Stop the world…..


I have not been writing much on my website – except some harmless football commentary.

And although this is 1 April – this is not an April Fool’s story – indeed has any day been more over-rated or misused. This is simply the day to let out some of my frustrations.

I write even less on twitter and other social media where I used to be quite active.

Why?

Simple: Utter fucking depression at the state of the world.

4million people have fled from the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Yes Russia – the country that in 2018 was everyone’s best friend and host of the World Cup. Russia, the country whose oligarchs appear to have owned far too much of the United Kingdom, and who by generous donations to the ruling Tory party, appear to have had any door opened for them on demand.

Putin wants to rekindle the USSR. We knew that. And now thousands of people have died and millions have become refugees.

But the thing is there are also parts of the world that do not want refugees – I hate borders; I always have. But what right of moral superiority does, for instance, the UK have to turn away the very people that helped to make Britain great. Nations are built on the talents, money and ambition of new migrants.

Afghanistan was abandoned by the USA and its allies; its people left to Taliban rule; The Taliban have turned back the clocks: Girls are banned from secondary schools. Segregated parks for men and women. Male chaperones for shopping, doctors visits and travel. This is not what the west had promised.

Yemen is forgotten while the Saudis and the UAE do as they wish with weapons bought from the Western defense industries.

And this week an actor clambered onto the Oscars stage; bitch slapped a comedian and has been widely cheered on social media. Here’s the thing – violence is not a solution. And worse; you made the night all about you; no one remembers who won best film; best actress; the supporting actor roles; you took away their moment in a single selfish act.

And yet people, including many here in Thailand, have been cheering for you.

We are into our third year of a pandemic that has taken lives and ruined livelihoods and that no one seems to either take responsibility for or to apologise for. Yes it was you China. Unintentionally I am sure but the denials wrapped up in nationalist rhetoric are pathetic.

3 years without seeing my son. He is fine; thank you for asking!

My mum died. I did not get to her funeral. I have really got no remaining connection to the UK. I left there 34 years ago.

Chinese nationalism has gone mad. You earn respect; you do not get it from bullying; you do not get it from rewriting your own history; you get it from empowering your people to see the world through their own eyes rather than through the narrow view of the CCP.

You already have a nation of 1.2 billion people; you are going to quickly become the world’s largest economy. You are no longer the underdog shouting to be heard.

So be a force for good; be a force for tolerance; leave Taiwan alone; indeed – maybe even be more like Taiwan in embracing an open society; education and democratic values. You have ruined everything that made Hong Kong special; you really should by now realise that you have made a mistake there. Rule by oppression and fear is not the way forward.

Don’t get me started on South East Asia. A junta rules Myanmar. A Junta in suits rules Thailand. Cambodia and Laos have become Chinese satellites; Vietnam’s iron fist is not the same as China’s but equally founded upon nationalism; Singapore just resumed executions after three years; Malaysia; for a time the great hope for a progressive South East Asian nation has a new government that has aggressively cracked down on critical speech and protest and taken a hard line on the treatment of refugees and undocumented migrants.

Famine and hunger; there is an article in today’s Guardian about taking a Russian oligarch’s impounded yacht and making it available to the British royal family. Forget that. Sell the damn thing and repurpose the money for food and water. Do the same with other assets. Tax the rich. Feed the poor. I know it is not as simple as that – but the UK has reduced its foreign aid budget and that is shameful.

3 years with my wife working in Bangkok while I keep house in Chiang Mai. It is a great career for her – a great learning experience. But it has damaged what we had. We will be fine; just not the same as before. Relationships evolve. We were two. We are now more one plus one.

Social media has become a cesspit. I will stay on twitter to read the news from sources I trust; to read opinions from people I value; to keep up with my local football; and for the occasional gem of wisdom or thoughtfulness that makes the world a better place.

But I have no interest in the toxic anonymous trolls who push their own agendas or conspiracy theories; or the nutjobs who see the word Covid and start ranting; most with neither medical knowledge or even personal or family experience of the virus; or anyone trying to defend the monarch-sanctioned murder and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi; or people who respond to an opinion with abuse; often vile. Twitter has empowered abuse like no other social media platform.

Facebook the same – I will not post any current affairs, political or social commentary there. Just a few pictures and a bit of football.

I was accused the other week of being a pawn of the main stream media. If by mainstream media he, for instance, means Reuters then I would take it as a compliment. A news organisation governed by trust principles that commit it to integrity, independence, and freedom from bias. It may not always get the news right in terms or priorities or nuances – but there are some very brave and talented journalists trying to tell a story in ways that we can understand.

Same with the BBC – in particular for English news and for its foreign language broadcasts – the BBC World Service. Where do people go to when there is a major world event; where do people get their news from Ukraine. The BBC. Again; not perfect; but it very clearly is not Russia Today or CGTN or even (sorry to people I admire there) CNN.

Why are we so anti-knowledge? what do we fear when experts in their own field make recommendations on how to manage our well-being?

I am better informed than many; I have longer and more international experience than many; I know, mostly, where to find reliable information; I do not instinctively distrust everyone; not everyone has their own agenda; I believe that most people want to do good not evil. And I am cynical enough, and aware enough, to know when questions are needed rather than blind acceptance.

Is that a mainstream narrative?

Yet, maybe because our old and new forms of media give easy access now to anyone who wants it our views, opinions, beliefs are completely polarised. Trump v Biden. East v West; Brexit v Europe. Mask v no-masks.

In the USA it has looked as though the hatred between communities could ignite into a civil war. And too much of the rest of the world would look on and cheer. The 2024 election could yet be a catalyst.

