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Sharks Circle Hapless Zico: Port FC vs. Chonburi FC, 20 September 2017

 

Well what a season this has been and it has led to me being disillusioned and disinterested in Thai football for the first time in six years since my first trip to the PAT. The constant stop-start bullshit to facilitate the national team is doing my head in. We don’t even have any players in the national team! The King’s Cup? Do me a favour! Milovan Rajevac, the national team coach, is even dismayed and said “It does not happen or would not happen in any other league in the world” His words not mine: we live in the same condominium.

As for our form, it is nothing short of shocking, although I predict a win on Wednesday, which will save Zico’s job if you listen to the media and the fan groups. One win in nine? Poor Frank De Boer would have been delighted with this display of patience. I didn’t get to the Police Tero game, but read a lot of opinion from my Sandpit colleagues and social media, and the general consensus was really negative even amongst the most optimistic Port fans I know.

Paddy Power, the well-known Irish bookmaker, has us at 6/5 to beat Chonburi, who by the standards set last year are not living up to expectations although they outclassed us on our last duel.

They have in their squad an old friend of ours, Thiago Cunha! Since he left us he has turned his attentions to starting street brawls that Belfast city centre would be proud of on a Saturday night, only he likes to have them on the pitch. Whilst playing for Mumbai United against Atletico Kolkata in the Indian Super League semi-final he kicked a player up the arse and proceeded to break the Indian half marathon record whilst getting chased around the pitch by Atletico players and officials. Click here, you won’t regret it. Then he returned to Thailand to his old club Chonburi and as they say about old leopards… again our friend got himself in an old altercation, although this time he got properly dealt with and ended up looking like a butcher’s apron, this time at the hands of a Ratchaburi steward.

Definitely not a game to miss for sure, and hopefully we can turn our recent form around and register a much-needed confidence-boosting victory.

 

Tom’s Players to Watch

 

Remember that little guy who turned Port’s defenders inside out when Sukhothai came to town a couple of weeks ago? Well, John Baggio hasn’t morphed from a Fire Bat in to a Shark, but a very similar player – 2 inches taller in fact, at an imposing 5”4 – Nurul Sriyankem (31) will likely be giving Port’s fullbacks another serious examination on Wednesday. The speedy little winger’s form – 15 goals and 8 assists in all competitions – has seen him called up to the National Team consistently under Rajevac. He’s quick, he’s tricky and Port will have to concentrate really, really hard on not kicking him in the penalty area. Or body-checking him. Please, Adisorn!

Step forward, SFS. Yes, Renan Marques (14) is Chonburi’s Scary Foreign Striker. With 24 goals in 27 matches in 2017, perhaps we should call him a VSFS. He’s big, strong and deadly in front of goal, although he makes up for it by matching teammate Thiago Cunha for attitude. The sultry Brazilian is as likely to channel Lindsey Lohan from Mean Girls as he is to score, which isn’t to say he’s unlikely to find the onion bag, rather that he’s extremely unlikely to make it through 90 minutes without either throwing or inspiring some kind of hissy fit. He found the back of the net from the spot against Port in the first half of the season, an outcome precisely no one would be surprised to see repeated on Wednesday.

 

Nurul Sriyakem and Renan Marques

 

32 year old Ivorian Fode Diakite (18) must really like Chonburi. He has joined The Sharks no fewer than 3 times, and even had a spell at Regional League team Phantong FC last year, who are based in… yep, you guessed it – Chonburi. Diakite is the main physical presence in the Chonburi rear guard, equally at home at the back or in defensive midfield. His job will be to match Josimar and Suarez for height and strength, although to be honest, even if he was 4 foot tall with a sponge for a head he would probably still be able to stop Port’s forward line doing any damage in the air.

Not all ‘Players to Watch’ have to be any good, right? Well, Chanin Sae-Ear (35) is a funny one. Thai football’s resident hipster enjoyed an impressive spell at Port, before making his way to Chonburi via Chainat, becoming Thailand’s third choice goalkeeper along the way. He’s so not-mainstream he wore the number 9 shirt whilst at Chainat. Dude, man… At his best, Chanin has lightning reflexes, and comes off his line in a flash to help sweep up behind his defenders. At his worst, he makes Neville Southall look nimble, and in true hipster fashion can often be found so far outside the box, he doesn’t even know what the box is. I can’t possibly say which Chanin is going to turn up at PAT Stadium on Wedneday, but he almost certainly won’t be boring to watch.

