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I See a Darkness: Power Failure Costs Port

 

Following Sunday’s farcical scenes at the PAT when the season reopening match against Police Tero was abandoned after 87 minutes due to floodlight failure, the FAT handed Port the predicted punishment yesterday – a 50,000THB fine and the win awarded to the away side. You can read a frustrated Tom Earls’ report on the game here. The decision means Tero leapfrog Port in the table and more importantly, in what looks like being the closest T1 title race in years, deprives Port of what could be three vital points come the end of the season.

Even by Port’s standards, 2020 is shaping up to be a calamitous season of poor, misjudged or just downright bizarre decisions. First there was the decision to reduce the stadium capacity by 25% (at a time when the club, having just won the FA Cup, probably had its highest profile ever) by putting in cramped, badly designed seating for one ACL qualifier. Then there was the rather arrogant decision to launch a gold away strip for an ACL campaign that never happened. Then there was the predictable flurry of vanity signings, followed by the shameful treatment handed out to loyal servant and captain David Rochela. And then there was last Sunday, when regular media attendees – including The Sandpit and, more significantly, the guys from Singhphanakon on TV, who have been filming and shooting at Port for years – were refused entrance; Port started with an injured player up front; and, of course, the lights went out causing the game to be abandoned.

I’ve long argued that following Thai football requires a fair amount of suspension of disbelief, a willingness to embrace frequently surreal goings-on, and the occasional bit of nose-holding to cover the stench of corruption, arrogance and certain rampant egos. But what’s happening at Port these days makes it harder and harder to do that. With the talent Port have, a properly managed club would walk the title this season. The fans, and the expensively-assembled squad of quality players, deserve much better from the club’s management, but are sadly unlikely to get it.

 

ModernDog Day Afternoon: Port Reveal Opening Day Programme

 

The new season is a mere five days away, and with Mme Pang splashing the cash on young Thai talent like an oil rig worker on shore leave, it’s no exaggeration to say this is the most hotly anticipated Port season in living memory.

As per usual, the opening day will consist of more than just a game of football, with the club laying on a veritable cornucopia of entertainment to get fans into the stadium early.

Opening Day Programme – 11 February 2018

(NB – the programme is only available in Thai and so my esteemed colleagues Earls & Cartwright have had a stab at translating it, and we apologise in advance for any errors)

15:30 – ‘check paperwork’ – we are unsure if this refers to season ticket collection or some kind of lucky draw. I’m assuming the former, given that there’d be little point having a lucky draw before people actually arrive

16:00 – welcome speech from La Pang. Weeping crowds. Flowers. Farang eye-rolling.

16:15 – video presentation of new kit – as yet it is not clear if said kit will be available for purchase. Based on previous experience, I wouldn’t get your hopes up

16:30 – La Pang thanks the club sponsors and poses for pictures with them. Farangs prostrate themselves at the feet of the Leo representatives

17:00 – ModernDog live. ModernDog are a pretty decent Thai rock band – if memory serves me correctly they supported Mogwai in 2011 and were quite good

18:00 – ModernDog leave the building, Elvis-style (ie sitting on a portaloo eating burgers)

19:00 – the small matter of Port FC vs Pattaya Utd

21:00 – post-match drinking and discussing how long Jadet is going to keep his job if they carry on playing like this

Essentially it means up to 6 hours of drinking, so you are strongly advised to write off Monday, and possibly Tuesday if we win.

The club have also released a short and fairly pointless video teaser, with the club’s 2018 slogan “Never Stop”. I would share it here but unless you were hitherto unaware that David Rochela had a beard you wouldn’t learn anything from it, so here is another, much better video also entitled “Never Stop”.