Qatar is about to host a football world cup that it should never have been granted. China just hosted winter Olympics that it should never have bene granted. And all that comes down to simple greed. Money really can buy anything. Principles – who the fuck cares.

Qatar, like China, will employ an army of well paid trolls, lobbyists and keyboard warriors to maintain their own narrative and to try and silence the many who see things through a wider or different perspective. Sport and geopolitics are now completely intertwined in society’s fabric. But on that subject how can anyone have thought that selling Newcastle United to Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund was appropriate?

It has taken a 16 year old to wake up the planet to the reality of climate change; and she gets pilloried by many. Yet she is a force for good; a force for awareness; a force calling for action.

There is plenty more of course – at a macro and micro level. Being aware of something is at least a start.

We all need somewhere that we belong; where even little actions can make a difference or make someone smile or just help them through their day.

It is all to easy now to become lonely – a recluse with a laptop. With more connections online that in real life. How fucking pathetic is that. But for me, living where I am now, in a foreign country with more acquaintances than friends, it is all too true.

Maybe this only gets sorted when I can honestly answer the question of what’s wrong with the world with a simple, “I am.” I am not alone.

Then we can tackle the next question. What can I do about it?

Humiliated


Chiang Mai FC 0 Lampang FC 6
Thai M150 Championship
Saturday 26 March 2022
700th Anniversary Stadium

Starting XI
Jaturong
Narupon
Watcharin
Chaiyapruek
Phosri
Suchanon
Seiya
Pongrawit
Sumeth
Tawan
Kiadtisak

Humiliated. There is no other word to describe the white flag that was waved by Chiang Mai FC in this 0-6 drubbing by a Lampang FC team that hardly needed to try.

The home side made seven changes from the starting line up that lost 0-3 at Phrae last weekend. Kiadtiphon and Gustavsson are away with the Thai under-23 side in Dubai. Veljko was also missing, apparently due to injury; Danilo was on the substitutes bench.

Lampang were sufficiently confident to be able to rest their two leading scorers, Deyvison and Weerayut, who only appeared as 55th minute substitutes. The abrasive Coutinho was also missing from the squad.

This was also a match-up between two teams that are controlled by League 1 clubs, the Lampang starting XI included nine players transferred to the club from Nongbua Pitchaya and its subsidiary club, Udon United.

The Brazilian Massaro, making a rare start, was at the heart of Lampang’s early attacks. He drilled a shot over the crossbar from eight yards, curled a twenty-yard shot narrowly wide of the far post and beat Pinyo down the left side before shooting high and wide.

At the other end Tawan ran at pace onto Seiya’s measured pass into the Lampang penalty area; but arrived at the same time as the defensive cover from Adisak and goalkeeper Yen-Arrom.

The opening goal came after 33 minutes. Massaro’s near post header from a corner rebounded down from the crossbar where Anisong was able to hook the ball home while Narupon with some justification claimed that the Lampang player’s foot was dangerously high.

Minutes later Jaturong saved well diving to his left to push away Chawin’s snapped shot from twelve yards.

The second goal came in injury time at the end of the first half. A fluent passing move down the right side saw Kitsana’s pass find Jakkrawut in space in the penalty area and he calmly slid the ball inside Jaturong’s far post.

Chiang Mai had two early second half chances; Seiya volleying over from eight yards under pressure from the advancing goalkeeper; Pinyo’s cross then evaded the goalkeeper but bounced past the far post from the head of Jakkrit as he and Danilo, on at half time for Suchanon, jumped for the ball.

The arrival of Deyvison and Weerayut was to prove decisive. Weerayut tapping in the third after Jakkrit’s run and low cross from the goal line.

Deyvison calmy ran in the fourth after Narupon had failed to deal with a long ball forward from Anisong.

Danilo came closest to a consolation effort for Chiang Mai when his looping slow-motion header bounced back off the far post and was pawed away by the goalkeeper.

Anisong added the fifth wrapping a leg around Narupon to reach a right side corner and then following up to poke home the loose ball before Jaturong could gather, while the Chiang Mai defense stood static.

Deyvison added a sixth thanks to good work on the left from Weerayut whose run on goal was blocked by Jaturong but the Lampang forward still had time to turn and to pick out a cross for Deyvison at the far post who easily out jumped Supasak to powerfully head home.

With just three points in the last nine games Chiang Mai are sinking quickly towards the final relegation place and on this evidence there is little to suggest any change in fortune over the remaining five games.

As bad as it gets

 


Phrae United 3 Chiang Mai FC 0
Thai M150 Championship
Saturday 19 March 2022
HuayMa Stadium

Starting XI

Kiadtiphon
Somyot
Narupon
Veljko
Pinyo
Supasak
Seiya
Phosri
Danilo
Tawan
Gustavsson

On 24 October 2020, in the early days of the Covid-extended 2020/2021 season Chiang Mai came to Phrae and ended the home club’s unbeaten four year home record with a fine 3-1 win with goals from Nieblas, Nattachai and Atthawit (who is now at Phrae.)

Roll forward to 2022; all of the Chiang Mai 2020 vintage have left the club; their replacements have not been good enough and Chiang Mai are in 14th place and hoping that Rajpracha and Customs do not suddenly decide to win a couple of their final matches.

This was poor. Be honest, this was awful.

Phrae are unbeaten at home since 31 October 2021 when they lost to Ranong. They also lost away at Ranong last weekend. Only five of that team remained in tonight’s starting line-up. Arson and Carlos Santos make a very assured centre-back partnership; two Chiang Mai alumni were in the Phrae starting eleven, Atthawit and Sa-Ardchom. Pathomtat returned in goal in a fetching all pink number, including socks and boots, that left him resembling a slimline blancmange. Goalkeepers in pink. Lev Yashin would not have approved.

