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Sandpit contributor John Spittal asks a Lions superfan if this season’s Port FC squad is the best ever?

Ho hum, we beat the Scum.

The referee blows the whistle to conclude another slum vs scum classic…er hold off on that word ‘classic.’ How about just another routine Tarua FC win? Bangkok’s most bitter football rivalry has become just another ho hum 3 points in the standings for the slummers. I have been a Port FC supporter since 2013 and I thought I would not live to see the day that a 2-0 thumping of the mighty Muangthong United would be met with no red flares going off in the sandpit and no crazy farangs dancing like um…crazy farangs. It was a mild, laid back celebration by the PAT stadium faithful. A ‘been there, done that’ type of thing. Wow. Are we, Port FC Lions now that good?

We are THAT good.

This current edition of Thai Port FC has 7 straight wins in league play!  back to back to back clean sheets!  undefeated on the road! Defending champions of the Chang FA Cup and in the round of 16 this season. Surely, all these numbers add up to this 2020-2021 squad being considered the best ever Port FC side?

Nattawuth Boonsorn owner of LAAB 38 restaurant

Well, no, not for one superfan…and stop calling him Shirley. His name is Nattawuth Boonsorn and his Thai food restaurant on Sathupradit soi 38 in Yan Nawa is a shrine in tribute to his beloved Port FC. LAAB 38 loosely translated in English is ‘Fortune 38’. It has Port Lions memorabilia adorning every wall in this six table eatery. Port FC players of the past are displayed above the dining tables. In my home country of Canada, Nattawuth would be considered a superfan; maybe even a superduper fan. He and his family attend most home matches and he has been known to close the doors to his popular LAAB 38 for one to two days because a Port FC away trip beckons. Nattawuth fell in love with the Lions the moment he attended his first match in 2009. When I ask him what year was the best ever Port squad he points to a framed team picture of the 2019 Chang FA Cup champions…

2019 Chang FA Cup Champions

but wait…hold on,  that’s his third place winners.

Second place goes to the team picture right next door..the current 2020-21 squad. His favourite player on this year’s Lions…#10 Bordin Phala.

And the winner is….

First place goes to….he points all the way down his wall of fame to a framed team picture of the 2009-10 Port FC Lions.

Huh? Really? A team that finished 4th in league standings, lost twice to the hated rivals MTU? Nattawuth nods and says “yes, but they won the League Cup for the first time and the 2010 Lions, for the first time, qualified for “The AFC Cup” The Asian Football Confederation Cup then a stepping stone for clubs to get into the AFC Champions League. It was a big deal for Thai football squads to qualify for the AFC Cup. Thai port FC was eliminated from the final 8 teams in the 2010 AFC Cup tournament.

Sompong Soleb forward Thai Port FC Lions 2010-11.

Nattawuth points down to a player photo which is in the centre of his wall. “He is why the 2010 club is my favourite.” The emergence of a true Thai football superstar took place on that side. #24 Sompong Soleb (forward) scored 12 goals in 37 appearances for Thai Port FC in 2010-11. He was instrumental in carrying this rag tag bunch from Klong Toei and making them trophy winners and AFC Cup qualifiers. Many long time club supporters still name Sompong as their all time favourite. Sompong Soleb now plays for Chamchuri United in Bangkok.

2010 Thai Port FC AFC Cup qualifiers. Sompong Soleb is circled.

 

Panache minus the Pang

Nattawuth Boonsorn

Nattawuth Boonsorn says he doesn’t know if the current squad can overtake his 2010 side on his favourite list. He thinks there was something very special with that club of 2010. He says they
played with abandon, care free up front but a disciplined defence. A group of ‘nobody believes in us’ football swashbucklers. Nattawuth smiles slyly when I suggest his 2010 squad had “panache minus the Pang”.

And the Band Played On… True Devotion or Blind Faith? Air Force 2-1 Port FC (AET)

 

 

“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”

Michael Corleone – The Godfather, Part 3.

 

I think this was the feeling most of us had after the heroic and totally unexpected 5-2 victory at Pattaya, after a run of games that highlighted just how frustrating being a Port supporter can be. I don’t think any of us in the crowd at Pattaya had contemplated switching allegiances, but we may have been thinking there were more pleasant ways of spending an evening in the company of highly passionate Thais, than watching Port let us down again. After Pattaya, there was a reason to believe once more.