 

 

 

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What is Love? Baby Don’t Hurt Me: Jadue is Back

 

A quick recap, for those of you who either missed it or have undergone expensive therapy in order to forget it, of Port’s activities during the June transfer window. Port went into the window with seven foreigners on the books – Rochela, Suarez, Josi, Kalu, Genki, Asdrubal & Maranhao. Too many foreigners obviously, so Port addressed this by bringing in an eighth in the form of Chilean-Palestinian Matias Jadue. Then Maranhao was brought into the squad at the expense of Kalu, and played very well at Suphanburi. Then Maranhao suddenly signed for Sukhothai, and was replaced with Kalu, thus using up the club’s two permitted foreign transfers. Jadue disappeared again, and Asdrubal moved to Australia. Kalu came back into the team and scored a couple of goals, then broke his contract and returned to Serbia last week to be closer to his family, only to pitch up in New Zealand this morning. All clear so far?

Well if coach Zico’s Instagram feed is any indicator, and given that Instagram is Port’s preferred means of announcing transfers it probably is, Jadue – pronounced Had-way, hence the hilarious headline of this article – is back in training with Port, presumably as cover for Josimar in cup games as we don’t think he’ll be allowed to play in T1 given that Port have already used up their foreign transfers for the season.

We saw Jadue in a friendly a few weeks back and he didn’t look like he was any improvement on what we had already (ie Maranhao or Asdrubal). However with Port’s attack now looking emptier than Jadet’s salad drawer, Jadue at least gives Zico another option either in attack or just behind the strikers, and has to be a better substitute option than Tana or Wuttichai. Welcome back Matias!

 

 

These Are the Breaks: Thai Football’s Dumber Summer

 

Today’s Bangkok Post features an excellent article on the stop-start nature of the 2017 T1 season. Following a 3-week break in June so the Thai national team could play a pointless friendly in Uzbekistan, followed by a World Cup dead rubber against UAE, the season resumed last Saturday…for 3 weeks. During which time Port will play 7 games. Then – are you following this? – there’s another 3-week break whilst Muangthong – oops I meant the Thai national team – take on the might of Belarus, North Korea & Burkina Faso in the King’s Cup tournament (rumours that next year’s tournament will feature Saudi Arabia, the Death Star and the Planet Mongo have yet to be confirmed). The season then resumes again on 30 July for 2 games, followed by an absurd 5-week break for two more World Cup dead rubbers. Effectively this means Port will have 1 home league game – vs Chiang Rai on 30 July – in 10 weeks, during what should be the middle of the season. Somehow, some way, the FA also have to squeeze in FA and League Cup games during the brief periods of footballing activity.

We’re told that the reason for all these breaks is to benefit the national team, as if helping the national team is the sole purpose of the Thai League. So to help a Thailand team composed of players drawn mainly from 3-4 clubs, the rest of the league have to sit around twiddling their thumbs for weeks on end, whilst players lose match fitness, teams lose momentum, and, most importantly, fans lose interest. The crowd at Suphanburi last Saturday for the first game of the 2nd leg of the season was surprisingly sparse, as was the crowd at high-flying Chonburi a few weeks ago, but with such a badly organised schedule, is it really any wonder?

As for the theory that these breaks benefit the national team, Thailand’s position in their World Cup qualifying group doesn’t exactly bear this out, and successful teams like Germany and Spain have done alright in recent years without asking their entire league to shut down for several weeks to give them more prep time for internationals. Not that I give a toss about the national team anyway, given that the racist ticketing policy means that, as a farang, I’m not allowed to buy tickets. But I do care – hard though it often is – about watching Port.

Additionally, think of the clubs’ cashflow. Is it reasonable to expect clubs to go 3 weeks, followed by another 5 weeks, without any gate receipts, during which time they still have to pay their players’ wages in full whilst those same players don’t play a single second of football? Fine for the richer clubs, but a big deal to the smaller ones.

In the next couple of years, the problem is likely to get worse rather than better, with the top division being reduced to 16 teams by the 2019 season, to enable the national team to have even more preparation time. That means even fewer games for fans, and less revenue for the clubs. Factor in the tighter foreign player limit in 2018, and you have a product even less attractive than it is now.

So as we fans find other ways to spend our weekends whilst the league takes a break so that Burkina Faso can take on Belarus, the Thai FA shouldn’t be too surprised if some of us decide not to bother coming back. Seriously, Thai fans – especially the passionately loyal ones at Port – deserve a lot, lot better.