo – saw Port slip to a disappointing draw against a side they should probably have beaten.

Pahang FA play in the Malaysian Super League – where they finished 9th last season – but Port’s first half performance indicated that they were much the stronger side. The first half side was almost identical to the one fielded at Navy on Thursday. The only change was in goal, where Weera (40), who if we’re honest we had completely forgotten about, played a quiet but mistake-free 45 minutes. In front of him was a back four of Rochela (22), Dolah (38), Meechok (20) and a former Bangkok United player currently on trial at Port, the superbly named Panpanpong Pinkong (19). Suarez (4), Siwakorn (16) and a 20 year old tralist from Army – Tatchanon Nakarawong (27) – operated as a three in the centre of midfield, with Ekkapoom (8) and Pakorn (9) on the wings. Sene (40) once again started up front; determined to get on the score sheet after peppering the goal but failing to score against Navy.

The action, as seen from Zone B

Port started brightly, moving the ball through midfield with purpose. Suarez was the stand-out player, showing a nice touch and great vision. He controlled play and delivered some excellent passes out wide. His good work paid off 15 minutes in to the first half. Suarez found Pakorn on the right hand side, and Pakorn hung up an inviting cross which had Sene’s name written all over it. The towering French forward jumped so high that he actually had to stoop in mid-air to connect with the cross, but regardless he powered his header past the ‘keeper to make it 1-0.

Pahang rarely threatened the Port goal, but on one of the rare occasions they ventured forward new signing Dolah showed his strength and timing to win an important tackle and play a smart pass out in to midfield. The six foot five Thai-Swedish centre half looked calm and capable throughout the half, suggesting that he could form a formidable partnership with Rochela, although he was never really tested against the Malaysians.

Wholesale changes were made at half time again, with only Sene staying on the pitch. The second string were more evenly matched with Pahang, and they largely cancelled eachother out in a half where chances were at a premium. Genki (18) was industrious as ever, and Piyachart (23) made some enterprising runs forward, but Port couldn’t really find their rhythm. Matters were not helped when Sene was replaced by Wuttichai (14) and Maranhao (29) limped off the pitch after picking up a knock.

In the 75th minute Pahang found themselves back on level terms, and the game started to become a little feisty. Substitute Wuttichai was fouled and exchanged heated words with a Pahang defender, then seconds before the final whistle he was deservedly given his marching orders for an ugly foul, clearly an act of retribution.

Despite the not-so-friendly game ending on a sour note, the Port fans had a good day out, particularly the fans from Zone B who brought their drums and created a more upbeat atmosphere than we’re used to seeing in pre-season.

Port are yet to announce any more friendlies, but when they do The Sandpit will be sure to keep you updated.

 

MATCH REPORT: Siam Navy 2-1 Port FC

Siam Navy overcame an experimental Port side 2-1 in Thursday’s pre-season friendly.

Despite our shiny new sponsorship deal with The Sportsman, The Sandpit is not in the business of sending it’s minions to Sattahip for a weekday friendly, so this is less match report and more highlight report.

Port fielded a strong side in the first half, including regular starters Rochela (22), Meechok (20), Siwakorn (16), Ekkapoom (8) and Pakorn (9), new signings Sergio Suarez (5) and Elias Dolah (4) and French trialist Saer Sene (24). Wachara (1) who spent last season on loan at BBCU was a surprise starter in goal, and he looked determined to impress coach Jadet, coming off his line quickly to thwart a few early Navy attacks, before saving well from a free-kick. There were two players – presumably trialists – that we haven’t seen before, playing at left back (19) and centre midfield (27).

Port created a host of chances, most of which fell to Saer Sene, but the big man looked a little short of match fitness and luck, frequently hitting the target but not finding a way past the Navy ‘keeper.

In the second half Port made 9 changes, with only Dolah and Sene staying on the pitch. It didn’t take Navy long to punish the weakened side. Adisorn (13) was left for dead by a sharp turn from Navy’s left winger, and his cross was met with an unstoppable strike which went in off the crossbar.

