A night at Customs takes its toll


“How could you insist that I come and watch this….”

Picture: Official CMFC

Customs Ladkrabang United 0 Chiang Mai FC 0
Thai M150 Championship
29 January 2022

Customs 54 Ladkrabang Stadium

Starting XI

Kiadtiphon
Narupon
Poomphat
Chaiyapruek
Sarawin
Pongrawit
Sumeth
Phosri
Suchanon
Gustavsson
Tawan

On 10 March 1984 two football fans joined the big crowd at St. Andrews in Birmingham for the FA Cup quarter final between Birmingham City and Watford.

Almost 38 years later those two fans met for the first time to watch Customs Ladkrabang United and Chiang Mai FC play out the dullest of scoreless draws in front of a crowd of just 215 fans.

38 years ago the game was set alight by a magical opening goal from John Barnes. There was no magic tonight. This was a plodding draw of near depressing mediocrity played out by two teams lacking both ambition and quality.

Once you have navigated the abysmal Saturday night traffic to get to Customs it is a quaint little ground. There is no running track. The crowd was somnolent; every word on the pitch was audible. It felt like Kent League Herne Bay in mid-season but 25C warmer.

Chiang Mai made three changes from the side that scraped past Khon Kaen last week. Filipovic was suspended. The captain formerly known as Meedech returned on the right side of a back three. Suchanon and Phosri replaced Seiya and Somyot.

The midseason break saw Customs rebuild their squad. Only four of the team that won in Chiang Mai in September started tonight’s match.

After their 2-2 draw with Chainat last week this match saw the return of their leading goalscorer Elias, who together with Yannarit replaced Ahamarasul and Kanok.

The first half plodded amiably along; Warut’s skidding shot was well saved by Kiadtiphon low to his right.

There was little protest when Gustavsson tucked the ball home from close range as the referee blew for a holding foul by Tawan on Kittiphap.

A Douglas shot from twenty yards had enough bend on it to make a movie but not enough to beat Kiadtiphon who made the save look straightforward.

Elias curled a 25 yard free kick wide of the far upright and at the other end Tawan headed a Phosri cross over the bar.

And that was half time and an opportunity for a serious discussion about our favourite Warwickshire cricketers. It was quite a list. Probably the highlight of the evening.

The second half questions were about how many chances Douglas would need before he at least hit the target and how long he could spend in the Chiang Mai penalty area before falling over.

His best chance came when he beat Sarawin on the left of the penalty area; bounced off the substitute Nawamin, and then scooped the ball over the crossbar with just the ‘keeper to beat.

Chiang Mai’s best opportunity came from a Phosri cross headed down by Narupon that Tawan, stooping in front of goal, was unable to convert.

Some of the visitors’ decision making was woeful; on the break they simply ran out of ideas; too often the glory long range effort was preferred to a more measured pass to a well-positioned team mate. Pongrawit and Sumeth were both wasteful.

The big Customs centre half, Laphouwich, who had a sound evening, headed an Elias cross onto the top of the crossbar and Kiadtiphon did very well to turn away Zarei’s bouncing header from a Tawin corner.

The young goalkeeper injured himself in the process and had to be replaced by Jaturong for the final five minutes. Kiadtiphon had made two notable saves and continues to impress.

Chiang Mai will be fairly relieved to have come away with a point. Customs will think that they had the possession and chances to win the match.

Meanwhile the crowd will all have wished that they had spent Saturday evening doing something else.

A three point gift


Chiang Mai FC 2 Khon Kaen FC 1
Thai M150 Championship
23 January 2022
700th Anniversary Stadium

Starting XI
Kiadtiphon
Narupon
Veljko
Chaiyapruek
Sarawin
Pongrawit
Sumeth
Somyot
Seiya
Gustavsson
Tawan

0-0 at half time. 1-1 after 83 minutes. With less than ten minutes to go Chiang Mai take off Gustavsson, their most likely goalscorer. The teams appear to have settled upon a sadly predictable draw. The owners are content.

Up steps Tawan. His 88th minute 25 yard free kick is hit with little power and is straight at Prapat, the Khon Kaen keeper; a simple head height catch. Inexplicably he drops it behind him before he can grab it.

The linesman; who cannot have had a much better view than many in the crowd, signals a goal. Chiang Mai fans all agreed that the ball had crossed the line. Khon Kaen players and officials were incensed. And neutrals would have no clue whether that was or was not a valid goal.

The goal stood and Chiang Mai played out time for a very welcome 2-1 win.

For Chiang Mai Kiadtiphon returned in goal with Sumeth making a rare start in place of Supasak and Somyot in place of Phosri.

For Khon Kaen their only change from last week’s home defeat by Lamphun was Carlos Damian, newly acquired from Ranong, starting in place of Jakkrit.

The first twenty-five minutes were devoid of meaningful action; there was little pattern and less purpose.

The after 27 minutes Gustavsson ran from wide right on the half way line cutting into the edge of the Khoan Kaen penalty area; failing to find Seiya his pass rebounded to Pongrawit who hurried his shot wide.

Pongrawit threatened minutes later with a curling long range shot that was a comfortable save.
It was Khon Kaen’s turn to threaten as Kiadtiphon leaped to turn over Chakrit’s shot from the right angle of the penalty area.

Pattara then saw his 12 yard shot deflected over the crossbar as Chiang Mai struggled to clear the ball from defense.

It had been a strange first half; low on both interest and energy; rather like watching twenty rudderless ships on a boating pond it was all rather aimless.

Khon Kaen started the second half brighter; Pattara shot straight at the keeper as did Thanadol with a long range free kick.

Carlos Damian and Chakrit combined well allowing Chakrit to turn on the edge of the penalty area and shoot over the cross bar.

