An earthquake in Northern Ireland

My Protestant father passed away 16 years ago. I doubt he ever thought the day would come when Sinn Féin massively outpolled the Democratic Unionist party in Northern Ireland’s assembly election.

But here we are; a majority of Northern Ireland’s people has voted to have as first minister a republican whose party wants a united Ireland. Sinn Féin gained an astonishing 29% of first preference votes in Thursday’s assembly elections. The DUP got 21.3%, a drop of 6.7% on its last performance.

Northern Ireland was set up 101 years ago to be an exclusively unionist state. Now, and maybe this is even partly down to Brexit, Sinn Féin’s president, Mary Lou McDonald, has already said that preparations for a border poll should begin immediately and that it could be held within five years.

A party that does not want Northern Ireland to exist and refuses to even use the term Northern Ireland has become its biggest.

This election has simplified the political landscape, while also making it more interesting, not least because of the massive success of Alliance, which has emerged as the third largest party taking 13.5% of first preference votes and gaining numerous seats through transferred votes. It takes no position on the constitutional question and draws voters from unionist, nationalist and other backgrounds. Alliance used to be the party that “nice” unionists said they voted for when they didn’t want to admit they voted for the Reverend Ian Paisley. It has attracted a broad range of people, including many young people from the Protestant community who have rejected the DUP’s fundamentalism and intransigence.

The success of Alliance will ensure that Sinn Féin and the DUP, should they form an executive office together, must represent the interests of a diverse society.

Northern Ireland has had a transformative election. But do not expect rapid change.

The emotional roller-coaster

Picture – @cmfc_official

Rayong FC 3 Chiang Mai FC 2

Thai M150 Championship
Saturday 30 April 2022
Rayong Province Stadium

Starting XI Kiadtiphon
Sumeth
Veljko
Poomphat
Sarawin
Phommin
Suchanon
Pongrawit
Supasak
Seiya
Tawan

What a wonderful roller-coaster football can be. All of life wrapped up in 90 minutes, and like life, with a decent chunk of injury time for redemption.

The despondency: drive for 12 hours and see your team concede a ludicrously soft goal within 2 minutes.

Tanpisit’s long pass from his own half was perfectly aimed into the space opening up for Jakkit’s diagonal run from the right side. Veljko and Meedech were pushing forward. Sumeth for some reason was going the other way until he realized that was a bad idea. By then Jakkit, clearly onside, had a ten yard start on any defender; he calmly bore down on goal and slid the ball past Kiadtiphon.

The optimism; Chiang Mai almost immediately responded and it took a fine save by Noppakun to keep out Suchanon’s shot as he ran onto a pass from Pongrawit.

The relief: Jakkit wins a header at the back post directing the ball at Pitbull (yes that really is what it says on his shirt). Pitbull cocks a leg (he did, honestly) to redirect the ball to Kenzo Nambu at the back post. Nambu’s first attempt rebounds from the woodwork and his follow up was well saved by Kiadtiphon.

 A Pitbull spin and shot went narrowly wide. Salarysport.com advises that Pitbull is paid Baht 150,000 a week. Which makes his one goal from 17 games played one of the most expensive goals scored by a foreign player in Thailand.

The dismay; Jakkit has drifted wide right. Sumeth has not got close enough to him to stop his cross into the area. But he is close enough that the ball hits Sumeth and both deflects and spins inside the near post with Kiadtiphon stranded. Jakkit may claim the goal but it was an own goal.

The debate: Sumeth is not a left back. Sarawin on the other side is not a right back. Chiang Mai looked exposed down both wings. Sumeth was substituted after 36 minutes, by Chaiyapruek, and the defense looked a little more organized.

The predictability: There was still time for Pitbull to move forward from half-way finishing with a powerful shot narrowly clearing the crossbar.

The anxiety: Chiang Mai came close to conceding another goal as the second half commenced. Kiadtiphon, possibly distracted by Poomphat, was unable to gather Kirati’s low cross from the left. Kenzo Nambu was first to the loose ball but shot against the crossbar.

The hope: Surasak is in the Rayong penalty area and heading away from goal. Even so Wasusiwaki still clips his ankles to bring him down. Penalty. Calmly stroked to the goalkeeper’s left by Pongrawit. 2-1 to the home side.