Now, seven days and two, totally contrasting but still abject defeats later, I feel like Basil Fawlty about to take a large branch to his maddeningly unreliable 1967 Austin 1100 Countryman. For the car, substitute Tana (99), who I would willingly give a damn good thrashing with a large Cedar, or indeed, the sorry lot of them. It wasn’t as if we played that badly in conditions entirely unconducive to decent football, but this was Classic Port, albeit far less palatable than a vintage Ferreira, Duque de Bragança.

I really do not wish to say too much about the match; it is too depressing and mirrors a wash, rinse, repeat cycle. I don’t know if there is a collective name for the recently referenced furry rodent, but a ‘repetition of groundhogs’ sounds just about apt. Furthermore, we have pulled the trigger so often we no longer have a foot left to shoot, apart perhaps, from Tana’s. I really am not the best observer either to report on a match played in a stadium where the far goal seems to be in the next province; at my recent, annual medical check-up, my response to the instruction, “Please say the letters on the board on the wall,” was, “What wall?”

 

Pictures finally confirm that Tana plays for the opposition

 

However, if you must know, the flow of the game was interrupted by a rain-sodden pitch, with the ball difficult to move through the surface water and rapidly accumulating mud. Air Force sensibly made better use of the wings, as airmen should, and that is the only pun you are going to get, as this defeat is no laughing matter.  As a result of the conditions, chances were few and far between and it was felt that it would need a defensive slip to decide the game. As it was, when our goal came, it was the result of a rare, slick move down the left, which ended up with Panpanpong (19) setting up Suarez (5) for a simple tap-in. And that, my dear friends, should have been it, especially if Josimar (30) had not delayed his shot when bursting into the box minutes later. Air Force had really produced no threat of note and all Port had to do was use their T1 know-how (cough, splutter) to outwit their strictly second tier opponents.

 

 

All was going swimmingly, as it were, until Worawut (36), who had had a decent game, was too slow off his line, as a cross from the left caught both him and Jetjinn (51) napping. Air Force winger Yodsak (32) made them pay for their indecision as he darted between the defender and the goalkeeper to slot home the simplest of equalizers. And all this, in the 95th and final minute of the game. Bad luck, some might say. Luck has nothing to do with it – it is just shockingly bad game management and we have seen it on endless re-run from Port. Some of the fans around me were berating the Blue Eagles’ players for their time-wasting tactics at the end of extra time but this is exactly what we should have been doing near the end of the 90, not to mention lofting every clearance into row Z or amongst the watching Air Force cadets who looked more like a flutter of settled butterflies than blue eagles. They did a pretty mean Mexican wave though.

Extra-time, with Air Force rejuvenated, saw Port’s goal leading a charmed life, only protected by Worawut producing a thrilling Gordon Banks’ moment (Mexico 1970, for you juveniles) to keep Port in the game. At times Port’s defending was shambolic, with even Rochela (22) being caught in possession in the box before passing it to the nearest opponent.

Then, in the 109th minute, with Port recklessly committed to attack, Air Force broke free; Port were outnumbered at the back and despite further heroics from Worawut or the Post, insult was added to injury by Kayne Vincent (11) scuffing home what would turn out to be the winner. To be fair, Port launched a concentrated assault on the Eagles’ goal in the dying minutes only for Tana, Todsapol (6) and others to find only the goal-keeper’s flailing arms from point blank range; Tana, as usual, feigning injury to somehow excuse his miss. [Ed – Replays suggest he actually took a stray boot to the goolies. After missing, of course…] I can see the point of a left-handed screwdriver but what is the point of Tana?

Which brings me on to the main point in my piece, as suggested in the banner heading. As you may know from my previous articles, I am pretty loyal to Port and will stay loyal, but how much of this shit should we, all fans, put up with before showing some kind of displeasure? I didn’t stay after the game; I was very angry and had no desire to linger on and pay tribute to a team that should have been crawling on it’s hands and knees to the long-suffering crowd amassed behind the goal (and it’s a long way) to beg forgiveness, preferably with their faces plastered in mud to heighten their sense of subjugation.

I have followed Port now for over seven years and have the utmost respect for the loyalty and passion of their wonderful fans; they are to me the best in the country. But, sometimes lads, be a bit more critical. You deserve better than this. When you are in full war-drum mode, I often wonder whether you actually see some of the dross being played out in your name? On Sunday, just as on Wednesday, when your players surrendered meekly to, okay, a very good Bangkok Utd side, you were badly let down. The players need to know this. Don’t stand and applaud, don’t sing to them, tell them in no uncertain terms it is simply not good enough. And then come back and hope it will be better next time, just as I will.

Have a good day y’all.

 

Man of the Match

Worawut, because he was the only one I could recognize without a pair of binoculars. And he pulled off some decent saves.