It was Chiang Mai’s turn to dominate. Pongrawit pulled his shot wide after a run down the left by Tawan.

The pressure would pay off.

Another Chiang Mai free kick down the left side. Sarawin’s free kick was met with power by Veljko. His header going across Prapat into the corner. 1-1.

Another left wing cross from Tanisman at the other end was met by a stooping header from Chakrit which was turned away by Kiatiphon at the near post.

Another powerful and direct run from Gustavsson deserved a more threatening final pass or shot.

The best move of the game was in the 79th minute with an interchange between Sumeth and Tawan setting up Amornthep (on as a substitute) who beat Phattharaphon with ease before rushing his attempt to clear the goalkeeper who was able to concede just the corner.

With just minutes left Khon Kaen equalized.

Somyot fouled Tiago just over 25 yards from goal. Chakrit’s well struck free kick cleared the wall and also evaded Kiadtiphon who appeared to slip in the increasingly worn goal area, and was unable to reach the shot to his right side. It was unfortunate for the young goalkeeper who had otherwise been immaculate.

Chiang Mai’s strange response was to replace their strong running Swedish forward. Gustavsson making way for Natithorn.

The draw seemed likely until, in the last minute of normal time, Prapat dropped his clanger and Chiang Mai had their hard-earned three points; leaving the Khon Kaen management to harangue the referee over validity of the Chiang Mai winner.

The crowd was officially 915. The only conclusion is that whoever is providing this number is seeing double.

Chiang Mai profit from referee’s howler


Chiang Mai FC 2 Kasetsart 0

Thai M150 Championship
15 January 2022
700th Anniversary Stadium

Starting XI
Jaturong
Narupon
Veljko
Chaiyapruek
Sarawin
Phosri
Supasak
Somyot
Seiya
Gustavsson
Tawan

For ten minutes this was an open, entertaining football match. Then the referee became involved and it was game over for Kasetsart.

Patrick Gustavsson made his league debut for Chiang Mai, replacing Danilo up front. Jaturong continued in goal after his League Cup start in midweek.

There are many new faces at Kasetsart; significantly the two French forwards, Houla and Dia, were making their Kasetsart league debuts. Houla impressed for Nongbua against CMFC last season.
In the opening minutes Dia turned smartly in the penalty area releasing Sakunchai; his low 12 yard shot was well gathered to his left by Jaturong.

The goalkeeper’s quick release reached Supasak whose ball forward into space behind the defense set up a race between the onrushing goalkeeper and Patrik Gustavsson; the forward reached the ball first taking one touch into the penalty area followed by a very composed left foot finish into the empty net. Welcome to Chiang Mai, Patrik.

Kasetart countered quickly. Marut’s crossfield pass from the left was headed by Dia into the centre of the penalty area. Greg Houla raced Narupon into the area; they came together; Houla fell; and in the scramble that followed Jaturong gathered the ball as Houla was held off by Chaiyaphruek,

Maybe the referee, from his angle, thought there was a kick from Houla on the goalkeeper. It does not appear to have been for dissent. Houla was given a straight red card and after ten minutes Kasetsart had lost their star forward. It looked a head-shakingly poor decision.

Two minutes later Gustavsson’s pace took him down the left wing; his low cross into the area was bundled into the net by Seiya. There was no offside flag. Seiya beat Korrokot in the Kasetsart goal to the ball. The referee disallowed the goal perhaps thinking that Seiya kicked the ball out of the goalkeeper’s hands – except he never had the ball in his hands. Was he trying to make amends for the sending off? Seiya’s bemused “why?” said everything.

Ten men Kasetsart still pressed forward with Celio Santos leading down the left wing. His low cross evaded Chaiyapruek and Marut in space in front of goal could only hook the ball wide.

At the other end Pongrawit’s 25 yard strike had power but was straight at Korrakot. A Seiya cross from the left narrowly evaded Gustavsson.

1-0 to the home side at half time. And it was a surprise that Kasetsart, with ten men, were not further behind. CMFC failing to take greater control of the match.

The second half opened with two good chances for Chiang Mai to add to their lead. Veljko galloped at the Kasetsart defense. His measured pass was perfect for Tawan to run onto into the neatly area, chased by Arnont. With just the goalkeeper to beat Tawan is ready to strike when he falls under Arnont’s kick on his standing leg. No penalty said the still remorseful referee.

A Gustavsson run and cross was met by Tawan at the near post but the ball was scooped over the crossbar.

Kasetsart then enjoyed their best spell of the game. Marut spun and shot on the edge of the penalty area. Arnont’s ugly far post volley from Sakuncha’s cross was well wide. Another Marut shot from Dia’s lay-off was skewed wide. And Dia ran out of idea after a strong run into the Chiang Mai penalty area.

This left Chiang Mai playing on the break but Gustavsson and Seiya need more time together to build an understanding as their movement, or lack of, was causing confusion.

Pongrawit’s pass for Gustavsson to his left saw the strikers well hit low shot saved by Korrakot.

Gustavsson became the playmaker in the 69th minute as his short reverse pass released Tawan, holding off Woraphot’s challenge, to carry the ball to the byline and pull it back for Seiya to slam into the roof of the net. 2-0.

There were a flurry of late substitutions but little other activity in the remaining minutes.

A comfortable win for Chiang Mai; in no small part thanks to the referee. Jaturong in the Chiang Mai goal really did not have a save to make. Gustavsson had a memorable League debut. There will be tougher tests ahead.

Chiang Mai move into the top half of T2 and now, with the next two games against Khon Kaen FC and Customs Ladkrabang United a play-off spot becomes tantalizing close.

