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Run Christian, Run! Port FC vs. Ratchaburi, 24 February 2018

 

There is a bible story that talks of a young German Christian (Ziege) manager taking the first steps on his assent to the footballing promised land, who traveled far to the lands east, for a fat bag of gold coins (one suspects) to lead a mythical sugar dragon and is confronted by a league full of strange beasts, disorganisation and interfering megalomaniac owners. In this very strange league lived a mighty lion who once was shabby and downbeat, even taking on at times the form of a horse and a rather camp dolphin but had recently risen to the top of the local footballing mountain. With the help of its sidekicks the dragon, the flash, the grumpy Spaniard, the calm happy Spaniard and 1990’s Will Smith, the lion had set about slaying all who dared to cross its path. The strange footballing land also had a bunny, a bat, a beetle, a horrible lizard, a shark, a not so camp dolphin, and an elephant amongst others. However, it was the mighty Lion that had recently come to be most feared. First it met the dolphin and with three blows the dolphin was slain. Next was its sworn enemy the lizard. The lion had waited a long time for this moment and savoured his victory, he had won victories over the lizard before but they were bruising affair, this was to be a total victory, tearing the helpless lizard limb from limb, even toying with the poor little lizard as the life faded from it on a glorious Saturday, and the howls of the lion’s famous followers did ring around its den, for although the battle did occur at the lizards dwelling, it was a place no wise man was permitted to visit. Some say that with the battle won and the followers of the lizard falling silent, as they realized that the lion had risen and was again undeniably mightier than their lizard, the roars of the lion’s followers could be heard even though the two dens are many miles apart and even if they couldn’t, it’s on YouTube.

The young manager was filled with fear having seen the lion slaughter the lizard and began to question if this really was the place for him. So, with just days to go before his dragons (none of whom were as mighty as the lion’s dragon, who was the mightiest dragon in the kingdom), were due to face the lion in its den, the young manager asked the lord to help him escape the mighty lion and his now ultra-professional sidekicks. “Save me from the lion’s mouth; From the horns of the wild oxen You answer me.” (Psalms 22.21). (The oxen had been cast out by the other animals for being a bit crap at football and told to spend 40 fixtures and 40 weeks trying to prove itself). The young manger decided to further ponder his position whilst listening to some banging tunes. Luckily being a very modern god, Spotify is the savior’s current go to medium of communication, so the lord did answer the young manager at a crossroads and via shuffle the lord did declare: “dreaming of that perfect home by the sun…Run, Christian run,” for the lord was wise and chose the finest Welsh psychedelic band to have ever walked the earth* to inform the former left back who had traveled as far as Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Milan and some of footballs smaller missionary stations before heading east,  that it was time to high tail it to Suvarnabhumi and see how quickly Lufthansa could get him back to the Fatherland. Thus ends the story of the Christian and the sugar dragon.

Its one of the lesser known bible stories due mainly to having been entirely made up by me in an attempt to make up for having to bin nearly all of the preview I’d finished yesterday. So a series of poor Christian and lions jokes will live forever unused alongside the excellent Captain (playa de las) Americas pun that, given the slim chances of a return to Klong Toey for Asdrubal combining with Super Power making like the son of God at Easter for a game I preview, will never see the light of day in any useful way.

 


 

Or in plain language, Port play Ratchaburi on Saturday at the PAT, 20:00 kick off or if you can’t make it’s on True 4U, True Sport HD2 and various dodgy streams. Ratchaburi had appointed Christan Ziege to be their manager in the close season, however, at some point this week, having already left once, it was decided by the club and/or him that things weren’t working out and his contract with the club was terminated. Oh, and we’re top of the league, having played Muangthong off LEGOLAND Park. We’re also yet to concede a goal this season, and we’re eight games unbeaten in the league including the finish of last season. The last time Jadet took charge of a home defeat was the 6th of May 2017 when Pattaya beat us two nil. So we have nothing to fear. Kinda like being two nil up with ten minutes to go, and we know how that generally turns out for Port!

Ratchaburi

 

Its hard enough to draw any conclusions about teams two games into the season; it’s even harder when they’ve changed manager and when that manager leaves the club, you’re pretty much at a total loss.

 

Christian Ziege

 

Sooooo, Ratchaburi started the season with the least desirable fixture on offer, away at Buriram on a Friday night. Giving a good account of themselves, they kept the scores level ’til the hour mark, before two goals in seven minutes took the points for the champions, despite a consolation penalty scored by Felipe Mendez (20).  Round two saw Air Force Central visit Ratchaburi, again the game was scoreless well into the second half before an own goal was awarded to Chutipol Thongthae (7) for being vaguely nearby when the ball was sent goalward by the Air Force player, securing the win for Ratchaburi.