The elation: Five minutes later Tawan spreads the ball wide left for Gustavsson, on as substitute for Phommin. Gustavsson, at pace, reaches the left side of the penalty area and unselfishly pulls the ball square for the onrushing Suchanon to score at the far post. It was a high quality, fluid move. We have not seen enough of that this season. 2-2.

The heartbreak: With ten minutes to go Kittikai plays a give and go on the right side and cuts into the penalty area between Poomphat and Pongrawit to calmly finish a well-worked move past the Chiang Mai goalkeeper.

And that, bar a little pushing and shoving was it. A 3-2 win for the home side who had been outplayed for much of the second half.

Chiang Mai could spend the 12+ hours of their drive home wondering just how that did not get at least a point from that game.

But this was the last game of a long and difficult season and the result does not impact any of the relegation or promotion issues. Thoughts, instead, turn to vacations and to new contracts for next season.

See you again in August 2022.

In other T2 news; Lamphun won the League title; Sukhothai join them as the automatically promoted sides.

Rajpracha, Khon Kaen and Navy are relegated.

The play-off semi finals with be between Trat and Phrae and between Lampang and Chainat.

Unfulfilled potential

Too quiet – much too quiet

Chiang Mai FC 1 Udon Thani FC 1
Thai M150 Championship
Saturday 23 April 2022
700th Anniversary Stadium

Starting XI
Kiadtiphon
Sumeth
Veljko
Poomphat
Kiadtisak
Somyot
Suchanon
Pongrawit
Supasak
Seiya
Tawan

Udon Thani came to Chiang Mai a changed team from the side that won convincingly at home in early December.

Half way through the season the Orange Giants had 34 points from their first round of 17 games and were in a strong third place. In the second half of the season their depleted squad has just 13 points from 16 games. Yet a playoff spot was still a remote possibility if other results were in their favour.

With T2 safety assured for Chiang Mai, after wins at home to Navy and away at Nakhorn Pathom, the 716 fans that attended this last home game of the season might have hoped for a little more entertainment.

But Chiang Mai for only the second time this season were without any of their main strikers; Danilo, Kabaev and Gustavsson, all presumed injured. This left, literally, a lightweight front two of Seiya and Tawan.

Chiang Mai made two changes to the side that won last week at Nakhon Pathom. Somyot replaced Phosri and Supasak came in for Danilo. It was a team strong on defense but light on offense.

Udon started slowly; like a team that had spend far too long on a bus. Chiang Mai attacked down the right side. Udon played give-away in their own half. Tawan looked lively; Seiya had a shot blocked and did put the ball in the net; but it was disallowed for offside.

Yet by the half way point of the first half Udon were settling into the game and pushing forward.

With 23 minutes gone Jongrak aimed a long ball forward for Skraparas; his one significant contribution to the game was to flick the ball into the penalty area behind Veljko; the defender tried to shield the ball for Kiadtiphon to collect. Suew was more alert than both Chiang Mai players and ran between them to volley home from 12 yards.

There were half chances on the break for Chiang Mai. Suchanon shot wide. Pongrawit shot high. Somyot did both at the same time.

Aleks Kapisoda had to leave the game with an injury while stretching to deflect a Tawan cross away from Seiya lurking at the far post. A big loss for the Udon Thani defense.

Udon started the second half as poorly as the first. Supasak deep on the left side in his own half whipped a crossfield ball into a big empty space on the right for Tawan to run onto and into the penalty area; where with great composure he slid the ball inside Sornnarai’s near post for Chiang Mai’s equalizer.

Udon might have restored their lead when Lim received Kittiphong’s pass in the Chiang Mai area; turned, too easily, away from Veljko and from twelve yards his shot was well struck but straight at the legs of Kiadtiphon.

Another Tawan cross from the right was met by a combination of Seiya and a defender; enough to send the ball wide.

Phommin made his Chiang Mai debut replacing Somyot. Phommin had moved from Khon Kaen at the start of the season and has not been seen since.

Tawan remained the main threat for Chiang Mai; last week he was a stand-in right back. Tonight he had the freedom to move around the front line; creating chances for himself and team-mates. He would likely be the first to admit that he needs greater consistency; too many opportunities are wasted from good positions and too often the goalkeeper is not tested.