It had to be Yoo


Chiang Mai FC 0 Chonburi FC 1
Revo Thai League Cup
12 January 2022
700th Anniversary Stadium

Starting XI
Jaturong
Watcharin
Meedech/Poomphat
Veljko
Suchanon
Sumeth
Pinyo
Amornthep
Nawamin
Somyot
Danilo

It had to be Yoo
Wonderful Yoo
It had to be Yoo

Just as the thoughts of the, allegedly 714 strong, crowd were turning to extra time, rather than dinner, Chonburi’s Korean striker, Yoo Byung-Soo, created some space on the edge of the penalty area and scorched a left foot shot past Jaturong, returning in goal for Chiang Mai.

It was no more than Chonburi deserved for dominating the second half and the visitors held on with some ease for the last ten minutes.

The Revo League Cup cleverly brings in the T1 sides for the round of 32 but insists that they all have to play their opening match away from home. This leads to some intriguing games with the real potential
for an upset. Just as one example Uthai Thani T3 knocked out SCG Muangthong this evening. Uthai Thani will be one of three T3 side in the last 16. Only Chainat survive from T2.

The visit of Nongbua Pitchaya to NakhonSi United may be the longest away trip in Thai football this season at 1,300kms each way.

The home team made eight changes from the side that drew with Rajpracha on Sunday. The issue with the starting eleven is that it was hard to see where any goal might come from.

Apologies to anyone who bought a number 26 shirt with the name of club captain Meedech on the back. He is now known as Poomphat and his shirt has changed accordingly. For some of us he will always be Meedech the Warrior.

Jaturong returned in goal for his first start since suffering a head injury against Chainat in October. He did well.

The back three of Meedech/Poonphat, Veljko and Watcharin had a sound game. My personal preference is to see Veljko in the centre of a back three rather than on the right. From the centre his strength and organization are more apparent.

Chonburi, who are currently third in Thai League 1, arguably showed rather more respect for the Cup and for the home side. There were just three changes from their weekend draw with SCG Muangthong.

Chiang Mai set out to frustrate Chonburi; retaining possession when they could and pressing high to discomfort the visitors. It was effective.

For forty-five minutes Chonburi looked ponderous and increasingly frustrated. Their passing was poor and their decision making was slow.

The first shot in anger was not until the 14th minute when Pinyo on the left corner of the penalty area pinged his shot wide of the far post.

A Kanuk shot and a Songchai header both cleared the Chiang Mai crossbar.

Shortly before half-time Amornthep’s persistence deserved better than his final pass which slid behind Danilo.

And then in first half injury time Watcharin volleyed over the crossbar after Chonburi failed to clear a Meedech/Poomphat throw in and follow-up cross.

0-0 at half time in a game of very few chances but where Chiang Mai had worked hard and acquitted themselves well.

The second half was to be dominated by Chonburi. Playing more direct football and passing the ball forward quickly meant that Chonburi were starting to find and exploit the spaces around the Chiang Mai defense.

Yoo was at the heart of the early action. Shooting over from 20 yards. Being booked for leaving his studs on Veljko and then on the receiving end of a heavy Veljko challenge for which the defender was booked.

A pacey Chonburi move down the left side ended with Kritsada shooting wide.

Kroekit’s wonderfully cushioned first touch allowed him to pass inside for Saharat whose first-time shot from distance was turned away by Jaturong diving to his right.

The arrival of three Chiang Mai substitutes coincided with an aimless spell in the game. Nothing of significance was happening. Patrik Gustavsson made his Chiang Mai debut; he will get more opportunities. Pongrawit was anonymous and looked out of place on the right side of midfield.

Kanuk blasted a twenty yard free kick into a solid Chiang Mai wall. The ball bounced out to Kritsada whose shot was inches wide of Jaturong’s right post.

Yoo’s goal came with just ten minutes remaining. Allowed too much space twenty yards in front of goal his left foot shot was struck with power and accuracy; Jaturong had no chance.

Chonburi might have added a second when Kritsada’s close range shot from a low Chitsanuphong cross was well-saved by Jaturong falling to his right.

There was time for some unlikely handbags between Pongrawit and Renato Kanuk and for Chonburi goalkeeper Chanin to be booked for persistent time-wasting. It was flattering that he thought it necessary as he did not have a save to make in the preceding 90 minutes.

In the end Chonburi came to Chiang Mai, did what they needed to do, and will head home with their name in the last 16 of the League Cup. Chiang Mai can focus on a respectable League 2 finish with a visit from Kasetsart on Saturday 15th.

Ninety wasted minutes


Chiang Mai FC 0 Rajpracha FC 0
Thai M150 Championship
9 January 2022

700th Anniversary Stadium

Starting XI

Kiadtiphon
Narupon
Veljko
Chaiyapruek
Sarawin
Phosri
Supasak
Somyot
Seiya
Danilo
Tawan

It was a glorious evening for football. A good pitch. A cool still evening. A smattering of fans lost in this huge bowl of a stadium.

It is just a shame that so very little football was actually played. This was a game almost devoid of anything that resembles quality; a litany of poor passing, poor challenges and poor decision making.

Chiang Mai gave debuts to two BG loan players; Kiadtiphon in goal and Sarawin on the right side of midfield. Missing from the matchday squad were Meedech, Pongrawit, Kabaev and the newly recruited Patrik Gustavsson.

Rajpracha gave debuts to six new players including three Chiang Mai alumni in Chutipan, Athibordee and Porncha.

Gisung Yeon and Choe Hoju are their newly recruited Koreans from Ranong and Customs respectively. Neither impressed.

That Porncha led the line says much about Rajpracha’s ambition. He scored just one goal for Chiang Mai in the first half of the season; ironically against Rajpracha.

The early chances fell to Rajpracha. Kiatiphon diving to his left to shovel away a ball that Porncha, rather than heading, stumbled into and kneed goalwards after a low cross from the right wing.

