A league in crisis?

14 December 2022

Thai League 2 – mid season review

My half term review of Thai League 2 has to start by asking the question – is T2 in crisis and can it survive under the current structure?

The answers are probably yes and no, but qualified by the fact than our football administrators will likely ignore the problem in the hope that it goes away. The League is at or is close to breaking point; doing nothing would be a poor, but likely, choice,

The issues are multiple; low or unpaid salaries; falling attendances; lack of sponsorship funds; dependency on a high net worth owner or on the support of a League 1 parent. This becomes self – fulfilling. Fewer fans attend matches; sponsors look elsewhere; while operating costs increase. Quality diminishes.

373 goals have been scored in 153 matches this season. 2.44 per game. At the same time last season 449 goals had been scored at 2.94 per game. A 17% reduction.

In 2021/22 five teams had scored more than 30 times at the half way point. This season there are only three teams that have scored just 30. None have scored more.

The average crowd at home games across the League is just 822. Seven clubs have an average crowd of over 1,000 at home games with six clubs averaging less than 500.

The last comparable season was 2019. Covid has blighted attendances for the last two seasons. In 2019 13 clubs averaged over 1,000 per game (4 were over 2,500) and the average attendance was 1,583.

Crowds are almost down to 50% of the pre-covid attendance.

Chiang Mai FC, Samut Prakan City FC and Customs United FC all depend on the support – players, coaching staff and financial of a League 1 parent; Bangkok Glass, Chonburi and Port FC.

Basically under this structure none of these teams could (or should)  be promoted to League 1 without creating a serious conflict of interest. For example see Chiang Rai United’s title winning season in 2019. It is also unlikely that the proud parents would want to see their T2 offspring in League 1 just on the grounds of operating costs.

Therefore it is a good thing that the top seven teams midway through the season operate independently.

NakhonSi United are this year’s Lamphun. Promoted from T3 last season they even hired Wanderley Jnr. who coached Lamphun to the T2 title last season and was promptly released. They are big, physical, fit and move the ball forward at every opportunity. Sounds familiar.

Suphanburi FC are this year’s Sukhothai. Relegated last season from T1 they have quietly and effectively rebuilt and are currently level on points with NakhonSi United.

In third place sits Nakhon Pathom FC. They have scored just 17 goals this season – but more importantly conceded just nine. They are the Scrooge of Thai League 2. They have a league leading five wins from nine games on the road where, remarkably, they have only conceded just  twice. Peter Nergaard has scored in each of the club’s last five games.

The remaining play off places are currently occupied by Ayutthaya, Phrae United and Rajpracha.

Eighteen of Ayutthaya’s goals have come from their newly discovered Brazilians – Nilson and Gustavinho. Top of the league in early November they have only picked up one point from their last five games.

Rajpracha are the surprise name in the top six. Divorced from BGPU at the end of last season the club turned to the land-locked West African Republic of Mali for an in injection of young talent. Diawara, Konare and Sidibe have been the surprise heart of the team. Financial concerns and the departure of some players (for instance Atthawit to Chiang Mai United) suggest a more difficult second half of the season.

Two clubs that have underperformed. Chainat who have just one point from nine games on the road and Chiang Mai United after a dismally slow start to the season and a change of coach. Chiang Mai United will play 10 of their remaining 17 matches at home; that may prove significant. They did host the biggest League 2 crowd so far this season – 2,916 for the Chiang Mai derby. Most were penned in the away end!

The pre-season thought was that Udon Thani had navigated through their financial problems and started to build a competitive squad. But their early season was a soap opera and injuries and player departures have further weakened the club. Just two home wins and two away draws leave them 7 points from safety. They and Krabi will continue to battle to survive. After a 0-6 defeat at Uthai Thani Ranong appear to have given up.

Seventeen players have scored six or more goals in the first half of the season. The only Thai players on that list are Phodchara (Customs) and the veteran Ronnachai (Rajpracha).

Goal of the season to date, and for the next millennium, has to be Poomphat Sarapisitphat’s strike for Nakhon Si United at home to Kasetsart, reflected in the look of stunned bewilderment on the goalkeeper’s face.

As last year showed all too well the season really only starts in January. So before the season restarts over the weekend on 7/8 January I will look at the main player arrivals and departures from our League 2 teams and how they may impact the second half of the season.
As for a League in crisis. If the Thai League had any desire to preserve the quality and integrity of the League they would be applying far more stringent financial controls on the clubs and creating a mechanism that allows well-backed and supported clubs from League 3 to fast-track into League 2.

Promoting just three teams from a League of almost 80 clubs does little to reward ambition. Songkhla, Sisaket United, Phitsanulok and Pattaya Dolphins would all be strong, well-supported, contenders in T2.