The Ratchaburi squad underwent somewhat of an overhaul in the closed season as Marcel Essombe moved to Port, who sent him to the BEC Police home for unwanted players and from there he has moved to pastures as yet unknown. Thai national team left back Kevin Deeromram made the same move on deadline day.

They have been replaced by “Bill” (90) a striker from Brazil who has spent the last four years (transferring each season) in the second tier at home, scoring 9, 15, 2 and 10 goals (the 2 occurred while only making 9 appearances). On two occasions he’s been with the champions, only to be moved on without getting the opportunity to play in the top tier. He’s yet to score in the Thai league, but appears to possess a powerful shot. South Korean Soo-il Kang (10) also arrived in the closed season, from Thespakusatsu Gunma who were relegated from the second tier of the Japanese league. A skilled dribbler, he had the most fruitful season of his career last season, scoring 10 goals. Kang too has drawn a blank in his time at Ratchaburi playing on the right, hopefully Deeromram learnt enough in the time they spent together in preseason to keep him in check.

 

Bill and Kang

 

Further attacking options are offered by two half Thai players, Thai-German Phillip Roller (33) who has been used further up the field as a right winger than full back where he started and Thai-Italian Gionata Verzura (16) who arrived from Super Power via Ubon, they’ve started one game each this season. The final foreigner in the group is another Brazilian Felipe Menezes (20) who scored the penalty at Buriram. He will look to exploit the space between Port’s defence and midfield.

 

Roller and Verzura

 

Also arriving was keeper Kittipong (1) on loan for the season from Bangkok United. He was first choice for the Angels last season, but has been moved on in the post cup final shake up. He’ good at getting himself to shots and crosses but somewhat questionable at collecting them. Whilst Pakorn may not enjoy much joy with his shoot on sight policy, others may following up.

The back four has been fairly stable for some time with Wattayuchutikul, (35) who was involved 19 times last season being asked to replace Deeromram at left back. Congolese centre back Joel Sami is captain. He seems a competent foreign leader of a defence, but hopefully we be found wanting against Boskovic and his many helpers.

Port

 

I can see only two spots in the team where a change is possible. Firstly in goal, whilst the decision to make Worawut (36) man of the match last weekend was somewhat of an overstatement of his performance, he was in great form out at LEGOLAND. Combined with a solid performance in the opener, it seems implausible that he’ll be dropped. So even if Rattanai (17) is back to full fitness, I expect his fragile frame will be spending a few more weeks toughening itself up on the bench.

Which brings us to Port’s other man made of biscuits. Todsapol (6) was carried off with what has been reported as a muscle injury, that early in the week was reportedly not serious enough to stop him starting come Saturday or would keep in out for two weeks according to another source midweek.  Dolah (4) came on for the last hour and coped well with all that Herberty and Jaja asked of him. I suspect the weekend comes to soon for Todsapol to start. Thereafter I expect it to be the same team as last week.  Nitipong (34) and Kevin Deeromram (97) have been excellent at the back and equally impressive going forward, Deeromram looked more at ease for a second week of training with the club and enjoyed exploiting the space offered by our out of position right wingers, cutting in. Nitipong (34) thankfully appears to have figured out that defensive side of the game he used to struggle with against all but the weakest of opponents.

 The foreign spine of the team appears to be the real strength of the set up. We know what we get from El Capitan David Rochela (22) and in front of him is Kim Sung Hwan (8), who was superb in the Slum vs. Scum derby, not just with his play but with his organisation. Along with Boskovic (23), these players offer more than just their ability as individual players, as they organise and encourage those around them. The sight of Jadet in discussion with Kim and Deeromram over the tactics board bodes well. We now have players with knowledge and the strength of character to put their thoughts out there mid match.

As noted above Ratchaburi have made it to the hour mark in each of their games this season scoreless. This might be the game when the strength of the Port bench is called to turn the game in our favour late on.

Predicted Lineup

 

 


 

*The Super Furry Animals for the heathens amongst the readership

 


 

The match will be shown live on True 4U, True Sport HD2 at 20:00 on Saturday 24 February, 2018. For those who can’t make it to PAT Stadium, The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13 will show the match with sound if you ask them nicely. Mention the Sandpit or wear your Port shirt for a 10% discount.

 

Sandpit Songs of the Season 2018: Week 3

 

Port take on Ratchaburi Mitr Phol FC at the PAT this Saturday. Now what with them hiring German legend Christian Ziege as coach we were looking forward to making lots of Christian/Lions jokes, however in what is surely the least surprising news this season, apart from Todsapol getting injured again, Ziege has buggered off home to the Fatherland after just two games in charge. Do the people behind these decisions give no thought to pun-hungry football websites? Bastards.