Navy soon doubled their lead from a corner. A deep cross was headed back across goal, and neither Piyachart (23) or Todsapol (6) could react quickly enough to prevent the shot, which easily beat the flat-footed Worawut (36) in goal.

Late in the second half, Port claimed a consolation goal. With Pakorn not on the pitch free-kick duty fell to new signing Siwapong (39), and he proved himself an able deputy, finding the top left-hand corner with a well placed strike.

Port host Malaysian side Pahang FC on Sunday at PAT Stadium, where there will likely be more experimentation from Jadet. The Sandpit expects to see more game time for Sene, who will need to find the net if he is to convince the coach that he is the man to spearhead the team in the TPL.

Highlights have just appeared on Youtube, so here they are for your viewing pleasure!

Port Fans In Exile

“Supporting and watching Port at that time reinvigorated my passion for football.”

In solidarity with exiled Port FC fans scattered across the globe from Nanning to Coventry, I thought I would share some of their stories about life as a Port fan abroad.

Matt Scott

 

Matt at Leo Stadium

Matt Scott lived in Thailand for about 2 years; more than enough time to catch the Tarua bug. He was a season-ticket holder for the 2015 season, and would be at The PAT on match-day come rain or shine. Now living in Nanning, China he says “Some of the things I miss the most about my Port FC experience are the anticipation of game day, finishing classes and heading to PAT Stadium, meeting up with the guys for a beer, food and good conversation. Of course, the highlight was once the match started. It was an awesome experience to be part of the crowd and cheer on our beloved Port FC! I can still hear the songs and chants throughout the crowd. Some louder than others…not naming names.”

Anyone who has been in Zone B, the right-hand side of Zone C or is particularly attuned to high-pitched screaching noises will probably know who he is referring to. I asked Matt if there were any anecdotes that particularly stuck out.

The infamous Mme Pang selfie!

“One of the only times I voluntarily decided to take a selfie was with Madam Pang after the away game at TOT. The guys didn’t let me live that one down too quickly….lots of well deserved head-shakes were sent my way that night, but it was still worth it!”

Finally, Matt told me “I still watch the odd Premier League match, but nothing beats the experience of live football. Good luck this season, Port. Thanks for the memories!”

Mo Shah

 

Fellow exile Mo hails from Coventry, England; a city he describes as “Famous for being bombed in the second world war.” His hometown club – Coventry City – had been, and still are, enduring tough times, making him particularly susceptible to the unique charms of Khlong Toei.

Mo in his sky-blue Port shirt

He only visited Bangkok for two weeks, but watched three Port games in that time. He says “Supporting and watching Port at that time reinvigorated my passion for football. I miss the convoy of Port FC fans on their scooters and parking up at the stadium. I miss the congregation outside the stadium, the food stalls and the general atmosphere. I miss the weather, the standing up and cheering and jeering of the opposition. I remember a certain woman. She didn’t look old, but when she shouted it reminded me of the older woman in that Jackie Chan movie Shanghai Noon. She had a distinct voice and shouted to everyone to drink up.”

Drinking Beer Through a Straw

 

For our exiles, it seems to be the little things that stick in the memory. An especially eccentric fellow fan, a tasty local delicacy, rampantly disobeying traffic laws… The little things that make supporting Port great may be individually insignificant, but when woven in to the rich living tapestry that is the Port experience, they take on a whole new meaning. Does the fact that I drink beer through a straw or collect scarves in a tropical country make any sense at all? No, but this is Khlong Toei damn it, and every moment – whether objectively good or bad – is all part of that experience.

Cherish it, fellow fans, because one day you might be looking back through orange-and-blue tinted spectacles thousands of miles from PAT Stadium thinking about that time you forgot your umbrella, got soaked through and cheered twice as loud anyway.

Exiles, we salute you!

Thi-Aggro: Ex-Port Star in Comedy Brawl Action

 

Following his on-pitch meltdown and GBH on the dressing room door during the game against Samut Songkhram last August, lovable East Timorese goal machine Thiago Cunha left Port FC and joined Indian Super League side Mumbai City FC, joining Uruguayan legend Diego Forlan in the most mismatched partnership since Ed Sheeran hooked up with Taylor Swift.