Other options would be to create a smaller League 3. One League or a North/South split and to move some of the perennially weaker T3 sides into the new regional semi-professional League. Also ban any team from competing in T2 that is owned and controlled by a League 1 team; at the same time restricting the number of loan players that can come from any single team.

Just a few thoughts that assume that the best way to get fans back into the stadia is to give them a product that excites and entertains.

For now I wish you all a Merry Christmas, a happy holiday and a very peaceful and prosperous new year.


Ninety wasted minutes

Stenio leaves CMFC

Thai League 2 – 2022-2023

Sunday 11 December 2022
Chiang Mai FC 1 Samut Prakan City FC 1  
Crowd: 1,163

Chiang Mai FC:

Fahas
Suwannapat
Filipovic
Piyachanok
Stewart
Saharat
Ronnayod
Thammayut
Pongrawit
Tawan
Kim BoYong

No jingle bells here. No ho, ho, ho, Just an ugly game of football.

Made worse by a referee who had neither control nor consistency.

Against an opposition that, at least for this game, had embraced shithousery.

And in front of the head coach, Matt Smith, and his assistant, from Bangkok Glass. On this performance he may want to leave all his loan players in Chiang Mai.

There was a return to one of his old clubs for Decha Sa-Ardchom, a Norman Hunter of Thai football, who as captain for the night had molded the team in his own image.

That is almost all I feel like writing but I guess a few more details are needed.

My regular reader will know that I have beaten the drum about starting Pongrawit and Tawan together. It took until the 17th game; it finally happened; and after 19 minutes they were both involved in opening the scoring with the only moment of quality in the first half.

Before that Fahas had made a smart save low to his left and the referee had set out his stall by failing to punish two poor Samut Prakan challenges before rightly booking Ronnayod for hauling down Pardsakorn outside the penalty area as the winger sped past him.

Nineteen minutes gone and Pongrawit’s run down the right side released Stewart whose chipped cross was too good for either the goalkeeper or two defenders as it looped to Tawan who rose well to nod home at the far post.

Supawat in the Samut Prakan goal was quick to leave his line to save at the feet of Tawan running onto a pass from Kim Bo Yong and then to beat Kim to a long ball forward from Thammayut.

Thammayut was then booked for a challenge on Pardsakorn by the near touchline. Nattapong’s curling left foot ball into the penalty area should probably have been turned in by Wanchat; instead it required good reactions from Fahas to push the bouncing ball out of harm’s way.

The second half opened with the Nigerian defender Aneni being booked for hauling down Stewart 25 yards out from goal. Pongrawit’s freekick was narrowly over the crossbar.

Suchanon’s long run down the left saw the ball break for Tawan whose low left foot cross ricocheted between the goalkeeper and Pongrawit and was scrambled clear in the 6 yard box.

Aneni, already booked, then brought down Suchanon as the home side broke forward. The referee was lenient and Im Chang Kyoon’s free-kick was comfortably caught by Supawat.

Phomthamit squared up to Stewart and Suwannapat went down after an off the ball incident that the officials did not see.

Phommin and Chatchai replaced Tawan and Suchanon with 13 minutes left as CMFC sought to protect their one goal lead. Was this being too negative too soon?

Minutes later a left wing cross was curled in by Nattapong. Fahas stayed on his line and Nonthaput attacked the ball running between Suwit and Sarawan (two other late substitutions)  to head into Fahas’ bottom left corner.

There was one injury time chance for CMFC as Chatchai’s little reverse pass released Kim BoYong some 12 yards from goal. Supawat was very quick off his line to block the chance.

Samut Prakan were not pretty; but they were fit and strong and did not back out of a single challenge all night. Supawat in goal was brave and determined.

With nine teams in mid table separated by just five points there is everything to play for in the second half of the season.

Christmas comes early

Picture – Official CMFC

Thai League 2 2022-2023

Sunday 4 December 2022

Udon Thani FC 0 Chiang Mai FC 3

Chiang Mai FC:
Fahas
Suwannapat
Filipovic
Sarawut
Stewart
Ronnayod
Thammayut
Saharat
Pongrawit
Suchanon
Kim BoYong

Christmas came early tonight in Udon Thani with the gift of Chiang Mai’s second goal which dimmed the early efforts of the home side at the start of the second half.

Filipovic returned to the starting XI. For the fans there are few better sights than our mountainous centre-half either advancing at pace down the pitch or launching into a thunderous tackle.

His first such tackle was as early as the fourth minute when he made up yards of ground to block Arnold Suew from shooting in the penalty area.

Suchanon and Pongrawit also returned to a starting line up that more resembled how we finished against Chainat last week.

Pongrawit’s ninth minute corner hit the far post before being cleared to safety.