Thammayut’s free kick from the narrowest of angles was kept out by a combination of goalkeeper hands and the near upright.

Narapon was then caught in possession on the half way line by Porncha. Narupon holding back the Rajpracha forward received a yellow card; the referee presumably thinking that Veljko and Chaiyapruek provided cover.

Chiang Mai’s first threat came after 23 minutes; Supasak’s cross from the left was behind the back four and ideal for Tawan’s well-timed run. One touch with his right foot to bring the ball under control before hooking the ball wide of the near post with his left foot.

Another diagonal Veljko cross was met by Seiya with a weighted lay-off for Tawan. Tawan elected to go for goal rather than pull the ball square for Seiya. His left foot shot from a tight angle was a comfortable save.

0-0 at half time; but if the first half was short on incident the second half was about to reach a new low.

Chiang Mai’s best chance of the match came after 58 minutes; breaking forwards quickly and in numbers, Sarawin’s cross from the left wing was pulled square for Seiya just inside the penalty area; his first time shot was well hit; and well saved low to his left by Kittituch.

Tawan was booked for kicking Athibordee. Later Athibordee was booked for a reckless challenge to make sure substitute Amornthep could not go past him. Chiang Mai coach Bae also went into the book for venturing onto the pitch to protest Athibordee’s challenge.

Danilo looked very unhappy to be substituted and as he left so did any expectation that Chiang Mai might be looking for a winning goal.

Two last chances for Rajpracha; the substitute Jardel meeting Thammayut’s corner but heading too close to the Chiang Mai goalkeeper. And an Athibordee free kick from distance clearing the cross bar.

Final score 0-0. A result that may please the BG boardroom but which will leave anyone who watched the game deeply frustrated. It was poor. Despite the large number of new players Rajpracha still look like a relegation team.

As for Chiang Mai; goals are going to be rare. Kiadtiphon made an assured debut in goal. But there was little else to get the pulse racing – or even just ticking over.

Officially the crowd was 756. It was not.

2021 – good riddance


At the end of 2020 I wrote:

“Maybe one of the lessons of 2020 is how to make the world a better place for future generations. Less greed and more care. It sounds like an optimist’s utopia; but after 2020 we need to believe that we can do better.”

2021 might even have been the start of a post Covid world.

In hindsight I was far too optimistic.

2021 was a wasted year. Internationally, collectively and for many people individually. Even for those people who did great things, eg Tokyo Olympians (held in 2021 but called Tokyo 2020) no one was watching and I doubt many will remember. We all had other issues to deal with.

Our leaders flew in and out of Glasgow on private jets for a meeting on climate change. I doubt they even saw the irony.

Joe Biden became President – that felt like a good thing; but it was only an indication of how low the bar was set.

The storming of Congress was a dangerous symbol of the threat to democracy in an increasingly angry world. Trump 2024? Too many people feel that they have nothing to lose and that mainstream media, business and institutions have failed them.

In the November 2022 mid-term elections the Democrats may see their slim control over the House and Senate taken away. Constitutional checks and balances that do so much to make US style democracy unworkable.

A divided Senate and a Republican supreme court leaves Biden governing in handcuffs.

One result of 2021- autocrats and dictators have been emboldened. In too many countries ruling parties have used international community distraction over Covid19 as an opportunity to crack down hard against dissident voices.

Chin has led the way but closely followed by much of South East Asia.

China completed the annexation of Hong Kong; muzzled a once vibrant press and imprisoned anyone who publicly objected.

But China was far from alone in using the distractions of Covid to mask an authoritarian crackdown on opposition and dissenting voices.

Worst in South East Asia was Myanmar where the generals seized power in a 1 February coup. Under Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the military has resumed the position of power it held for decades, and outsiders, including China, are betting on it consolidating its control. It has cracked down on a robust anti-coup protest movement with extreme violence. Sanctions make no difference other than hurting the poorest citizens.

Russia rattled its sabres…again. What happens next for Ukraine?

Biden’s retreat from Afghanistan was a murderous shambles leaving the nation in the hands of the Taliban. There was no plan when the west went into Afghanistan and there was no exit plan.

Geopolitically the West, as led by the USA, simply looked weak – commitments made have not be honoured and trust in the long term damaged.

For China, the Western model of democracy is in terminal decline – which makes it remarkable how many Chinese still head to the USA to study there.

Angella Merkel retired after 16 years as German Chancellor. In many ways an extraordinary leader and a stabilising force not just for Germany but for Europe.

Even better we really know so little about her. She was calm, private, logical and very smart. The complete antithesis of so many UK politicians.

The UK is one year into Brexit. Another shambles. More promises unfulfilled.

And of course looming over the whole year – Covid – whether is was a third or fourth wave does not really matter. It has not gone away. The only good news is that many people are now vaccinated – which should at least mean a significant reduction in serious illnesses and hospitalizations.

Few things have ever been this divisive. Politicians on one side and too often scientists on the other.

Perhaps one of the lessons of the year is that we have at last moved on from the influence and impact of the second world war. Alliances and geopolitical divides that were drawn up in the post war years are being recast. Long overdue.

England were obliterated in the Ashes; now 3-0 down in a five match series after capitulating in Melbourne.

Personally – ennui is the biggest problem.

It is over 2 and 1/2 years since I last saw Alex….and that has been hard.

It is almost two years since we came back from the UK – our last international trip.

My mother died in May. The various UK and Thailand quarantine rules meant I could not attend the funeral or see her before she died. So many families have been in a similar situation but that does not make it right.

And I have spent most of this year on my own while Tai has worked a full year in Bangkok. I try to not let it get me down…but not very successfully. New Year’s Eve saw me home alone.