 

Thiago, you’ll be stunned to learn, has yet to find the net for his new club, but he did make the news this week when he was involved in an almighty post-whistle dust-up at the end of the second leg of the ISL semi-final, which saw Mumbai dumped out by the amusingly named Atletico de Kolkata. Kolkata’s Juan Belencoso gets dumped on his arse just as the final whistle blows, which is the cue for a highly entertaining bout of handbags.

 

Our hero makes his entrance around the 20-second mark in the clip below, punching a Kolkata player from behind and then aiming a flying kick at Belencoso himself, before running away to the safety of the match officials, whilst looking around him in panic and making hilarious boxing gestures. It’s all here:

 

 

…and The Sandpit has also paid tribute to Thiago’s moment of glory by turning it into a GIF:

The Chaos Theory of Thai Football

 

“League One club Fleetwood Town this week announced that they have bought West Bromwich Albion’s licence and will be taking their place in next season’s English Premier League. West Brom will now move to Leeds.

 

Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it, but it’s exactly what happened last week when Udon Thani FC of Thailand’s Regional League Division 2 Northeastern purchased the licence of TPL club BEC Tero, thus taking Tero’s TPL place for 2017. Tero themselves are rumoured to be moving out of Bangkok to Khon Kaen.

 

Such is the crazy, unpredictable world of Thai football where situations like the relocation of Wimbledon to Milton Keynes in 2003, which caused a massive stink in English football and whose aftershocks are still being felt, are simply par for the course and rarely raise an eyelid. We don’t have time to list all the examples of such shenanigans here, but let’s look at our own club, Port FC. Since I began supporting Port in the summer of 2014, the club has had four names (Singhtarua FC, Thai Port FC, Thai Port MTI FC, Port FC), four badges (a lion, an anchor, a horse for reasons far to bizarre to go into here, and back to a lion), three owners, and seven coaches. The fans have been banned from watching the team twice, we’ve been docked 9 points for crowd trouble, and two weeks prior to the 2016 season we still didn’t know which division we’d be playing in. All in the space of 2.5 years. And this is at one of Thailand’s more stable clubs.

 

Right now, with two months to go before the start of the new season, the exact lineup of the 2017 TPL remains unknown, with the Udon-BEC deal still not 100% confirmed, Pattaya Utd’s situation uncertain, and nomadic club Osotspa – currently going under the name Samut Sakhon City Power – still not sure if their latest move and name change has been approved.

 

To outsiders unfamiliar with the wonderful world of Thai football, it seems totally chaotic, but those of us who follow the Thai game generally just roll our eyes and mutter about how silly it all is, whilst being grateful that we have something to talk about during the dead weeks of the close season.

 

My theory – inspired one evening a couple of weeks ago, like much of the content on this site, by the magical elixir that is Leo beer – is that this chaos, uncertainty and flexibility vis a vis the rules is deliberately engineered into Thai football in order to give the authorities some wiggle room when wealthy, influential club owners for whom things aren’t going well on the pitch and who are used to getting their own way try to flex their muscles; matters can be resolved to hiso satisfaction without anyone – other than the game itself, in the eyes of fans used to more transparent footballing cultures – losing face.

 

So on those rare occasions when Thai footballing culture intersects with the outside world, comedy often ensues. In 2015, Reading FC’s Thai chairwoman Khunying Srivikorn wrote an official club song called ‘They Call Us the Royals‘, complete with cringeworthy rap interlude, to the visible bewilderment of those players corralled into appearing in the video, to the embarrassment of the club’s fans, and to the amusement of the rest of the footballing world.

 

 

And back in September, Leicester fans – including club legend Gary Lineker – were surprised to see the face of the club’s Thai owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha beaming out at them from the cover of the programme for the club’s first ever Champions League game, rather than club manager Claudio Ranieri.