Chiang Mai continued to apply pressure and Ronnayod’s cross from the right side bounced off Suchanon under pressure from the Udon Thani goalkeeper, Korrakot, and fell for Kim BoYong, unmarked in the six yard area, to thump home left footed.

Udon Thani’s best first half moments came from corners which CMFC struggled  to defend. Teeratep’s corner was headed wide by Suew and from a corner on the far side Fahas’ unconvincing punch fell for Aung Kaung Mann whose shot clipped the crossbar.

Finally in first half injury time CMFC cleared the last corner of the half to Saranyoo (I think!) whose return shot was straight at Fahas.

An evenly contested first half finished with Chiang Mai leading 1-0.

Udon Thani started the second half brightly – especially down the far side where a free kick (probably meant as a cross) was bent past the far post and Fahas made a diving save away to his right.

Korrakot was looking a little unsettled in the Udon Thani goal. He fumbled a rather tame fee kick from Pongrawit and then made what can only be described as a dogs dinner of a back pass from his right back.

It was an easy ball to deal with; maybe the keeper was aware of the onrushing Kim BoYong; but he took a heavy first touch and Kim was able to drag the ball away from the keeper, turn and then tuck the ball into the goal from a narrow angle. Opportunism from one; costly carelessness from the other.

Ten minutes later and the game was over; Stewart’s long throw fell for Chatchai, on as substitute and playing against his old club; twelve yards out from goal he had time to turn on the penalty spot and shoot underneath the goalkeeper who again may think he should have done better.

A tip of the hat to the Udon Thani fans who drummed and sang for all 90 minutes; they have had a difficult season but were still loud and proud.

On a day when NakhonSi United (at Suphanburi) and the other Chiang Mai football club (at home to Phrae) both lost this was a valuable three points as the gap between the top ten or so clubs in the league narrows once again, with eight points separating the top nine clubs.

Out last home game of 2022 and the last game of the first half of the season is at home to Samut Prakan City next Sunday, 11 December, at 18.30pm.

Grim times

Dickens

It is increasingly hard for me to write anything about some of the biggest news stories of the day.

I used to share view on so much of the daily news; but somehow my leisurely lifestyle in Chiang Mai feels a very long way from world events; and worse that that it is increasingly clear that whatever I may think there is little that I can do.

And if I do rant then I will only antagonise those with differing views in an increasingly polarised world.
I have had my fair share of twitter abuse; some of it quite unpleasant; my voice, like so many others, is simply then silenced.

Healthy disagreement should not be an excuse for abuse. Worse than that – anonymous abuse. It is so easy to hide at a keyboard while insulting, offending as many people as possible; with zero repercussions.

I simply care less about this than I should. I have become disengaged.

It does not mean that I have stopped reading; it does not mean that I do not have strong views on right and wrong. The social conscience that my old school housemaster wrote about still exists.

But I have given up (most of) the fight. I am sure I not alone. The trolls have taken over the asylum. That is not everyone. But it is remarkable how many people simply want to fight but not be seen; who have the sense of entitlement that they can throw their vitriol without consequences.

There are times when I seriously hate what this world has become and how we as humans are failing the basic responsibilities of kindness and compassion.

Chainat pay the penalty

Seeing red

Thai League 2 2022-2023

Saturday 26 November 2022
Chiang Mai FC 2 Chainat Hornbill FC 1  

Chiang Mai FC:


Fahas
Suwannapat
Sarawut
Piyachanok
Stewart
Saharat
Ronnayod
Kiadtisak
Thammayut
Gustavsson
Kim BoYong

(Apologies – I forgot to post this earlier to it appears out of sequence)

A Kim BoYong penalty and a smart far post finish from Suchanon gave Chiang Mai a come from behind win against a Chainat side that in the first half had looked capable of securing their first away win of the season.

The lowest home crowd of the season, 836, saw an unexpected starting line-up with Filipovic on the bench, together with Suchanon, Suwit, Tawan and Pongrawit. While Thammayut offered width on the left Stewart had simply too much ground to cover unsupported on the right side.

An early run from Gustavsson drew a foul from Apichok who was booked. It would not be his last offense. Thammayut’s free kick narrowly cleared the cross bar.

Chainat’s approach was straightforward. They are not a big team; crosses into the area were gobbled up by PIyachanok and Suwannapat. Chainat needed to look for balls in behind the Chiang Mai defense for their forwards to run onto.

Chatuphum was beaten to one such ball by Fahas rushing outside his area to make a tackle.

A mazy run from Chatuphum on the left set up Tanayut and his eighteen yard shot was well grasped by Fahas diving to his left.

A Ronnayod run and cross reached Kim BoYong but his close range effort was scrambled clear by Chaiyapat in goal.