I do not mind that much – the thought of being in a crowd of people is still not appealing.

I go to sleep – but there are times when I think it may not matter whether I wake up. I know that it should matter. After all who would read my website! If anyone still does.

I wake up every morning feeling tired – with something aching. Knee, leg, head, elbow; there is usually something.

It has been that kind of year. Doing nothing and going nowhere is exhausting.

Oddly it has been my football trips that keep me going – that give me something to plan and places to explore. So when games were played behind closed doors I was miserable.

When travel was allowed within Thailand we did get to Phuket for a few days in February. It was so quiet.

Football took me to Nongbua, Uthai Thani, Sisaket, Udon Thani, Khon Kaen, Kanchanaburi and Satthahip/Pattaya. Mostly by car – there are some long drives but it is a good way to explore and see the country.

It can be a rather solitary trip – you quickly find out that few people speak English; conversations are difficult. Of course I could learn more Thai.

There are times when I do feel like I am alone in a foreign land….albeit a land that I know well.

I need to look after my health – it is too easy to sink into a regime of lethargy without enough exercise. But then I am not thirty-something anymore!

Two years of living with Covid – two years where our lives have been in upheaval – rules, regulations, restrictions. Some 5 and 1/2 million deaths. New ways of schooling; new ways or working; some businesses decimated; others prospering; two years of becoming angrier with eachother; two years of polarised opinions; two years of intolerance; two years of increased rather than reduced hostilities; two years of putting self-interest before the good of others. We are more selfish and more insular; more fearful and more protective.

Yes those are generalisations; many people have done great things; but have done so despite, not because of the geo-political environment.

Two years of losing family and friends that we cannot say goodbye to.

I hate it.

 

Desmond Tutu – a prophet and a priest


Desmond Tutu has died – he was the last of the great voices against apartheid in South Africa – a moral compass when so many people had lost their own.

My generation grew up listening to a powerful voice – angry but tempered with humanity.

So many in Britian tried to defend the indefensibe; tried to rationalise apartheid; tried to discredit Mandela and Tutu. Those people were on the wrong side of history – they delated change – they caused suffering and bloodshed.

Today’s South Africa may still be worryingly flawed but it is a nation that is now in charge of its own destiny and values; values that will hopefully reflect the life of one its greatest spiritual leader.

I cannot write an obituary to Desmond Tutu – this is from Reuters:

*************************

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and veteran of South Africa’s struggle against apartheid who was revered as his nation’s conscience by both Black and white, died on Sunday aged 90.

Tutu won the Nobel prize in 1984 in recognition of his non-violent opposition to white minority rule. A decade later, he witnessed the end of that regime and chaired a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, set up to unearth atrocities committed under it.

Ever outspoken, he preached against the tyranny of the white minority.

After apartheid ended, he called the Black political elite to account with as much feistiness as he had the Afrikaners, but his enduring spirit of reconciliation in a divided nation always shone through, and tributes to him poured in from around the world on Sunday.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa described Tutu in a televised address as “one of our nation’s finest patriots” adding, “our nation’s loss is indeed a global bereavement.”

U.S. President Joe Biden said Tutu followed his spiritual calling to create a better, freer, and more equal world. “His legacy transcends borders and will echo throughout the ages.”

“Archbishop Desmond Tutu was a mentor, a friend and a moral compass for me and so many others,” former President Barack Obama said. “He never lost his impish sense of humour and willingness to find humanity in his adversaries.”

Bill Clinton called Tutu’s life “a gift.”

Born near Johannesburg, Tutu spent most of his later life in Cape Town and led numerous marches and campaigns to end apartheid from St George’s Cathedral’s front steps.

Tutu died “peacefully” on Sunday morning in a Cape Town nursing home, a representative of his Archbishop Desmond Tutu IP Trust said. He will lie in state at St George’s on Friday before his funeral service there on Saturday, it said.

Looking frail and in a wheelchair, he was last seen in public in October at St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town – a one-time safe haven for anti-apartheid activists – for a service marking his 90th birthday.

He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in the late 1990s and was later hospitalised several times to treat infections associated with treatment for it.

In his final years he also regretted that his dream of a “Rainbow Nation” had yet to come true, and often fell out with erstwhile allies at the ruling African National Congress party over their failures to address the poverty and inequalities that they promised to eradicate.

Just five feet five inches (1.68 metres) tall and with an infectious giggle, Tutu travelled tirelessly through the 1980s to become the face of the anti-apartheid movement abroad while many of the leaders of the then rebel ANC, including future President Nelson Mandela, were behind bars.

Long-time friends, Tutu and Mandela lived for a time on the same street in the South African township of Soweto, making Vilakazi Street the only one in the world to have been home to two Nobel Peace Prize winners.

“His most characteristic quality is his readiness to take unpopular positions without fear,” Mandela once said of Tutu. “Such independence of mind is vital to a thriving democracy.”

Having officially retired from public life on his 79th birthday Tutu – who once said of himself: “I wish I could shut up, but I can’t, and I won’t” – continued to speak out on a range of moral issues.

John Steenhuisen, leader of opposition party The Democratic Alliance, said Tutu’s spirit would live on “in our continued effort to build a united, successful, non-racial South Africa for all.”

In 2008, Tutu accused the West of complicity in Palestinian suffering by remaining silent.

In 2013, he declared his support for gay rights, saying he would never “worship a God who is homophobic.”

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby on Sunday hailed Tutu as “a prophet and priest” while Pope Francis offered heartfelt condolences to his family and loved ones.

In a letter to Tutu’s daughter Reverend Mpho Tutu, Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, said the world had “lost a great man, who lived a truly meaningful life.”

“We are better because he was here,” said Martin Luther King’s daughter Bernice.