Chiang Mai gave starts to Phosri, Seiya, Supasak and Gustavsson. Veljko and Narupon were joined in the back three by Pinyo playing on the right side; and defensively resembling a fish out of water. This was an experiment that did not work and which gave far too much space to Taku Ito. Where is the club captain?

The early pressure all came from Phrae; more as a trickle than a flood. Not a lot was happening.

A Wellington Smith shot was well blocked by Phosri following a deep cross from Taku Ito on the left side.

Smith then stooped to head a low Taku cross wide of the far post.

Decha Sa-Ardchom was booked for a hack at Seiya’s shins. His look of innocence fooling no-one.

The opening goal came in the 32nd minute. Atthawit’s inswinging corner looked too close to Kiadtiphon’s goal. Rather than catch the ball, and under little pressure, the tall goalkeeper punched clear. The ball fell for Nattayot who had enough time to take one touch before launching a right foot shot from 22 yards past the right hand of the possibly unsighted Kiadtiphon.

It should have been 2-0 minutes later. Wuthiphan’s cross falling to Smith, inexplicably unmarked in front of goal. Kiadtiphon was smartly off his line to make a good block.

Chiang Mai’s one chance of the half followed immediately with Seiya’s close range shot saved by Pathomtat’s right foot.

Half time came with a deserved one-nil lead for the home team which they doubled within two minutes of the restart; hopelessly exposing Chiang Mai’s defensive frailties as Wuthiphan’s low cross from the right reached the unmarked Smith by the penalty spot where he slid the ball beyond Kiadtiphon.

Taku, goalside of Pinyo, saw his close range header from a Smith cross well saved by Kiadtiphon. A constant threat, Taku then headed Nattayot’s cross straight at the Chiang Mai goalkeeper.

The third goal was inevitable. Atthawit’s measured pass from the middle of his own half was played behind Narupon for Wuthiphan to run onto. Veljko raising an arm in a forlorn plea for offside. Two on one leaving Kiadtiphon no chance as the ball was pushed wide for Maranhao to have a simple tap in in front of goal.

Veljko salvaged some pride for the defense with a good block on Maranhao. But the Chiang Mai performance was summed up by Sarawin’s injury time free kick thirty yards out from goal that was neither a cross nor a shot and sailed horribly high and wide.

Chiang Mai now have three successive home games; Lampang; Trat and Navy. One win from their final six games is probably enough to be safe. But this already feels like a season that both players and supporters would like to end soon.

Heat and Bust


Chiang Mai FC 1 Muangkan United 3
Thai M150 Championship
Saturday 12 March 2022
700th Anniversary Stadium

Starting XI
Kiatiphon
Watcharin
Somyot
Narupon
Veljko
Pinyo
Sumeth
Pongrawit
Danilo
Tawan
Suchanon

On a broiling late afternoon in Chiang Mai the home team were eventually well beaten by a resilient Muangkan team that seems able to perform on the pitch despite the ongoing distraction of their financial issues behind the scenes.

The latest casualty of this uncertainty is the club’s leading scorer and ten year veteran of Thai football, Leandro da Silva (Assa) who appears to be in dispute with the club, and may even have returned to Brazil. He has now missed the last two games; yet Muangkan have won both, away from home at Ranong and now at Chiang Mai.

Another indication of their problems is that they arrived with just seven substitutes, including two substitute goalkeepers. The cupboard does appear to be rather bare.

Chiang Mai made one change from last week’s away trip to Chainat with Tawan replacing Amornthep. The back three were the same faces but in different positions with Narupon moving to the troublesome left side; Veljko in the middle and Watcharin on the right.

In front of a crowd of (officially) 716 the game started slowly. Kento Nagasaki came close to connecting with a ball chipped in from the left side and at the other end Somyot blazed high and wide from a smart pass by Tawan who looked lively in the early stages.

Good hold up play by Nagasaki set up Rattasak for a shot that cleared the crossbar from the left corner of the penalty area.

Controversy followed midway through the half. Narupon, wide left, chipped a ball into the penalty area for Tawan to chase. Jakkrit clearly handled the ball defending near his goal line. The referee had an excellent view but, and despite the Chiang Mai protests, he only awarded a corner. Narupon shook his head in bemusement.

The remaining twenty minutes of the half belonged mostly to Muangkan. Marlon Silva’s header bounced off the Chiang Mai crossbar with Kiatiphon, looking like a Persil advertisement in an all-white goalkeeping kit, stranded.

The Chiang Mai goalkeeper then saved well from Pongpat’s low shot as the forward had time to turn inside the Chiang Mai area.

Thirty-nine minutes gone and the ball was substituted – presumably for being as flat in that heat as most of the players,

A rare attack at pace from Chiang Mai found Tawan in space on the left side of the Muangkan penalty area. His extra touch before getting his shot away allowed Marlon Silva to launch himself into a fully- committed block; it was very solid defending.

Then on the stroke of half time Muangkan opened the scoring with a gem of a solo goal from Pongpat; who with his back to goal some thirty yards out on the left side, turned and left Watcharin in his wake, dragged the ball onto his right foot and curled an unstoppable shot beyond Kiatiphon and inside the far post.

The second half restarted with Gustavsson on for Somyot; after a three week injury layoff he was to make little impact.

But it was Chiang Mai that had the early chances after the break. The referee rather generously gave a free kick for Marlon Silva’s challenge on Gustavsson. Just over 20 yards from goal it was in the ideal position for Pongrawit to curl a left foot shot that was well saved by Chinnapong diving to his right to punch the ball away.