Five minutes before half time Chainat scored in the style that they had been threatening. Sarayut’s through ball had enough pace to beat Sarawut and reach Poomipat who very calmly took a touch before sliding the ball past the advancing Fahas.

Chiang Mai needed to make changes. They did; and then dominated the second half. Tawan replaced Gustavsson and Pongrawit replaced Kiadtisak.  Both offered pace and width that had previously been missing.

Thammayut was still enjoying his wide role on the left; a well struck low cross evaded both Kim and Tawan. Minutes later his cross needed an excellent defensive header from Warinthorn.

It was all Chiang Mai with the option to go direct or down either wing.

63 minutes gone and Kim BoYong timed his run perfectly onto a Sarawut’s long ball over the top and into the penalty area; goalside of Ninlomat he was hauled down. There was no questioning the penalty. And Ninlomat knew that he was getting a red card. Chainat were down to ten men.

Chainat’s leading scorer Diego Silva came on but was no threat.

The referee needed to be firmer with the gamesmanship around the penalty. Chainat making two slow substitutions while their defenders sledged Kim.

The Korean forward’s revenge was to calmy slide the ball to the goalkeeper’s left for 1-1.

Almost five minutes passed from the foul in the area to scoring the penalty. Not good enough from the officials.

Minutes later Suchanon was at the back post to score from Stewart’s excellent first time cross from the right side.

Stewart came close to adding a third with a left foot shot inches over the crossbar.

At the other end Fahas made a solid stop at the near post from a free kick.

Any sympathy for Chainat’s young side evaporated with a shocking final minute challenge by Apichok who launched himself two-footed into Tawan with the sort of disgraceful tackle that breaks limbs and that has no place on any football pitch.

Tawan fortunately appeared mostly unharmed.

Against ten men and a side that has only one point away from home this season it did seem as though the home side was hanging on for a win; the end of match celebrations were a sign of that relief.

It was, for everyone at or around CMFC, a much needed three points.

Next Sunday, 4 December, CMFC travel to Udon Thani – kick off is an early start at 5.30pm

On a personal note this was a family outing with my two favourite people coming with me to the game. It is over three years since I last saw my son, Alex. Such a treat to see him. He may not admit it but I think he even enjoyed the football!

Christmas comes early

Coach Fukuda channeling his inner Rodin

Thai League 2 2022-2023

Sunday 4 December 2022

Udon Thani FC 0 Chiang Mai FC 3

Christmas comes early

Chiang Mai FC:
Fahas
Suwannapat
Filipovic
Sarawut
Stewart
Ronnayod
Thammayut
Saharat
Pongrawit
Suchanon
Kim BoYong

Christmas came early tonight in Udon Thani with the gift of Chiang Mai’s second goal which dimmed the early efforts of the home side at the start of the second half.

Filipovic returned to the starting XI. For the fans there are few better sights than our mountainous centre-half either advancing at pace down the pitch or launching into a thunderous tackle.

His first such tackle was as early as the fourth minute when he made up yards of ground to block Arnold Suew from shooting in the penalty area.

Suchanon and Pongrawit also returned to a starting line up that more resembled how we finished against Chainat last week.

Pongrawit’s ninth minute corner hit the far post before being cleared to safety.

Chiang Mai continued to apply pressure and Ronnayod’s cross from the right side bounced off Suchanon under pressure from the Udon Thani goalkeeper, Korrakot, and fell for Kim BoYong, unmarked in the six yard area, to thump home left footed.

Udon Thani’s best first half moments came from corners which CMFC struggled  to defend. Teeratep’s corner was headed wide by Suew and from a corner on the far side Fahas’ unconvincing punch fell for Aung Kaung Mann whose shot clipped the crossbar.

Finally in first half injury time CMFC cleared the last corner of the half to Saranyoo (I think!) whose return shot was straight at Fahas.

An evenly contested first half finished with Chiang Mai leading 1-0.

Udon Thani started the second half brightly – especially down the far side where a free kick (probably meant as a cross) was bent past the far post and Fahas made a diving save away to his right.

Korrakot was looking a little unsettled in the Udon Thani goal. He fumbled a rather tame fee kick from Pongrawit and then made what can only be described as a dog’s dinner of a back pass from his right back.

It was an easy ball to deal with; maybe the keeper was aware of the onrushing Kim BoYong; but he took a heavy first touch and Kim was able to drag the ball away from the keeper, turn and then tuck the ball into the goal from a narrow angle. Opportunism from one; costly carelessness from the other.

Ten minutes later and the game was over; Stewart’s long throw fell for Chatchai, on as substitute and playing against his old club; twelve yards out from goal he had time to turn on the penalty spot and shoot underneath the goalkeeper who again may think he should have done better.