More reading: The courage of Desmond Tutu – New Statesman.

The Thai League 2 inaugural Mince Pie awards



Chiang Mai captain, Meedech Sarayuthpisai, asking where is his mince pie?

2021/2022 Half term report: Thailand’s M150 Championship

Seventeen games gone; seventeen to come starting in January 2022. The first half of the season was completed on schedule, albeit at times behind closed doors, always with crowd restrictions and with the pandemic hanging over the League like a Damoclean sword.

At opposite ends of the table Trat march on unbeaten while Navy prop up the table with just six points. It would be a near miracle if either team are still in T2 next season.

The real battles in the second half of the season will be for the second automatic promotion spot; for the four play-off places and to avoid the remaining two relegation spots.

By the close of the transfer window at the start of the new year it will become clearer which teams are investing for promotion or survival.

With the mid-season break coinciding with Christmas and New Year celebrations what can be better than the first ever, yet still coveted, M150 Championship Mince Pie awards.

The Mince Pie for leading goalscorer

Awarded to Thales Lima. There have been 449 goals scored in 153 matches; an average of 2.93 per game. The leading goalscorers are:

13 Thales, Udon Thani.
12 Caion, Muangkan,
12 Sow, Sukhothai,
12 Deyvison, Lampang,
10 Choe Hoju, Customs

Thales’ goal haul is rather skewed by the four he scored in a 9-3 win at woeful Customs. It does feel as though he is critical to Udon Thani’s continuing success this season. Keep him and the Orange Giants (or Festive Tangerines?) finish in the top three.

Leading Thai goalscorers:

9 Chaowarat, Sukhothai
7 Weerayut, Lampang
7 Anuntachok (Anan), Lamphun

If Thai football needs one thing it is more, stronger, bigger local goalscorers; it is good to see these three young players doing well.

Leading trio or duet of goalscorers:

23 Babo, Valdo and Conrado. Trat
21 Sow and Chaowarat, Sukhothai.
20 Thales and Suew, Udon Thani.
19 Caion and Assa da Silva, Muangkan.

I like this award as it really does show how finding the right players, building an understanding between them, and keeping them fit will propel a team to the leading places in this league. Babo, Valdo and Conrado make a terrific front line at this level and get a mince pie each.

At Sukhothai the Argentinian Velez has been replaced by Melvin de Leeuw, reunited with his 2020 Chiang Mai United coach. A good move for de Leeuw and for Sukhothai.

Most entertaining team to watch.

This is based purely on goals per game, because in the end that is what the supporters want to see.

Sukhothai. Supporters have seen 69 goals in their 17 games.
Customs supporters have seen 72 goals in 17 games but 12 of those were in a single game which was just too strange to be taken seriously.

So Sukhothai gets the mince pie entertainment award; Dennis Amato has done a top job there; rebuilding the team after its relegation and the loss of key players.

Least entertaining team to watch

Kasetsart have scored 15 and conceded 20. Navy have only scored 10 but their opponents have enjoyed playing against them.

Yet every game Kasetsart have won (5 of them) has been by a solitary goal so there has always been the drama of conceding a late goal. A 2-2 draw at Sukhothai was a top effort.

So I will give the mince pie to Rajpracha because, for reasons unknown, no supporters have been allowed to attend any of their Leo Stadium matches this season which by default makes them no fun to watch because you cannot!

Most improved team:

Muangkan still have a bizarre ability to play like a team that have never met before. Maybe a mince pie award will bring them together. They lost 5 of their opening 7 matches but have only lost one of their 10 games since 10 October, carelessly against Nakhon Pathom who have been a shadow of last season’s team.

But Muangkan have now lost top scorer, Caion, to Suphanburi. They have been linked with bringing Baggio back to Thailand. Wait and see.

Team going backwards award.

What has happened to Phrae? They won six and drew 2 of their first eight games. 20 points from a possible 24. An outstanding start. And then just four draws and four points from the remaining nine games.

Coach Arnon was released in October and no one seems to understand why. Suddenly they look like a side very low on confidence.

Worst traveling team.

Ayutthaya are unbeaten at home. But have lost 7 of 9 games on the road. This may be a result of having so many Muangthong youth players who should all be tucked up at home by 9pm, after eating their mince pie awards.

I jest; but there has to be some consideration of the distances involved in traveling around Thailand; especially at a time when domestic flights have been either not available or restricted.

Imagine if you will a round bus trip from Udon Thani to Ranong returning overnight after the game. 15 hour non-stop by car – so probably 17 or 18 hours in a coach. As a player you have to know how to manage your body; to keep hydrated, relaxed, to sleep and to avoid the listlessness that can set in on such a long trip.

Hit and miss coaching changes.

Udon Thani parted ways with Daniel Blanco. Jörg Steinebrunner has ensured continuity at the club and kept his team in touch with Trat and Sukhothai – the only blemish being a 2-0 defeat at Lamphun in what was a terrific game of football and contrasting styles.

Udon Thani’s only home defeat was against struggling Rayong and is an indication of how disruptive coaching changes can be.

Daniel Blanco has moved to Khon Kaen replacing Miura Masayuki. Big changes will be needed to keep the T-Rexs from T2 extinction.

Lamphun replaced their young coach Jonsarith bringing in Brazilian Wanderley Machoda da Silva.

Muangkan replaced Jadet Meelarp; a move that now seems to be paying dividends.

Navy replaced Mitsuo Katoh with Chalermwut Sa-ngapol; sadly no one has seen any real change and it will need more than a fair wind to keep Navy in T2.

Phrae released coach Arnon who had led Phrae from T3 and into a playoff spot last season; on a temporary basis Pichitpong Choeichiu took on the role of playing coach. It has not worked out well.