The goalkeeper’s next action was far less impressive. Pongrawit in his own half lifted the ball forward for Sumeth to run onto down the left side; the goalkeeper came charging from his area; half stopped, then charged again. Sumeth reached the ball first and needed just one touch to guide the ball past the keeper and inside the far post. It was a smart finish and his first goal of the season.

Five minutes later Muangkan had restored their lead. It was a fine goal that started with Jonatan Reis winning the ball outside his own penalty area; turning in space and then releasing Kento Nagasaki on the left. Reis ran on for the return pass from Nagasaki, leaving Narupon trailing behind him. Reis’ low cross fell to Pongpat arriving at the back post, long ahead of his marker, Sumeth, and he guided the ball home from close range. It was a very good goal but also some tired and uncommitted defending.

Ten minutes later Muangkan’s third was described all too accurately by my neighbour as a “comedy of errors.” Reis’ little reverse pass on the edge of the Chiang Mai area set up the veteran boxer, Suchao; his shot was well saved low to his left by Kiatiphon. Pongpat pounced on the rebound ahead of Chaiyapruek; his low cross skewed up high off Narupon’s left foot, spinning and falling under the crossbar in front of the goal; Narupon and the Muangkan substitute, Guntapon, both jumped for the ball and in nestled in the back of the net. Who got the last touch is a mystery though I am sure Guntapon will claim it.

Guntapon and Suchao both had chances to add a fourth and in the last minute of normal time, Amornthep tried to make space for a left foot shot in the Muangkan area and was well blocked by Jakkrit.

Muangkan for all their problems still look like a team, that if they can keep enough players, could be in the playoffs; they worked hard; defended solidly and in Reis and Pongpat had players to create and score goals.

It was more of the same from Chiang Mai. A limited threat up front and ponderous, and in some cases just not good enough, in defense.

Chiang Mai’s next three games are away at Phrae and then home to Lampang and Trat. Further points could remain elusive.

 

Chainat’s comeback sealed by Wellington’s left boot

 

Chainat Hornbill FC 2 Chiang Mai FC 2
Thai M150 Championship
Saturday 5 March 2022

Khaoplong Stadium

Starting XI

Kiatiphon
Watcharin
Somyot
Narupon
Veljko
Pinyo
Sumeth
Pongrawit
Danilo
Amornthep
Suchanon

Two-nil down after 23 minutes the home side ‘s strong comeback either side of half time was good enough to share a point each in an entertaining game at Chainat’s Khaoplong stadium.

Chainat continue to press for a play-off place; though they do seem overly dependent on the efforts of Wellington Priori. He was a constant threat in the first half.

Narupon returned for Chiang Mai; Amornthep made a rare start in the absence of the injured Gustavsson. Kabaev and Seiya were both missing from the matchday squad.

Chiang Mai’s enterprising start was rewarded with the simplest of goals in the tenth minute. Suchanon took a free kick near the left corner flag and curled it to the near post where Danilo found space between Praranyu and Keeratikorn to head home from close range. A welcome goal from the Brazilian striker.

Chainat’s immediate response saw Kritsada shoot powerfully over the crossbar from the right side of the Chiang Mai penalty area.

Kiatiphon reacted sharply to touch Poomipat’s rasping shot over the bar from a Chainat corner.

But it was Chiang Mai who extended their lead with a counter-attack. Wellington was crowded off the ball in his own half; Somyot launched the ball forward for Danilo to run onto down the left side and his unselfish low cross was slid home by Suchanon; a reward for his excellent supporting run.

Kiatiphon saved from Kritsada as Chainat started to apply pressure. Wellington moved forward from midfield into the front line and with four up front Chiang Mai’s back three looked beleaguered. Too many clearances that should have gone long and wide instead fell in front of goal at the edge of the penalty area.

In the 32nd minute a header from Narupon was picked up by Mongkonchai; he laid the ball off to Anuwat and his powerful 25 yard drive gave Kiatiphon no chance clattering into the goal off the woodwork. It was a terrific strike.

The pressure from Chainat was intense. Poomipat shot powerfully straight at the Chiang Mai goalkeeper; Wellington, who always seemed to find space, pulled a shot inches wide. But Chiang Mai hung on and led 2-1 at half-time.

The second half started as the first half finished with all the pressure coming from Chainat. Warayut hit the post with an unchallenged header from a corner.

Chainat’s 50th minute equalizer came after Danilo lost the ball inside the Chainat half and Warinthorn looped the ball forward for Wellington inside the Chiang Mai penalty area. With Watcharin giving the forward far too much room Wellington had time to pull the ball down; turn and with his left boot roll the ball inside Kiatiphon’s far post.

But, and the heat and humidity may well have been a factor, Chainat appeared to run out of steam. Chiang Mai moved to a back five; Wellington no longer had space and largely disappeared from the game and Chainat seemed to run out of ideas. Mongkonchai headed straight at Kiatiphon from a narrow angle and the keeper gathered at the feet of Wellington after a through ball from substitute Badar Ali; but that was all Chainat had.

It was Chiang Mai who might have stolen a winner in the final minutes with two counter attacks. Firstly Danilo broke on the left and his firm cross was well gathered by the diminutive Chainat keeper, Siraset, in front of Tawan. Then in the last seconds of injury time Tawan galloped down the right and Danilo, under huge pressure from Keeratikorn, was unable to get a decisive touch to his cross.

2-2 was fair. It was a good battling response from Chiang Mai after the change of coach at the start of the week.
 

Closing the Gap – Thai League 2 February review


Thai League 2 – February 2022.

February raced by; four matchdays played as teams looked to find their form for the push to the end of the season.