A tip of the hat to the Udon Thani fans who drummed and sang for all 90 minutes; they have had a difficult season but were still loud and proud.

On a day when NakhonSi United (at Suphanburi) and the other Chiang Mai football club (at home to Phrae) both lost this was a valuable three points as the gap between the top ten or so clubs in the league narrows once again, with eight points separating the top nine clubs.

Out last home game of 2022 and the last game of the first half of the season is at home to Samut Prakan City next Sunday, 11 December, at 18.30pm.

Wrong place, wrong time, wrong message – Qatar 2022

The mascot of Qatar 2022

A friend (yes I do still have one or two) left me a message yesterday – “I went looking for your thoughts on the World Cup on “rascott.com” and didn’t see any.”

There are so many other commentaries on this world cup that it feels churlish to try and write about it – I am not going to add anything new. So here does!

My eleven years in Dubai should give me some insight. It does. There is a great deal about the gulf states that should make people very uncomfortable – in particular the treatment of migrant workers – without whom, and without their vast numbers, city states and emirates like Qatar and Dubai would not exist.

Here is John Oliver for HBO’s Last Word Tonight on FIFA/Qatar and the World Cup from two weeks ago at the beginning of the tournament.

It is a tournament being held in the wrong place; at the wrong time and is sending out some appalling messages, mainly that if your throw enough money at something people will forget or ignore all that is wrong.

Remember Qatar was awarded the world cup back in 2010. They bid (as everyone had to) for a summer world cup. Qatar was very much the Gulf’s ignored state. Even Bahrain still carried greater weight. But propelled by its natural gas wealth Qatar could look at Dubai and say that it could be bigger, bolder and brasher.

FIFA eventually realised that a summer world cup in Qatar was impossible; at which point they should have torn up and dismissed the Qatar bid. Instead FIFA bent over in every direction to accommodate Qatar and to play a winter world cup which the other bidding nations of course had never been allowed to bid for.

I should preface this by saying that I have defended the idea of a Middle East World Cup – every nation in the Middle East embraces football – they just tend to watch foreign teams in preference to their own.

Indeed the Qatar World Cup may have gone a long way to mending divides in the Middle East – Qatar was involved in a pretty serious, if non-violent, conflict with a range of their neighbours very recently. From 2017 to the start of 2021 a coalition of Arab countries, led by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic relations with Qatar and blockaded the country, effectively trying to isolate them from the world.

This led to consequences as varied as the Saudi-Qatar land border being closed, to Qatar Airways being banned from the airspaces of several nations, to a variety of countries instructing their citizens to leave Qatar, to the feed of beIN Sports being pirated in Saudi Arabia. The dispute was ultimately settled in January 2021. Neither side won.

Did the World Cup enable an end of the dispute? Thousands of fans are staying in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Bahrain and commuting into Doha on special World Cup charters. Mohammed bin Salman was feted as a guest of honour at the opening ceremony. A region that has always had its share of tribal, territorial and family disputes looks more united than ever.

Will this new found unity continue long after the last kick?

The idea of a single city world cup was admirable. There are 11 time zones in Russia where the 2018 tournament was played. Brazil in 2014 took teams from the tropics in the north to the southern hemisphere winter chills. Canada, USA, Mexico (CUM – oh dear!) will be a travel/logistical/expense nightmare for players and fans.

In Doha supporters, players and officials stay in one hotel or camp for as long as they remain in Dubai. The new metro system takes supporters to the eight stadia. The longest distance between any two venues is 35 miles 46kms) and some are within sight of one another. It is prohibitively expensive – but this is a World Cup for the well-heeled and well-finance fans.

The human toll of this world cup is execrable. It was not just stadiums that were being built – a new airport; a metro system; some 100 hotels, roads, all of the supporting infrastructure. And being built in daytime temperatures that exceed 50 C in the summer months.

This week the Qatari official responsible for delivery of the 2022 World Cup has said the number of migrant workers who have died on World Cup-related projects is “between 400 and 500”.

Previously the authorities had claimed the number was just three.

Hassan al-Thawadi, the secretary general of the Supreme Committee for delivery and legacy, made the admission in an interview but said a precise figure for the number of fatalities was still “being discussed”.

“The estimate is around 400,” Thawadi told the TV show Piers Morgan Uncensored. “Between 400 and 500. I don’t have the precise number, that is something that is being discussed.

After the interview there was anger at Thawadi’s comments with Nicholas McGeehan of the advocacy group Fair Square saying: “This is just the latest example of Qatar’s inexcusable lack of transparency on the issues of workers’ deaths. We need proper data and thorough investigations, not vague figures announced through media interviews. Fifa and Qatar still have a lot of questions to answer, not least where, when, and how did these men die and did their families receive compensation.”