Rajpracha are on their third coach of the season; but it does not really matter; they all appear to be rotated within the giant BG empire. There are already signs of talented young players being sent to salvage Rajpracha in the second half of the season.

The Mince Pie for successful coaching change is jointly awarded to Muangkan and Udon Thani. The what were they thinking mince pie goes to Phrae.

Longest unbeaten run.

Obviously Trat wins this award – but worthy efforts from Lamphun, unbeaten in their last 11 games, and a run of 9 by Sukhothai.

Disappointments.

Khon Kaen made their position clear by releasing all three of their foreign players, Bubalo, Fellipe and Koki. With just one goal between them in 36 appearances.

At Chiang Mai Kabaev and Danilo have just five goals between them. Not enough.

The wonderfully named Pitbull (that cannot have been his parents’ choice?) did eventually score for Rayong – just once.

Mince pies for all of them. Foreign players in Thailand need to deliver to justify their salaries. Otherwise it is quickly time to move on.

Home is where the football is award.

Rayong FC have played their home games everywhere except at their own Rayong Provincial Stadium. They played at Trat and Chonburi; and in recent days have moved to the PTT Stadium in Rayong. With talk of investment by PTT the future now looks more assured.

Their home supporters will have ten home games to enjoy in the second half of the season, as will Chiang Mai supporters.

Goal of the first half of the season:

449 is a lot of goals. I have not seen them all. To be honest I would love to know your favorites. Maybe we can have a top ten goals of the season to cheer us up in April/May.

There are plenty of contenders but I have two personal favourites – Valdo’s goal for Trat at home to Sukhothai for a 3-2 lead. On a poor pitch he waltzed past five defenders before beating the goalkeeper.

Yet even Trat make mistakes; Seiya Sugishita’s (Chiang Mai FC) wonderful 45 yard lob dropping over Tossaporn and under the Trat crossbar. The game was long lost but this was economical in effort and extraordinary in execution.

Overhead kicks from Jardel (Rajpracha) and Neto (Nakhon Pathom) warrant honorary mentions for their athleticism. Arthit’s freekick for Lamphun at home to Udon Thani was top quality. In between some nonsense there have been some terrific goals.

But the Mince Pie goes to Valdo. 75 minutes gone and 2-2. Valdo received the ball wide left and simply kept going, cutting into and across the penalty area, leaving defenders fallen like Canadian pines, before picking his spot passed the goalkeeper.

The Match of the first half of the season award.

Not the 3-9 Customs v Udon Thani farce. The sort of game that risks giving Thai football a bad name.

The mince pie goes to Trat v Sukhothai. In dismal conditions this 4-3 home win for Trat had quality, drama and farce. What more could a supporter ask for.

Lamphun v Udon Thani is in a strong second place with Lamphun winning a game of fine football and fine margins. Lamphun’s second goal from local wonder boy, Anuntachok, made the result far more convincing than the reality.

The soggy mince pie award

Mince pies are best eaten warm with a nice crispy golden pastry crust. So the soggy mince pie award can only go to one team. I have to be careful here but there is simply no way that the Ranong football pitch is either fit or safe for football. Conditions in September and October were appalling. Standing water; heavy mud and near incessant rain. In mid-October two home matches had been moved to away games before the club returned to Ranong on 7 November.

Ranong remain unbeaten at home which comes as no great surprise when other teams simply want to get away as quickly as possible. Dennis Amato, in a now deleted or restricted facebook post, called it a “mud-wrestling stadium.”

And that is my awards list for the first half of the season. The serious part of the season begins in January.

Until then enjoy the holiday and have a very happy new year.

Tawan’s goal answers Chiang Mai prayers


Picture: official cmfc

Chiang Mai FC 1 Phrae United 0
Thai M150 Championship
8 December 2021

700th Anniversary Stadium

Starting XI

Fahas
Narupon
Meedech
Veljko
Chaiyapruek
Supasak
Somyot
Seiya
Danilo
Pongrawit
Tawan

A well won three points takes Chiang Mai to joint 10th in T2 alongside Kasetsart and fast-improving Muangkan. Eight points clear of the three clubs in the relegation zone and seven points short of the play-off places.

Thanks to the end of season playoffs for the third promotion spot there is still plenty of opportunity for change in the top six in the second half of the season.

Phrae United started this season in a hurry and were unbeaten in their first eight games. However since their last win on 13 October they have now drawn four and lost five games. 20 points in their first eight games and just four from their next nine. Firing coach Arnon does not appear to have been the wisest of moves.

They looked like a team short on confidence; typical was Smith failing to shoot when clear in the second half preferring to pass square instead. Their leading goalscorer, Rodrigo Maranhao, has not started in the last two games. It was hard to see where their next goal will come from.

Chiang Mai’s defending was solid throughout. There was a welcome return for Veljko; although a recurrence of his back pain saw him substituted late in the second half. Narupon was immaculate throughout. An early headed deflection of a powerful free kick from S. Adisorn was important.

From the resulting corner Fahas had to punch clear from under his crossbar and then made a confident catch from the follow-up corner.

Up front for Chiang Mai Tawan was a live-wire; enjoying space and the opportunity to run at defenders. His right footed curler from 25 yards was pushed over the cross bar by Nantapol.

Taku Ito was Phrae’s main threat – his long run down the left in the 25th minute ending with a disappointing cross easily gathered by Fahas, while Smith and Phitchanon waited in the penalty area.

Danilo launched himself into a bicycle kick to reach Meedech’s low first-time cross from the right side. The connection was good; the height and direction less so.

Pongrawit’s run at the middle of the Phrae defense ended with his shot being deflected for a corner while Fahas did well to win a challenge with Yuthajak to punch away Sarawut’s cross.