Anyway, this week we had to resort to plan B, so what with Ratchaburi’s nickname being The Dragons, here’s a (pretty shit) song about something we will hopefully be seeing just before 10pm on Saturday…

 

 

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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.

 

Some Friendlies

 

Starved of football during the international break? Help is at hand, as the club have just announced three friendly games against Bangkok Utd (hopefully not a repeat of the recent 6-2 away drubbing), Ratchaburi, and our old friends the Raging Mackerels of Samut Songkhram. Hopefully a good chance for Jadet to have a good look at the likes of Tatchanon, Pinyo, Meechok and Hansson, all players who should in my opinion be getting more game time than they have so far.

All games are, as far as we know, free to attend, and you can see the full details below:

 

Weds 22 March 17:00: Port FC vs Bangok Utd (H)

Sat 25 March 17:00: Pattaya vs Port FC (A)

Weds 29 March 18:00: Port FC vs Samut Songkhram FC (H)

 

Due to work commitments I’ll be unable to attend any of these so if anyone wants to write reports, please let us know!

 

 

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Spit in the Sandpit: Opening Day Notes

 

Warning…I am about to tell you about many of my observations of the season opener last Saturday night and I don’t mention or sing Genki’s name even once. So all you Genki fan boys move on, nothing to see here.

Close to a sell out, which warmed my heart, and as I looked out upon the sea of Port support I noticed hey, where are the black shirts in Zone D known as the Ultras? Have they been banned because of last season’s shenanigans? I miss having them there. Sort of a security blanket…like The Hell’s Angels providing security for a Rolling Stones concert, though that didn’t turn out all that great.

The new 50th Anniversary home kit is meh. I prefer last season’s white sleeves to the black and where’s the badge commemorating 50 years? The black away kit is sharp looking.

Wow. The pace in TPL (or do they call it Thai League 1 now?) is so much quicker. The ball is moving around a lot faster and I think our players had trouble adjusting for the first half hour. It’s so nice to see fast paced football return to PAT and of course the obligatory poor officiating. Ha ha ha.

Hey, I like our new foreign players. I thought after a slow start Spaniard Sergio Suarez #5 and Serbian striker #10 Andrija Kaluderovic provided Port with a dangerous one/two punch up front. Swedish-Thai defender Elias Dolah #4 is pretty slow but solid in the back and he seems to make right decisions when opposition is threatening. I give the new players a B+ grade.

I am disappointed with our new electronic scoreboard. It’s boring. It cost a lot of baht to install it and I’ve seen it display things other than score & time. I know league rules prevents it from showing replays but how about crowd shots or scores from other matches when there’s a break in the action? You can accuse of me of being a typical North American sports fan needing lots of bells and whistles on the scoreboard to keep me entertained but come on, can we have a little bit more than score and time?

My final observation of the night – Madame Pang is a rock star. The supporters just wanted to touch her as she came up to greet them in Zone C. I think she is a great asset to Port FC. I really do. I’m sorry all you negative Nellie’s. But just one bit of advice for the Madame, it’s weird watching the owner of the team lead the cheer in the players’ pre-match huddle.

 

Arigato Genki-San! Port FC 1-1 Ratchaburi FC

 

Football came home yesterday as Port opened their season at the PAT against Ratchaburi in front of what looked like a full house. An evening of great football, controversy, excitement and heavy drinking. Ah, we’ve missed you.

What’s that? Heavy drinking? Wasn’t it a dry day due to the Makha Bucha holiday? In theory, yes. But it’s a brave man who tells Port fans they can’t get leathered, particularly after 5 months without football. I was just about to pack some cold Leos into my backpack before heading to the stadium when my wife, who had gone down to the PAT earlier, broke the joyous news that the beer stalls were serving as per normal. It’s a Makha Bucha miracle!

Patrick Bentley models the 2017 Port shirt

The new season’s shirts were also revealed, modelled by friend of the Sandpit Patrick Bentley, to mixed reviews. The home shirt looks better on the pitch than it does close up, though the Leo logo proved popular and the black away shirt is very tasty.

We had no firm idea of what the lineup would be, with further confusion sowed the previous evening when Brazilian striker Josimar confirmed that he’d passed his medical and signed for Port, and then Ratchaburi’s Armenian striker Edgar Manucharyan was pictured wearing Port kit, with Ratchaburi confirming on Twitter the morning of the game that he had indeed signed for Port. That makes seven foreigners, so quite what is going on is a mystery.