 

Fode Diakite and Chanin Sae-Ear

 

Tom’s Player Not to Watch

 

Why exactly did we send one of our best young players to Chonburi again? Oh yeah, that’s right, so he could make four appearances. On the bench. Zero minutes on the pitch. Whilst it won’t be ex-Port player Tatchanon Nakarawong (39) who comes back to PAT Stadium with a bang on Wednesday, this other fella just might…

 

Here’s hoping for a swing and a miss this time…

 

Shark’s Dale

 

Thanks to Dale Farrington from the Chonburi FC website for providing us with this week’s opposition perspective. Here are his thoughts on the big game…

I must admit, that the thought of driving up to Bangkok, straight from work, for a meaningless end of season midweek fixture, was somewhat less than appealing. However, the news that Zico has promised to resign if Port lose has added a much needed bit of spice to the occasion.

The ex-national team coach hasn’t enjoyed the best of starts during his return to club management, but surely after only a dozen or so games in charge, he deserves better than this. As I’m only looking in from the outside, I don’t know all the details, but such action surely hints at much deeper problems for the Klong Toey club, and further reinforces the fact that football has gone completely mad.

Kiatisuk – to give him his Sunday name – had a brief spell in charge of Chonburi back in 2009. During this time, when he was still learning his trade, he showed signs that he would go on to bigger and better things. Reports from the training sessions were positive and performances on the field yielded results. Unfortunately, the senior management – and, it has to be said, a section of the crowd – weren’t convinced, and he moved on after just one full season at the helm.

Personally, I felt he was unfairly treated and deserved more time to build on the foundations he had put in place. That year we won the Kor Royal Cup (his first competitve match in charge), finished second in the league (taking it right up to the penultimate weekend) and reached the last eight of the AFC Cup. Zico also ended the campaign with a 2.07 points per game average, which is still the best return of any of our coaches. Therefore, whatever happens after tomorrow night’s game, I wish him well. I’m certain that someone will come in for him and give the opportunity to prove himself.

As for the game itself, I’m not really expecting much, and suspect most of the entertainment will be provided by what happens off the field. From a Chonburi perspective, this season can’t end soon enough. It really has been a rotten 2017 and I can’t wait to see the back of it.

We have assembled the worst squad in sixteen years, set a number of unwanted records and seen home and away crowds plummet. The only real bright spots have been provided by the emergence of a couple of academy graduates – Panudech in particular being one to watch – and the return to form of Nurul. Other than that, it’s been one to forget. Roll on the 19th of November!

 

The match will be shown live on True4U at 17:45 on Wednesday 20 September, 2017. For those who can’t make it to the stadium, The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13 will be showing the match on a big screen with sound.

 

Rumble In Ratchaburi: Punishments Handed Down

 

Both offending parties from the Rumble in Ratchaburi have had their punishments handed down by the FAT. Former Port striker Thiago Cunha has been given a 5 match ban and a 50,000 baht fine, while Ratchaburi manager Tanawat Nitikanchana, also known as Fluke, has been given a three month ban and a 60,000 baht fine. Additionally, Ratchaburi have been fined 100,000 baht and told to submit an improved security plan, but Chonburi escaped punishment despite their players walking off the pitch.

The Melee at Mitrphol started when Fluke, son of the Ratchaburi owner, came on to the pitch to protest the officials as they walked towards the tunnel at half time of their home clash last week with Chonburi. Professional troll and occasional footballer Thiago then sprayed water at the raging Ratchaburi manager, who responded by punching Thiago in the back of the head. Thiago then emptied the rest of his water in to Fluke’s face and all hell broke loose.