Except, that is, for the leaders. Trat’s lead of 11 points over third place at the start of the month has been reduced to just six points and Lamphun have overtaken Sukhothai into the second automatic promotion spot.

The biggest surprise of the month came at Kasetsart last Sunday with their comfortable 2-0 win over Trat. It ended a poor month for the leaders whose only February win was against Covid-blighted Udon Thani.

Conrado and Babo have a solitary goal each in 2022. Trat were scoring two goals a game in the first half of the season; in 2022 it is just one a game. No one now fears Trat; not even Kasetsart’s diminutive Lao midfielder, Soukaphone, who squared up to Conrado in the second half; it would have been a non-contest. Both received a yellow card.

Lamphun and Lampang were the teams of the month; both unbeaten and each with three wins and a draw.

Lamphun opened the month with an away win a Trat. A solitary goal from Korean DaeHee Yong and some occasionally desperate defending earning the win. A goal a game from Thales Lima supported by Anuntachok, Mg Mg Lwin and Arthit has made Lamphun the in-form team; unbeaten in 2022 with six wins and two draws.

Lampang’s approach is a little different; their goals have been shared amongst nine players; the concern for Lampang fans is that the club still has to play all the remaining top eight teams (except for Udon Thani) in their remaining nine fixtures. By far the most difficult final games among the leading clubs.

Lampang are at home to Lamphun on March 20th. On 7 November the teams drew 3-3 in one of the games of the season; fans are hoping for a repeat.

With two successive defeats at the end of the month the questions for Sukhothai are how and when do they bounce back? The month started with a last gasp win at Chiang Mai and a thumping of Rayong. The loss at Muangkan was in part self-induced – failing to adapt their game to a mud bath. The lethargic loss at home to a resurgent Phrae United will have concerned coach Amato.

Udon Thani and Chainat (both on 41 points) make up the current play-off positions. Udon Thani got their season back on track with two very necessary wins, albeit not very convincing, against Rajpracha and Navy. There are more difficult games to come.

Chainat’s glimpses of brilliance brighten up any game without being regularly match winning. Wellington’s goal away at Khon Kaen was sublime but not enough for more than a draw.

Ten goals from Leandro da Silva (Assa) in 2022 keep Muangkan (38 points) challenging for a play-off spot; but the free-scoring unbeaten January slowed down in February as their away form stuttered to a loss at Lamphun and a 2-2 draw at Khon Kaen.

Contenders for promotion and play off places likely run down to Phrae (37 points) who are currently eighth.

Ayutthaya (32 points,) Kasetsart, Ranong and Nakhon Pathom (all on 30 points) all pulled clear of the bottom four clubs. Chiang Mai with just one point in February is the one mid-table club sliding in the wrong direction.

Nakhon Pathom have been one of the form sides in 2022 with just one defeat; they have not conceded a goal since 22 January.

Spare a kind thought for Navy. Four 0-1 defeats in their last five games; the other a 3-4 loss at Ayutthaya. While doomed to T3 next season they are going down with their colours still flying.

Then take two of the next three to go down with them. Rajpracha and Customs both struggle for goals and both clubs scored just once in February.

Customs, after a solid January lost four successive games in February to quickly join the other three clubs at the bottom of the League.

Rajpracha’s 0-1 loss at home to Udon Thani came from a 90th minute own goal. Where your form has gone your luck often follows.

One of these two clubs will join Khon Kaen who are masters of the battling draw against the stronger clubs but then losing by the odd goal to fellow-strugglers. Six points from safety is a big gap.

Customs, Phrae, Navy, Chiang Mai, and of course Udon Thani (who appear to change their coach more from habit than necessity) all fired and replaced their coach in February. With squads already in place and just nine games remaining is any real change in fortune possible?

One success is coach Thongchai Rungreangleas who has led Phrae through an unbeaten February. Their home match with Lamphun on 5 March will set expectations for both teams over the final games.

Nine games to go. Plenty still to play for. If you can, please do go and support your local team. The sport, the clubs and the players, need fans back in the stadiums across Thailand.

Adventures in T2 – Lamphun



Lamphun Warriors v Muangkan United

It would be all to easy to bore TLC readers with my endless reports from Chiang Mai FC.

Instead this occasional column will take trips around T2 and hopefully showcase some of the teams, towns and characters that make up this league.

And where better to start than the 12 February 2022 game between two of the three clubs promoted last season from T3; Lamphun Warriors and Muangkan United. Both now hoping to emulate Khon Kaen United and move from T3 to T1 in two seasons.

Pre-match.

Two in-form teams. Lamphun were unbeaten since a 1-2 loss at home to Trat on 2 October. Muangkan had just one defeat since 10 October. Unexpectedly at home to Nakhon Pathom. Both teams with four wins and a draw since the January restart to the season.

Lamphun added Thales Lima (from Udon Thani) and Maung Maung Lwin (from Yangon) to their squad in the transfer window. Muangkan had a mid-season clear out and recruitment. Caion left. Da Silva (Assa) was retained. 15 goals in five games since the restart was an impressive return for the new look squad.

3rd v 7th. Lamphun pushing Sukhothai hard for second place. Muangkan looking for a play-off spot.

A more in depth look at Lamphun Warriors can wait for another day – but the club’s ambitions have been transformed by a new owner who has brought big name foreign players to the club, not just as window dressing but as part of an ambitious reach for T1 status. There are also plans for a new stadium in the next two years.

Lamphun Provincial Stadium.

The stadium is one of those older style public sports facilities that has seen better days and would benefit so much from a coat of paint.

It is just over a kilometre south of the old city and Wat Phrathat Haripunchai; the ideal place to make merit before the game.