 

To those of us used to the caprices of Thai club owners, Reading’s song and Leicester’s programme weren’t in the least surprising. We shrugged and laughed, just as we shrugged and laughed at the ridiculous Udon-BEC Tero deal, just as we shrugged and laughed at the 2016 season ending with 3 games still left to play, just as we’ll shrug and laugh when the 2017 season is delayed when some rich club owner launches an appeal against something or other. It’s a kind of footballing Stockholm Syndrome, without which we wouldn’t be able to take the game seriously and continue showing up to watch our clubs every week. And, I suspect, without the chaos and confusion, Thai football might just be a little less fun.

 

 

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Tom’s Transfer Talk – 13 Dec 2016

SMM Sport is reporting that Port have signed 31 year old journeyman Siwapong Jarernsin. The midfielder has played for ten different teams in the last ten years, and has more often than not been more of a squad player than a regular fixture in the starting XI. He was a surprising pick in Thai coach Zico’s preliminary AFF Suzuki Cup squad, although he didn’t make the final cut.

Siwapong, 31

Port have already seen significant turnover in midfield during the transfer window. Artit (19) returned to parent club Muang Thong, and Wagner (35) has not retained his place in the squad, meaning last season’s two main options in the holding role have been let go. Sergio Suarez seems to be Wagner’s natural replacement at the heart of the midfield, but The Sandpit will have to see fellow newbies Wanchalerm Yingyong and Pakin Kaikaew in action before being able to judge where they are likely to fit in.

This week sees Port visit Navy on the 15th, before Malaysian side Pahang play at PAT Stadium on the 18th, giving Port fans the opportunity to see some of the new arrivals in action for the first time.

Tom’s Transfer Talk welcomes more or less any insight or gossip, providing you’re not just making stuff up, so tweet me @BKKEarlsy or leave a comment on the article if there’s anything else you think I should be covering.

Thanks to regular Sandpitter Dom for helping me out with this round of transfer gossip.

 

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Spit in the Sandpit: Overrated/Underrated

 

 

Every now and again I hope to share with you my personal list of underrateds and overrateds at Port FC…..

 

Underrated- Midfielder Rodrigo Maranho. #29. Wow. This Brazilian was dazzling to watch. He scored some of the prettiest goals I’ve seen in Thai football.  I guess he fell out of favour with team management but he can take a lot of the credit for Ports success in 2016.

 

Overrated- Forward Hironori Saruta (2014-2015).The chant “Sa-ru-ta!” was loud and clear at PAT stadium for two seasons. But I never drank the Saruta kool-aid. I ended up just shaking my head  whenever the Japanese forward would dippsy doodle just inside the box and then (if he didn’t dive to draw a penalty) he would hit a strike that seemed to always go wide or sail over the crossbar. Saruta scored just 6 goals for Port in 62 appearances. Maybe the chant should have been “ WTF Sa-ru-ta?”

 

Underrated– Defender David Rochela. #22 I know, I know, how can Port FC’s player of the year be underrated? I think I saw at least a dozen matches this past season where I’m sure Rochela was the only Port player who knew what to do with a football. I’m serious! He was always saving our butts.

 

Overrated- Muangthong United FC…..sorry I have to get in at least one obligatory poke at MTU.

 

Overrated- The new fancy video scoreboard in zone D. Yes, it’s a pleasant upgrade to the old  scoreboard that more than half the stadium of supporters couldn’t see. All the old scoreboard would give you is…time of day and home 01 visitors 00. The new video scoreboard will actually show you match time! Wow, technology! But where’s video replays, scores from other matches? or where are the close ups of Madame Pang?

 

Underrated- I can go to a Port home game at PAT stadium and pay 100 baht for my ticket, 60 baht for a large beer, and buy some delicious finger food for another oh let’s say 40 baht. Total cost for a Port FC experience…200 baht. That same 200 baht wouldn’t even pay for parking at BC Place stadium, home of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC. A Port FC match is incredibly good value.