 

 

At some point in the insanity that followed, Thiago was sent off and then punched in the face – reportedly by a security guard. Fluke made a quick dash for the exit, and Thiago came back out on to the pitch with blood pouring from his face. At this point the red mist really descended. Thiago ran down the touchline shouting obscenities and pushed over a security guard before finally being restrained by teammates and more security. Eventually, he was escorted from the pitch, but play did not resume for another 45 minutes or so as the Chonburi players walked off the pitch, came back again and then the officials tried to make sense of what on Earth had just happened. I’ve watched videos, and I’m still not exactly sure of the sequence of events, so apologies if there are any inaccuracies in my timeline.

Those who read our last piece about Thiago will recall that the Barmy Brazilian was at the centre of a brawl in India last December. In the ruckus that followed the final whistle of the Indian Super League semi-final, Thiago drop-kicked an opponent before pegging it towards officials for protection. At Port he also taught the dressing-room door a thing or two about getting in his way after being substituted. Ratchaburi boss Fluke has some form in this area, too. I’m not as well acquainted with incidents he has been involved with, but have seen footage of him shoulder-barging an opposition player who was trying to take a throw-in. Charming!

All in all, what we have here is a spat between two pretty unsavory characters who are either unwilling or incapable of controlling themselves for the good of their team or the game in general. There are differences of opinion on who should be attributed more blame for the incident. I personally think that much more fault lies with Fluke, who initiated the actual violence, but Thiago is obviously at fault for his rampage up and down the touchline in the aftermath. The punishments seem pretty reasonable to me, although the pitiful fines are a bit redundant.

Will we see Crazy Cunha again in Thai football? Only time will tell. If he returns to the Chonburi side immediately after his ban ends, his comeback could be at PAT Stadium, although this depends whether or not cup games are included in the 5 game ban. Don’t worry Thiago, I’m sure the Port fans won’t try to wind you up or anything, and I for one will most certainly not be kitted out in full Muay Thai gear!

 

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:

Farewell Thiago Cunha

When Thiago Cunha was announced as Port’s first new signing for 2016 hopes were high. Despite all the annoying play acting everyone saw this as a big name, and maybe a sign of more big TPL players to come. Thiago always a threat, even at 31 years old he could get 19 or 20 goals a season in the TPL. Surely he would get a hatful in Division 1? We sat around and tried to work out exactly how many goals he would get. 20 in the TPL equals 30 in Division 1? Seems about right maybe even 40? What’s the Division 1 goal scoring record again? That’s bound to go.

Early on in the season you give a striker with his background a bit of leeway, so a slow start wasn’t a massive problem. Unfortunately early on we saw the first of many stretchered trips Thiago would take to the sideline. We slowly realised this was not likely to be a record breaking year. I kept my misguided faith in him longer than most. I still thought he was worth a starting place up to about 10 games in. After a long goal drought it was more hope than expectation. In Thiago’s favour I don’t think he was 100% fit from the start. Port thought they were getting a bargain and Thiago probably thought he could get away with playing at 80% fit in Division 1, his leg injury seemed to be a constant problem. Chonburi you can consider yourself very lucky you didn’t get to see Thiago version 2016.

When you’re not scoring goals you overthink things. Thiago took an extra touch when previously he would have just hit balls first time. He missed goals he could’ve scored blindfolded in 2015. This saw him sidelined more and more as the season went on. Was there some light at the end of the tunnel? When he chipped the Maungthong keeper to put Port 1-0 up in the first leg of the League Cup, he had his moment of glory. For once in the 2016 season PAT Stadium went crazy for Thiago and for a moment everything was going to get better. Unfortunately it was just one moment.

When you are getting 20 goals a season you can dive all over the place and shout the odds. Teammates and fans will always forgive you. However when you’re not, you are just annoying the hell out of everyone. Thiago ended up getting 5 goals in 21 games. Towards the end of his time at Port he drifted on to the bench, deservedly so. He ended up leaving 5 games before the end of the season. Exactly what happened we don’t know, but the last act of Thiago at PAT Stadium was kicking the dressing room door and cursing his old Chonburi friend Jadet Melarp. If a player deserts your team 5 games before the end of the season, it’s normally shite. Oddly his exit ended up having a more positive effect on the team. Now he’s in Mumbai I just hope they get Thiago 2015 scoring regularly, not Thiago 2016 breaking doors.