The main low-rise covered stand is by the road entrance on the west side. Tickets are available from a temporary booth. Food and drink are plentiful and can be taken into the stadium. The centre area of the stand is for players, families and VIPs. The temporary stand on the right side (as you enter) is for away supporters.

New floodlights were installed by the provincial authorities before the season. These are next to the existing four pylons. Even with eight sets of lights it is murky.

The Lamphun Ultras (Thai) and Fanaticos (everyone else) sit on the far (east) side on concrete steps in an uncovered stand. The two groups get along and are as welcoming as they are loud. It is also the best view of the game.

Tickets at Baht100 for this stand are available at the back of the stand – and again there are plenty of vendors. Just put your drinks into a cup before you take them into the ground – bottles are not allowed. Picnic hampers on the other hand appear not to be a problem.

The downside – there is no chance of hearing any of the public announcements. But that really is a minor detail.

There are no stands behind either goal and some excessive screening ensures that only a giant could watch the game for free. And there is of course a running track around the pitch.

Lamphun.

Before the arrival of Aly Cissokho Lamphun was best known for its longan fruits. It was also the town where Chiang Mai residents go to escape their version of the big city.

The town has a tranquil, friendly and peaceful ambience. On matchday, at the stadium, that is transformed into a raucous welcome for visiting teams and match officials.

The town was founded by Queen Chama Thevi as the capital of the Haripunchai Kingdom – it is around 25 km (16 mi) south of Chiang Mai.

Rather overshadowed as a destination by Chiang Mai could it be that football is putting Lamphun back on the map?

The town is a mix of agricultural and industrial; the countryside has irrigated rice fields and longan orchards. There is a longan festival every August. But the Saharat group has built an industrial estate on the south of the city that is home to the likes of Hana Electronics, Pandora and Le Crueset. There is a (very good) 9 hole golf course and a rarely used short airstrip.

The Gassan Group operates three 18 hole golf courses around the city. Legacy, Panorama and Khun Tan. The latter is adjacent to Thailand’s longest rail tunnel that rolls below Doi Khun Tan National Park linking Lamphun and Lampang. The railway’s White Bridge is a popular Instagram spot.

Lamphuners – if that is a word – stroll by the river. They visit the covered market that sits on a bridge over the Kuang River. They visit the late night produce market and eat in hugely popular chicken rice or longan noodle stores.

At Songkran there is a street market by the river; lanterns are released. But without the crowds and chaos of Chiang Mai. The local country and western band plays music by the river. Foreigners were rare even before Covid.

At Loy Krathong they have a lantern festival centered upon Wat Haripunchai but lighting up the city streets and the river.

Off the 1015 Highway just outside the town is The Terracotta Garden. It is an outdoor gallery, a working terracotta factory, a café and a garden. The terracotta art products are modelled on ancient S.E Asian styles, with influences that include Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia.

Though the archway from the garden you can cross a pond by a bamboo bridge, which will bring you to a Khmer-style chedi which could be in Cambodia or Northeast Thailand. Statues, ornaments, and construction material are strewn about.

The garden is a gallery of this hybrid style.

This is the new Lamphun; creative and increasingly prosperous; but still deeply rooted in its past.

Do not go just for a football match – go and visit for a few days and immerse yourself in a different time and place.

The Match

This was fast paced and occasionally frenetic. Plenty of mistakes and no shortage of drama. It was a fine advertisement for T2 football. The highlights are online and are worth a look.

Lamphun were dominant in the first quarter and opened the scoring before Assa equalized for Muangkan just before half time.

Thales Lima converted a penalty to restore Lamphun’s lead. But it really should have been 2-2 when, unmarked, Assa headed from point blank range straight into the knees and shins of Cunningham in goal.

Lamphun’s third was from the effervescent Myanmar international, and man of the match, Maung Maung Lwin.

Game over. Three very good points for Lamphun who look set to continue pushing for automatic promotion.

The Fanaticos will invite you to join them at a local bar. An alternative is a quick visit to the busy night market for fried pork and sticky rice. Either finishes off a good night.

Coming soon: visits to Chainat and Phrae.

Где Кабаев?


Chiang Mai FC 0 Grand Andaman Ranong United 0

Thai M150 Championship
Sunday 20th February 2022
700th Anniversary Stadium

Starting XI
Jaturong
Watcharin
Poomphat
Veljko
Saharat
Sarawin
Danilo
Somyot
Supasak
Suchanon
Gustavsson

Evgeny Kabaev has not started a game since 5th December. He did play eleven minutes as a substitute in the last home game against Sukhothai.

Where is the Russian invasion when we need one? Kabaev scores goals. He may not last 90 minutes; indeed he may not last 45 minutes; but give him the time to come on and lead the attack.

Instead in the final minutes Chiang Mai sent on Nattawut and Pinyo. Pinyo is through on goal in the last minute with just the goalkeeper to beat. He takes a wild, uncontrolled swing at the ball and slices it hopelessly wide. Somehow it was all too predictable.

Make no mistake. This was a poor game against a very mediocre Ranong side. It was also Chiang Mai’s third 0-0 draw in 2022 with just six goals in the last seven games.

Chiang Mai made just one change from the side that lost at Ayutthaya last weekend with Somyot in for Natithorn. Tawan, Narupon and Pongrawit were still missing from the squad.

Ranong’s problems are much like Chiang Mai’s with just five goals in seven games since the restart. It is hard to see how they could ever score although in the Cameroonian, Frank, they did have the best player on the night. Sitting in front of the back four he was strong and energetic and his distribution was impressive.