The Supreme Committee has always maintained there have been only three work-related fatalities and 37 non-work-related deaths among migrant workers at World Cup stadiums since construction for the tournament began in 2014.

In 2021 the Guardian published research that showed that more than 6,500 migrant workers fhad died in Qatar between the start of 2011, the year after country won the right to host the World Cup, and 2020.

The Qatari government did not dispute the Guardian’s figures, but said that “the mortality rate among these communities is within the expected range for the size and demographics of the population”. The official figure of three stadium work-related World Cup deaths was repeated by Fifa and used in a speech by its president, Gianni Infantino, in an address to the European Council this year.

Infantino sees FIFA as his feifdom and appears happiest with autocrats and dictators. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is rumoured to be bidding for the 2030 World Cup.

What about Russia? – cry the Qatari loyalists. What about human rights abuses in your own countries? What about colonalism? What about slavery?

There is so much diversion and delusion. It is possible to be more than angry at one thing. It is also possible to hope that past lessons have been learned. It is also possible to accept that two wrongs do not make a right – that something was done before does not justify repeating it.

The Qatari bid and message said everyone was welcome. But it is clear than many are not. The migrant workers as in Duabi are kept out of sight; there is no interaction with the rest of the population or visitors. The LGBTQ community are told to conform; many will have chosen simply not to attend.

And many who have attended will have enjoyed a wonderful spectacle in a very special atmosphere. There have been shock results; shock exits and some heart-pounding football.

Qatar is a global crossroads; the local population are vastly outnumbered by imported workers and now by football fans. The African, Asian and Middle East fans have lit up this world cup with colour and noise.

The European nations are not bossing the tournament. Germany, Belgium and Denmark are already on their way home. Honestly none of them will be missed. Japan beat both Germany and Spain – brilliant.

Saudi Arabia beat Argentina. Australia and Morocco are both in the last 16.

The late decision not to see alcohol in the stadiums seems like common sense.

Here is ITV’s main presenter Mark Pougatch on twitter with his assessment of the tournament that is now almost down to the final 16 teams. FIFA and the Qatar authorities will be happy.

“An honest assessment of #Qatar2022 from a broadcaster’s perspective…

The atmosphere 👏
No alcohol 👍
One-city World Cup 🤝

How have you seen this #FIFAWorldCup so far? pic.twitter.com/H9oeuCIpVM— Mark Pougatch (@markpougatch) December 1, 2022

Twitter

But this is not about a conflict where the two sides offset eachother. It is very reasonable to praise the football, the organisation and the atmosphere – while at expressing concern and anger at human rights issues, migrant worker deaths and the huge environmental impact of building eight air conditioned stadiums for just a few weeks use.

This link takes you to The Guardians’ excellent page on “Qatar: beyond the football” collecting together years of reporting on the issues around the Qatar World Cup

The football could linger long in the memory. That is the players’ legacy. But no one should forget all the rights & lives sacrificed for this World Cup. That is FIFA’s legacy.



Phommin’s nightmare

Thai League 2

2022-2023

Saturday 19 November 2022

Rajpracha FC 1 Chiang Mai FC 0

Chiang Mai FC:

Fahas
Suwannapat
Filipovic
Suwit
Stewart
Ronnayod
Srithai
Pongrawit
Im ChangKyoon
Kim BoYong
Gustavsson

It may be harsh to blame this defeat on one person or a single moment. But since I am still angry about both the defeat and the rather mai-pen-rai reaction someone has to be yelled at.

Phommin had come on for Srithai with five minutes of normal time to play.

His first challenge (in reality a body check) should have earned him a booking; his second was little better and his third three minutes into added time earned him a booking and gave the home side a free kick mid-left of the Chiang Mai half.

Kittisak’s inswinging free kick would have been dealt with by Filipovic as he had all night; instead Phommin decided he should be first to the ball and his flicked header redirected the ball inside Fahas’ far post; the goalkeeper had no chance. It was the sort of finish that our strikers must dream of; but at the wrong end.

It was the end of a miserable 10 minute cameo for the CMFC midfielder – and it is genuinely hard to tell what, or if, he was thinking. Just horrible.

Otherwise it had been a decent 0-0 draw with both sides creating opportunities but both looking desperately short of confidence and awareness in front of goal.

It was thirty minutes before the first half saw any meaningful action. By then Chiang Mai had already lost Pongrawit to an injury in a tackle and Im ChangKyoon to a hamstring problem.

A strong Suwit run down the left side ended as so many do with a hasty, albeit powerful, angled shot straight at Phatcharaphong in goal.