0-0 at half time with little to choose between the teams. Chiang Mai had looked a little too narrow moving forward. Meedech’s forays down the right wing were limited. Meanwhile Phrae made more use of Taku and Sarawut playing wide although the final cross was rarely threatening.

A change of wings at the start of the second half saw Taku move to the right side and his strong run to the goal line ended with a pass inches behind substitute Kittisak’s run so he could only deflect the ball wide.

In the 72nd minute Chiang Mai took the lead with a simple effective counter attack. Narupon’ s clearing header was headed forward by Phosri into the run of Tawan who, moving at pace, held off Carlos Santos and confidently side-footed the ball home passed the advancing keeper. Cue his athletic celebration.

Trying to get back into the game Sarawut blasted powerfully over the crossbar; he then ran onto a tidy reverse pass from Taku and from a narrow angle drew a smart near post save from Fahas. Taku then headed over from S. Adisorn’s cross.

As Phrae pushed forward Tawan had a chance for a double; surging forward from halfway only to pull a left-foot shot narrowly wide.

It was a case of fine margins again; Chiang Mai took one of their chances; Phrae did not. And the home side were good value for their narrow win.

The second half of the season starts on the weekend of 8/9 January. Until then teams will acquire, retain or release players depending on their ambitions for the rest of the season.

In the meantime Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.


League table at half way point.

It’s a long way to Udon Thani


Picture: Official CMFC

Udon Thani FC 3 Chiang Mai FC 1
Thai M150 Championship
5 December 2021
SAT Stadium Udon Thani

Starting XI
Fahas
Narupon
Chaiyapruek
Chutipan
Phosri
Seiya
Supasak
Kiadtisak
Kabaev
Pongrawit
Tawan

After last week’s defeat at Lamphun a determined Udon Thani FC eased past Chiang Mai on Sunday evening to remain in third place, a single point behind Sukhothai, at the mid- point of the season.

For Udon Thani, Thales was passed fit to play after a week without training. His thirteenth goal of the season showed his importance to Udon’s success.

Chiang Mai were playing their 7th game in 22 days; a period that has required them to travel to Lampang, Trat, Satthahip, Chiang Mai, Kanchanaburi, and Udon Thani. The BG bus has been clocking up the mileage.

Unsurprisingly, given the schedule, there were five changes from the midweek game at Muangkan. Significantly, Veljko Filipovic missed out with a back injury.

Udon Thani, who did the double over Chiang Mai last season, have moved from the Sports Institute to the three year old SAT stadium to the east of the city. For a new stadium the pitch is a poor, bumpy surface.

On a cold (cool?) night, Udon Thani looked like Christmas tangerines in their bright orange; and Chiang Mai added a snowy touch in their all white; all under the excellent floodlighting.

The opening minutes were quiet; though an injury to Settawut required an early Udon Thani replacement.

Pongrawit woke the supporters up with an outrageous 50 yard shot from the left side touchline which nearly caught out Sornnarai as he back-peddled to turn the ball over his crossbar.

At the other end Prakit’s wobbling 30 yard effort brought Fahas into action.

Chiang Mai opened the scoring in the 26th minute. Seiya’s pass into the left channel was weighted perfectly for Kabaev’s run; the Chiang Mai forward held off a tame challenge from Kapisoda; confronted by the goalkeeper Kabaev passed the ball square for Tawan to tidily finish. Cue his cartwheel and flip celebration.

The home side’s response was muted. “We need more” implored Thales.

It came, as did most of Udon Thani’s best attacks, down the right flank.

First Prakit’s cross evaded both Thales and Pleumjai.

Then, Kittipong’s cross from the same side was met by a miscued volley from Prakit drawing an uncomfortable save from Fahas.
The tempo of the game was increasing as were noise levels. A lovely reverse pass from Lim set up Thales, in space, running into the penalty area away from four defenders. Kiadtisak was ball-watching allowing Thales to make his diagonal run and finish with a classy flick of his right boot to send the ball past Fahas from six yards.

Thales’ celebrated with a copy of the Tawan cartwheel and flip. Impressive, although the landing was a bit heavy.

Lim was very good all evening – dominating the middle of the park and launching attacks with precision passes to both touchlines.

1-1 at half time. Thales limped out for the start of the second half. Even a half fit Thales is a handful.

Udon Thani took the lead in the 52nd minute when Prakit’s free kick was headed home by  a stooping Kapisoda as the Chiang Mai defense looked distracted by the antics of Thales. Kapisoda got goalside of Seiya; his header from six yards lacked power but bounced down and, almost in slow motion, lobbed up and beyond Fahas. The reaction of some of the Chiang Mai players suggested that the goalkeeper might have done better.

Udon Thani were dominant at this stage. Their third goal came minutes later. Arnold Suew breaking down the left wing; passing Chutipan too easily and sending over a hard low cross aimed at Thales at the far post. Fahas and Chaiyapruek both stretched to intercept. Chaiyapruek was first to the ball and turned it past his own goalkeeper. 3-1 Udon Thani.

One good chance came for Chiang Mai after 70 inutes when Kabaev beat Jetjinn on the edge of the Udon Thani penalty area; his shot was well saved low to bis left by Sornnarai.

A series of substitutions followed. Some half chances at both ends. But it felt like the game was over. Udon Thani sat back; Chiang Mai were spent and a weary Kabaev was replaced by Suchanon.

That weariness will not be helped by a 12 hour overnight bus ride back to Chiang Mai.

The question for both teams is what happens between now and the January restart. Can Udon Thani keep Thales? If so they will continue to push Sukhothai for the second automatic promotion position.

As for Chiang Mai; does BG have the resources to keep both struggling Rajpracha and Chiang Mai in League 2? Changes are both likely and necessary.


Pictures: Official CMFC