 

PAT’s the Way to Do It: How to Improve the Fan Experience

 

I have a confession to make; I’m a latecomer to “football” or as we know it in the US “soccer.” Growing up it was American Football, basketball, a bit of baseball, and when Dallas got the Stars in ’94 it was all about hockey. One of the things I knew I would miss when I moved to Thailand was sports, so I soon latched onto the EPL and became a raging football fan, watching a myriad of games each weekend.

 

Sports on TV are nice, but I really missed the live experience. Giving up my season tickets to the Stars was just about the biggest blow for me, well aside from forgoing good Mexican food, so I was thrilled in 2011 when my gal suggested we go to a TPL match. Truth be told I did not even know there was a league. We first went to a BEC Tero match at Thephasadin Stadium that was ok, but not that impressive. The next week we went to see Port vs Sisaket at PAT and we were immediately hooked.

 

I have really enjoyed these 6 seasons. It’s been a roller coaster of emotions with a cup final, relegations, promotions, road trips, and lots of new friends both Thai and foreign. I have never felt more connected and attached to a team.

 

For me the fan experience is really what professional sports are about. And it is one thing that American sports do quite well. From ticketing, to merchandising, marketing and what occurs each game day is well planned and thought out and most of it’s all fan-centric.

 

I would like to suggest a few things that would make the Port fan experience even better.

 

Ticketing

As a long time season ticket holder and Zone A denizen, I would like to have a reserved seat and be able to retain that seat season to season.

 

It would also be nice to have all the tickets ready at the beginning of the season for season ticket holders so that we don’t have to go to the shop each week to get our tickets. They could be labeled Match 1, 2, etc.

 

Merchandising and Marketing

Some years have been better than others. The years with Mizuno and Joma saw the shopped well stocked throughout the season with plenty of jerseys, t-shirts, and swag available. Other years have seen long waits for jerseys and a pretty barren shop. Port supporters buy a lot of merchandise, so ensuring that the suppliers keep the shop stocked and open during business hours is something all the fans will appreciate.

 

As I mentioned in the first paragraph; I lived in Bangkok, Khlongtoey specifically for over ten year before I even knew there was a league. I might have found the team a bit earlier had there been merch in the malls.

 

Game Day Experience

The atmosphere at PAT is great. Each year there is more food, more activities, and the supporters appreciate it. Last year the club sought out discounts on hotels for away trips and there were some buses. For certain effort is being put in by the club to make the game day experience better for the fans. I am hopeful we will have an even better atmosphere during the upcoming season with even more fan-centric events for supporters.

 

Again, just my two cents on some things I would like to see. I’m really looking forward to the upcoming season. Hopefully we will field a competitive team. A mid-table finish would be wonderful!

 

Thanks to Landry Dunand for the photo

 

Port Announce Two Friendlies

Port FC will play two more pre-season friendlies in the coming week.

On Thursday 15 December, they travel to Siam Navy FC, and on Sunday 18 December they welcome Malaysian side Pahang FC to the PAT. Both games kick off at 17:00 and as far as we know entrance is FOC. Details are on the Fixtures & Results page.

As usual the Sandpit welcomes volunteer match reporters for both games.

Dolah In The Bank

 

Thai-Swedish centre-half Elias Dolah has reportedly signed with Port. The 6 foot 5 defender was born in Lund, Sweden to a Thai father and a Swedish mother, meaning he will be able to bring his experience of European football to Port without taking up one of the five foreign player slots.

Elias Dolah, 23

23 year old Dolah played 21 games for local third tier side Lunds BK before moving to FC Rosengard and then Songkhla United in the TPL. He made 23 appearances for Songkhla last season, scoring one goal.

Dolah looks to be a shrewd signing, bringing much-needed physical presence to a Port squad that was somewhat lacking in height and strength last term. His arrival will increase competition for places in the Port back-line, where Todsapol (6) formed a solid partnership with Rochela (22) last season. He could also add a goal threat from set-pieces, giving Pakorn (9) a target for his pinpoint crosses.

Welcome to PAT Stadium, Elias Dolah!