Ronnayod’s deep free kick was met by Filipovic at the far post; his header back into the six yard box beat Supawit and ran perfectly for Kim BoYong whose stabbed the ball from close range into the foot of the Rajpracha keeper. The ball rebounded back to Kim and bounced off the Chiang Mai forward wide of the post.

A minute later Samroeng looped over a deep cross from the right; Stewart found himself on the wrong side of Teerwut and bundled him over. It was clear penalty.

Fahas, however has had a lot of penalty practice this week. “Sam” Ronnachai took the kick – left footed – dive left. Fahas made another fine stop pushing the low shot onto the post.

Half time. 0-0. Chiang Mai emerged with an encouraging urgency with Kim BoYong and Patrik Gustavssom taking turns to give eachother gilt-edged chances that neither could convert.

A long clearance was headed by Gustavsson finding Kim in space running into the penalty area. With time to pick either side of the goalkeeper his shot cleared the crossbar.

Phatcharapong then kept out a well struck Gustavsson shot.

Another one touch ball from Gustavsson for Kim was touched out for a corner by Diawara’s outrageously long leg.

Two corners were defended with difficulty by Rajpracha; but after weathering this initial storm the home side would come back into the game. An Atthawit drive from 22 yards was athletically tuned over by Fahas.

Konare, the third of Rajpracha’s three Mali players, drew a fine save from Fahas sprawling low to his left.

At the other end Suwit’s fine cross evaded both Phatcharaphong and Diawara – but Gustavsson at the far post was unable to do better than turn the ball into the side netting.

This felt like time to push Filipovic up front and to create some havoc in the Rajpracha penalty area. Perhaps both coaches were already settling for a point.

Into injury time and a fine direct run on goal by Gustavsson deserved better than a rather tame shot at the goalkeeper. Chiang Mai’s last chance before Phommin’s late moment of madness.

Four defeats in our last five league games is relegation form largely due to our inability to convert goal attempts into goals. Suchanon and Tawan were both out of the squad though injury. Kim and Gustavsson have a solitary league goal between them this season. There will need to be changes in the season break.

Shootout at the Tessabaan

Picture: CMFC Official

REVO League Cup – 2022-2023
Round of 32

Wednesday 16 November 2022

Chiang Mai FC 0 Sukhothai FC 0
Chiang Mai FC win 8-7 on penalties.  

Chiang Mai FC:

Fahas
Thammayut
Piyachanok
Sarawut
Sarawin
Kiadtisak
Phommin
Tawan
Suchanon
Amornthep
Gustavsson

After 120 minutes goal-less minutes this cup tie was settled by the high drama of an eighteen penalty shoot-out.

After 18 minutes of penalties Sukhothai’s Pattarapon missed their ninth when Fahas sprawled to his right to make the save; Sarawut, who had an excellent outing as one of two centre-backs stepped up and lashed the ball past Suttipong for a memorable win.

Goalkeeper Fahas was the only survivor of the team that beat Trat at the weekend as coach Fukuda sent out an entirely new outfield for this REVO Cup tie with League 1 Sukhothai.

On a bumpy pitch the game itself was long on effort but shorter on quality. Until the drama of the penalty shoot-out.

Chiang Mai perhaps had the clearer chances in the first half but rarely troubled the Sukhothai goalkeeper; Suchanon shooting high, Amornthep heading and then shooting over as he opted for power over precision.

Meanwhile Fahas saved a deflected free kick at the near post; then dived to his right to gather Peeranat’s low shot, and pushed away Pattarapon’s header at the near post from a free kick by Sarawut.

Pattarapon could also have done better than volleying over a corner at the far post

Stalemate at half time. Suwit replaced Tawan on the left side.

The second half was livelier and was dominated by the home side. Gustavsson’s shot was deflected for a corner; Thammayut and Phommin both tried, rather pointlessly, to score from near the half way line.  

At the other end Sukhothai’s Sarawut volleyed over the crossbar from close range.

Into the last quarter of regular time and Im ChangKyoon’s free kick reached Chiang Mai’s Sarawut on the right side of the penalty area; he shot wide from a good position. A Suwit ball in from the left reached  the stretching Amornthep who once again shot over.

Kim BoYong created space in the penalty area for a powerful right-foot shot – but straight at Suthipong.

Better followed when Im ChangKyoon cut inside from the left wing, found space between two defenders and curled a shot towards the far post – where Sutthipong leapt to his left to claw the ball away.

And so to extra time; Amornthep once again blasted over from a good position; then his hard low cross has a little too much momentum and escaped Gustavsson.

As the end of extra time approached Chiang Mai did have one last chance after Kiattisak sprinted the length of the pitch and won a corner; the corner found Kim BoYong who scooped his shot over the crossbar.