Eyebrows were raised when the lineup was revealed, with Jadet paying virtually no attention to player performances in pre-season friendlies and picking Piyachart at LB, Piyachat as DM and Nitipong at RB. Heads were scratched when Piyachat went off injured in the first half and was replaced not by Wanchalerm or Tatchanon, but the long-forgotten Adisorn.

 

 

And in the first half Port’s play was as disjointed as Jadet’s thinking, as Ratchaburi, looking stronger, fitter and better organised, and blessed with the obligatory Scary Foreign Strikers that Port continually refuse to sign, threatened to run away with the game in the first 15 minutes, with only some heroic defending from Rochela keeping the score at 0-0. After weathering the storm, Port started to get more into the game and during a good spell of pressure Suarez shaved the crossbar with a diagonal shot from the right. But as the half-time whistle blew, there was general relief that we were still on level terms.

The second half began in a much more lively fashion, the excellent Rattanai making a superb stop from point blank range before Essombe fired over the bar. Then Port took hold of the game for the next 10 minutes, launching wave after wave of attacks with the otherwise unimpressive Kaludjerovic almost scoring from a header.

But it was the visitors who took the lead in the 77th minute, when a corner was headed back into the area where the excellent Santos, man of the match for me, headed in at the post. A bit harsh on Port who had had the best of the half but, and I can’t believe we’re still saying this, completely lacked any kind of goal threat.

 

Ten minutes later chaos reigned, when we were reminded of just how bad top flight refereeing is in Thailand. A Tana ball into the box was blocked by a defender, with a hand claimed Port, and the ref initially appeared to give a penalty which, after consultation with both his assistants and a lot of handbaggery from both sets of players, was amended to a free kick, despite the offence clearly taking place inside the area. Repeat viewing suggests it hit the defender’s leg rather than his hand, but if the referee thought there had been an offence, it should’ve been a penalty.

In front of an aggrieved Zone B, Pakorn curled the resulting free kick towards the far corner but was denied by an excellent save. But Port didn’t have to wait long to get their deserved equaliser. In the 5th minute of injury time a free kick was awarded on the edge of the Ratchaburi box. Pakorn pinged it into the box and right onto the head of Genki, who rose majestically from the melee like the snow-capped peak of Mount Fuji to nod it past the keeper and into the net, sparking ecstatic scenes on the terraces as five months of frustration, and several hours of heavy drinking, caused an explosion of joy. Grown men hugged, women wept, and two weirdos started singing a Human League song.

So, a creditable first result against a very good side, but there is much work to do with Jadet clearly having no idea what his best side is, and some very good players sitting on the bench watching some very average ones. On the plus side, Suarez made a busy, combative debut, Siwakhorn and Genki’s workrate inspired their colleagues, Pakorn looked well up for it, and Rochela was majestic. On the minus, Kalu didn’t look like the SFS we’ve been waiting for, Dolah seems to lack pace, and until Pinkong came on, our full-backs were simply awful. A decent result from a poor performance, with much improvement needed if that top half place is going to be a reality.

 

PORT MAN OF THE MATCH – David Rochela

A typically classy, authoritative performance from the captain. Spent the first half having to cover for Piyachart at LB as well as doing his own job, yet still stopped Ratchaburi’s strikers from having a sniff. Apparently he had his pocket picked on the way home – the thieves got away with 2000BHT, his phone, and Marcel Essombe.

 

 

Ratch of the Day: Port Kick Off 2017 Season vs the Dragons

 

Like a burlesque dancer slowly removing garment after garment, in front of an audience baying to see the full monty, the Thai FA revealed the first 3 weeks of T1 games yesterday. Oh, you saucy old teases you.

As you can see on our Fixtures page, which we intend to be THE most up-to-date and informative Port FC fixture list on the web (in a not particularly competitive field), Port kick off the T1 season at the bizarre but acceptable time of 5.45pm on Saturday 11 Feb at the PAT. The game was originally scheduled to be played at the Sugardome, aka the Mitr Phol Stadium in Ratchaburi, but the club have been unable to complete their erection on time, so the game has been switched to the hallowed turf of Khlong Thoey. It’s also the very first game of the T1 season so if we win, we’ll go straight to the top of the league.

Port then have another home game on Sunday 19 Feb at 7pm against Suphanburi, before making the epic journey to Rangsit on 25 Feb to take on Bangkok Utd.

In a similar vein, Port released a teaser video of the 2017 shirt yesterday. From what little we can see, the shirt appears to have a grandad collar (which will suit various Sandpit readers), simple orange & blue stripes, and a sexy black trim & sleeves. Check out the header image to get a taste of what Khlong Thoey’s fashionistas will be wearing this April, when the shirt will no doubt finally be available in the club shop.