The opening quarter was all Chiang Mai, in large part due to good work down the left side from Supasak. His early cross was palmed out by goalkeeper Wattanachai to Poomphat whose shot from twelve yards was drilled straight at his own forward, Danilo.

Gustavsson’s run across the penalty area ended with him slicing his shot wide. As an aside when were there ever two Number 77s on opposing sides in a football match.

From a short corner on the right Supasak’s shot flattened Saeid, Ranong’s captain.

Chiang Mai’s best opportunity of the half fell to Danilo. Supasak’s fine run down the left finished with him rolling the ball into the path of Danilo whose sidefoot shot was wide of the far post.

Chiang Mai then lost Gustavsson with what looked like a groin strain. Seiya Sugishita replaced him but at that point the home team lost the pace and urgency that had been so enjoyable for the first 25 minutes.

Seiya was quickly in the action volleying over after a long Poomphat throw.

Danilo’s driving run into the penalty area from the right side saw him play a tidy wall pass with Suchanon but then try to poke the ball home with his right foot when it was on his left side. The ball was deflected for a corner.

Finally, for the first half, Wattanachai reacted well to turn over Suchanon’s header from Poomphat’s gallop and cross from the right side.

0-0 at half time. Chiang Mai had dominated possession and created the only chances of the half. But after Gustavsson’s departure the approach play had become increasingly laboured.

The second half was far more even, and significantly duller.

A Ranong cross from the right ballooned into the six yard box from a deflection. Jaturong called for the ball then watched as it bounced over his head and onto the top of the crossbar. Comic relief.

Supasak, again, got away a left foot cross that was met on the half-volley by Suchanon but straight into Thawatchai.

A Supasak free kick was met by Seiya’s head but was a comfortable save for the goalkeeper though he was then beaten by a Danilo header, from Somyot’s cross, that scraped the outside of an upright.

Frank pulled a long range shot wide for Ranong and Jaturong turned a deflected near post shot from substitute Seki away for a corner.

And of course there was the Pinyo effort as the final act of a game that had so little to commend it.

If you want to win a match and you have a choice between Pinyo, Amornthep and Kabaev on the bench who do you really want to send out? Are our expectations now so low that we accept a 0-0 with lowly Ranong as a decent result? Is our coach choosing the team that plays or are BG telling him whom to play to give them game time?

A final tip of the hat to Ranong who will be driving home through the night – about 18 hours with a couple of stops. There are two drivers. But that is a long way and a long night.

The Economist on a world divided

 

No doubt the Chinese and their powerful social media allies would argue with this analysis from the Economist. But it does feel as though there is not a word out of place.

The world is divided. The divide is widening. It is unlikely that any of the major powers will back down which makes the end game very uncertain.

“An icy chasm: Beijing’s Winter Olympics symbolise a world divided
The West has rightly concluded that buttering up China will not make it nicer.

“Together for a shared future” is China’s wishful motto for the Winter Olympics, which formally began with fireworks and dancing at a ceremony in Beijing on February 4th. Officials say the slogan means humanity should work in harmony to conquer hardships such as the pandemic and its economic fallout.

China’s state-run news agency says the games will “break down barriers and prejudices, and illuminate the way forward”. Sadly, they will not. The event symbolises a world divided by politics and the virus, and a China turning inward.

No leader of a big Western power will attend the games. The pandemic has provided some with an excuse for staying away. But the main reason is the scale of the repression that Xi Jinping has unleashed since he took power in 2012.

In Xinjiang Mr Xi has sent about 1m people, mostly ethnic Uyghurs, to camps to “cure” them of “extremism”—a euphemism for stamping out their culture and Muslim faith. In Hong Kong he has crushed a liberal society, turning dissent into a crime. His security forces have kept a chokehold on Tibet.

In December America said that it would not “contribute to the fanfare of the games” by sending official representatives. Rightly, a few other Western countries have followed suit. But Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, does not share their scruples. As tensions mount over Ukraine, he will enjoy the limelight as the most important guest and Mr Xi’s “best friend”.

How the world has changed since China last hosted an Olympic event—the Beijing summer games of 2008. The West worried about China then, too. The country had been waging a fierce campaign to crush unrest in Tibet following widespread protests there. Human-rights groups were calling for boycotts. But many Western officials still believed that engaging with China might nudge it towards acceptance of the Western-led global order, or at least help tame the rise of anti-Western nationalism. America’s president, George W. Bush, and his French counterpart, Nicolas Sarkozy, attended the opening ceremony.

Their gesture yielded nothing. China has grown ever more bristly in its relations with the West. Mr Xi has fuelled an ugly nationalism and clearly wants a China-centric order. The motto he has chosen for the winter games alludes to this. It is shorthand for one of his favourite catchphrases, about building a “community with a shared future for mankind”. That means a world in which countries co-operate with China regardless of its politics. Many in the West abhor the idea.

Negative views of China have grown to record highs. Mr Xi’s call for Olympic togetherness is, in effect, a way of telling Westerners to get over it.

State media suggest that the opening ceremony is unlikely to be such a full-throated celebration of China’s greatness as was seen at the launch of the games in 2008, when thousands of costumed troops took part in grandiose performances. This time Mr Xi has stressed the need to keep things “simple”.

But for athletes and others involved in the games, they will not be. The most dramatic symbolism of the event will not be found in the razzmatazz of the start or finish, but in the extraordinary lengths to which China is going to keep the sars-cov-2 virus at bay.

No foreign visitors, other than invited guests, have been let into China to watch the games. Tickets are not being sold to people in the country. Fearful of recent outbreaks of covid-19, the government says it will “organise” people to attend.

They may clap, but not shout. The athletes, their support staff and journalists are being kept in a “closed loop”, isolated from the local community. Dozens of them are testing positive.