Basically Chiang Mai had battered Sukhothai through the second half and extra time without having the composure or good fortune to score. What was impressive was the fitness of the side and their persistence.

And so to penalties; Sukhothai would go first which is usually an advantage in a shoot-out. Eighteen penalties were taken; impressively none missed the target; three were saved.

First up for Sukhothai was Anuchit, last week’s goalscorer at BGPU, Fahas diving to his right and saving with a strong left hand.

Im ChangKyoon was first up for Chiang Mai and his penalty was also saved. After that Kim BoYong, Phommin, Tanin, Kiadtisak, Amornthep, Chatchai, Suwit (an outrageous penalty!) and finally Sarawut all scored. Fahas had saved Pattarapon’s ninth Sukhothai penalty.

It was high drama; the crowd of 696 loved it. The celebrations were joyful. And Chiang Mai FC are in the last 16.

In other REVO Cup news from last night League 3 Samut Songkhram beat Port FC. Ayutthaya beat Chiang Rai United. Nakhon Pathom beat Chonburi; Dragon Pathuwan Kanchanaburi beat Police Tero and there was a crowd of 9,546 at the Walailak University Stadium to watch MH NakhonSi City against Buriram.

The teams through to the round of 16 of the REVO League Cup are:

T1- Bangkok Utd, Muangthong Utd, Lamphun, Buriram Utd, Prachuap, Khon Kaen Utd, Nongbua Pitchaya, Lampang, Ratchaburi, BGPU

T2- Ayutthaya Utd, Nakhon Pathom, Chiang Mai

T3- Pathumwan Kanchanaburi, Phitsanulok, Samut Songkhram

The draw for the Round of 16 will be held on December 8. The match date is not known due to the possible change of the football calendar for the 2nd leg of league matches.

Finally a quick shout out to our new friends from Singapore; you and any visitors to Chiang Mai are always very welcome. Thank you for your enthusiastic support.

Unstoppable

Picture: Official CMFC
Thai League 2
2022-2023

Sunday 13 November 2022
Chiang Mai FC 2 Trat FC 1

Chiang Mai FC:

Fahas
Suwannapat
Filipovic
Suwit
Stewart
Chatchai
Ronnayod
Srithai
Pongrawit
Im ChangKyoon
Kim BoYong

Unstoppable. 89 minutes gone. The scores tied. Veljko Filipovic was a man on a mission.

His header from Im ChangKyoon’s corner was met with a terrific save from Suppawat, in the Trat goal. The ball was cleared but only back to Im on the left side. His curling cross back into the area was met with a second towering header from Filipovic this time beating Suppawat.

Celebration time. Off came the Filipovic shirt as he ran to the home bench. A mixture of relief and unadulterated joy.

There were still four minutes of nervy injury time but after a second half performance of constant pressure and attacking football Chiang Mai were not going to give up the hard-earned three points.

An hour earlier, 0-1 down at half time, the atmosphere had felt very different.

Gustavsson was on the bench with the fit again Kim BoYong preferred up front. Suwit returned as a defensive left back. Pongrawit and Im ChangKyoon returned from injury

The first half was dire. Trat were allowed room to play – and did so without ever really threatening despite the efforts of Dos Santos down the left side.

Until, that is, the 41st minute when a left side corner from Soukaphone was floated towards the six yard line. Fahas somehow, and there are no excuses this week, managed to drop a simple catch behind him where the Trat centre half Panuwat, was able to tap in and give the visitors the lead.

M150 were at the stadium handing out energy drinks before the game. Maybe CMFC saved theirs for half time. They emerged for the second half like a team transformed.

Sarawut came on for Chatchai and went to left back. This allowed Suwit to move to an attacking left side of midfield. Within two minutes of the restart Suwit’s 20 yard drive arrowed at the far post before Suppawat made the first of a series of fine saves.

Suppawat then leaped like a salmon to his left to catch Pongrawit’s 30 yard free kick.

All of the pressure came from the home side. Three successive CMFC corners. Trat were on the rack. Suppawat came for the third and got a good right hook to the ball. But it flew to Pongrawit outside the penalty area; his header forward found Ronnayod 22 yards out from goal. A turn and a powerful right foot shot inside the far post. One of the best goals that we will see at the Municipal Stadium this season.

Trat briefly came to life – a far post header was blocked by Fahas and a Dos Santos shot clipped Filipovic and deflected for a corner.

The 89th minute – cometh the hour cometh the big Serbian forward – his first header was a standing jump. The second was after a run from the edge of the penalty area to power in the header from seven yards. No one could have stopped him, or the header.

There is a REVO cup tie against Sukhothai FC on Wednesday – both teams to field under strength teams. On Saturday CMFC play at Rajpracha in the League. This win should put the season back on track and be a base for a strong finish to the first half of the season.