Protections make sense when admitting 30,000 foreigners into a country that lacks a highly effective vaccine (because it has not approved foreign jabs), and whose population has acquired no immunity from infections. But they also show how far China is diverging from the rest of the world in its handling of the pandemic.

China is excoriating other countries trying to co-exist with the virus for failing to protect human lives. It sees its zero-covid approach as proof of its own system’s superiority.

The world will watch a frosty games. It will be a gripping athletic spectacle, no doubt, but it will be overshadowed by a bigger competition—a bitter, ugly one between China and the West. That struggle will be the winter games’ shared future.”

Heartbreak at the 700th


Chiang Mai FC 1 Sukhothai FC 2
Thai M150 Championship
Friday 5 February 2022
700th Anniversary Stadium

Starting XI
Jaturong
Narupon
Veljko
Chaiyapruek
Sarawin
Pongrawit
Somyot
Supasak
Suchanon
Gustavsson
Tawan

Evgeny Kabaev has not played since December. He replaced the hard working Patrick Gustavsson in the 79th minute as ten man Chiang Mai tried to hang on to their 1-0 lead.

Almost his first touch of the ball was to chase down Jaturong’s long clearance and break forward cutting inside between Nattawut and Do Yeon. With only the goalkeeper to beat the Russian forward found himself entangled with his own player, Tawan, and the ball dribbled wide of the near post.

At 2-0 the game would have been beyond Sukhothai.

Instead; Sukhothai broke forward. Melvin de Leeuw outjumped Veljko and Sarawin to reach Nattawut’s long ball forward to the left corner of the penalty area. The ball fell to Saharath whose low cross was behind Osman Sow but the big forward stretched out a leg to reach and backheel the ball past Jaturong. A clever, instinctive finish. 1-1 and more drama would follow.

It was a game of fine margins.

For Chiang Mai Jaturong replaced the injured Kiadtiphon in goal. Veljko returned after suspension and Somyot and Supasak also returned to the starting line-up. Seiya and Poomphat were both missing from the match day squad.

For Sukhothai Nattawut, Piyarat and Steinbauer all returned to the starting eleven.

Relegated from T1 last season Sukhothai started the game in second place eight points behind Trat but also 3 points ahead of third place Lamphun Warriors (who visit Trat over the weekend.) Sukhothai are the League’s leading goalscorers and strengthened their squad with the mid-season addition of Melvin de Leeuw from Chiang Mai United.

The early goal efforts reflected Sukhothai’s dominant possession. Anuchit’s long range shot was an easy catch for Jaturong and an interchange between de Leeuw and Chaowasit brought a solid diving save from the Chiang Mai goalkeeper.

But that was really it for Sukhothai as a first half offense. Despite enjoying most of the possession their early threat simply dissipated as they broke down in the final third.

Somyot picked up an early booking for dissent. This would prove costly later.

Then in the 27th minute, from nothing, Chiang Mai scored. Sow fell over too easily in the Chiang Mai penalty area. Narupon thumped the ball forward where Gustavsson ran onto the ball heading into space between Do Yeon and Steinbauer. Suchanon arrived at pace on the left and Gustavsson’s precision pass was the perfect invitation for a composed first time finish.

Chiang Mai’s first attack of the half; it came from nowhere; it came at pace and it was irrepressible.

Tawan might have added a second heading wide from Supasak’s left wing cross.

At the other end a miscued shot from Sow almost became an inch perfect pass for Chaowasit.

Half time. Chiang Mai led 1-0 and had rarely been under pressure from forty-five minutes of surprisingly impotent football from the visitors.

Sukhothai made three changes at the start of the second half to inject some urgency into their play. It was working as Sukhothai started to create some real chances mostly from the left side where Chiang Mai, it seemed, had no effective response.

Jaturong was hurt as he jumped with de Leeuw. He recovered and soon saved well with his right leg from Sow as the forward burst through three defenders. Another save at the near post from Sila was more straightforward.

The game would turn in the 71st minute when Somyot’s high challenge on Sow drew a second yellow card; a sending off. The Chiang Mai protests were muted. When you are on a yellow card that was not a great challenge.

Down to ten men this was now Canute versus the sea as the Chiang Mai defense tried to hold off wave after wave of Sukhothai attacks.

Woo Geun Jeong (also ex Chiang Mai United) replaced Chaowasit and headed de Leeuw’s cross over the bar.

Jaturong bravely saved at point blank range from Sow as the forward tried to turn in de Leeuw’s left side cross.

Then Kabaev arrived and came so close to a second Chiang Mai goal; instead Sow equalized leaving Chiang Mai’s ten men to hang on with five minutes and injury time remaining.

The attacks kept coming down the left side. Jaturong dived to his left to keep out a de Leeuw shot. De Leeuw then volleyed Saharath’s cross wide of the far post.

But Kabaev was not finished. With Sukhothai pressing forward Sukhothai were exposed. Veljko fed Sarawin who spotted Kabaev’s run into the penalty area. Kabaev dragged the ball onto his right foot fifteen yards from goal – his well struck shot was too close to Kittipun who had waited unto the 92nd minute to make his first save.

There was one last act in this drama. Saharath found de Leeuw running into the penalty area; he held off Veljko to reach the by-line and chipped the ball into the six yard box. Jeong outjumped Narupon; the ball dropping to ground where the Korean forward reacted fastest to lash the ball home. It was the 94th minute.

Coach Dennis Amato and the Sukothai bench went wild. It was heartbreak for Chiang Mai who had, and this has been rare this season, played with real passion and commitment.

It had been a compelling second half.