The final minutes would produce the better chances of the half.

Veljko galloped down the right and hit a firm low cross into the path of Nattawut at the far post; the striker could not convert.

For Udon Thani Lim shot powerfully over the crossbar from 20 yards.

Tawan then set up Sarawin to cross from the right side and Seiya’s powerful low header flashed past the near post. Once again Sornnarai did not have to make a save.

Tawan’s season was also Chiang Mai’s season; plenty of potential but, in the end, not good enough. If he remains another season it would be good to see how he develops.

So a basically a meaningless game between two mid-table teams ended 1-1 and no one was unhappy. Both teams will now be hoping for much greater success next season.

I wonder how many of that squad the Chiang Mai fans were saying goodbye to this evening. We will know in the next few months.

Into the final straight

Kasetsart University Stadium – at home to Sukhothai last weekend.

Thai League 2 – mid April 2022 and just two match days remaining

There are just two match days left in the League 2 season – and as Donald Rumsfeld infamously said: “there are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.”

The known knowns: Navy FC and Khon Kaen FC are both relegated from T2. Promoted from T3 to T2 are Krabi FC and Uthai Thani FC, who return to T2 after just one season. Chiang Mai United are relegated from T1.

One of the top three (Trat, assuming neither Lamphun nor Sukhothai drop points) will finish third and be the top team in the play-offs. Chainat are also certain of a play-off spot.

The known unknowns: One of Rajpracha FC or Ladkrabang Customs United will be relegated from T2 to T3. Either Nahkon Si United or Phitsanulok will join T2. They are tied 1-1 after the first leg of their T3 play-off.

The remaining two play-off places are between Lampang, Muangkan, Phrae and a (very) remote chance for Udon Thani should other results go their way. Lampang have to travel away to both Trat and Muangkan. Phrae would be disappointed not to take six points from their last two games. Muangkan should pick up three points at home to Navy leaving the Muangkan v Lampang match on 30 April to decide the final play-off place.

Phrae and Chainat were the beaten semi-finalists in last season’s play-offs.

Who comes down with Chiang Mai United is a mystery? Samut Prakan City are very unlikely to survive; Suphanburi have a Houdini-like habit of last-minute escapes. PT Prachuap would be a welcome addition to the increasingly diverse destinations of T2.

The unknown unknowns; will every T2 team return for next season? Too much red ink is not sustainable. There are rumours; there will always be rumours. But a club needs a FAT license, a stadium, a squad of players and above all else enough money to operate; and even more money to be successful. Sponsors are few and far between and are more goods-in-kind than hard currency. Wealthy benefactors are needed; and as Lamphun has shown wealthy benefactors can reset the ambitions of both a club and its supporters within a season.

If an existing T2 club folds is a lifeline thrown to the relegated club or to the club that loses the T3 play-promotion play-off?

And so to the final two weeks of the season: next Sunday the two leading teams in T2 play the two teams trying to avoid the drop. Lamphun will be certain of promotion if they win their home game with Rajpracha while Sukhothai play at home to Customs United. Both Lamphun and Sukhothai have won all three games played in April; the only teams in the League to do so.

Meanwhile, Trat are at home to Lampang on Saturday in a must win game for the long time leaders of T2. If Sukhothai and Trat both win then the final automatic promotion place will not be decided until the final round of games and Trat have the head-to-head results advantage over Sukhothai.

To take one of the automatic promotion places Trat have to hope that either of Lamphun or Sukhothai drops points in their remaining two games.

The T2 promotion play-off semi-finals will take place over four weekends in May. Last year’s play-off winners were Khon Kaen United who beat Nakhon Pathom on penalties behind Covid-closed doors. Expect more play-off drama this year.

Seiya later

Picture – Official CMFC


Nakhon Pathom United 1 Chiang Mai FC 2
Thai M150 Championship
Saturday 16 April 2022

Nakhon Pathom Provincial Sports School Stadium

Starting XI

Kiadtiphon
Sumeth
Veljko
Poomphat
Kiadtisak
Saharat
Suchanon
Pongrawit
Danilo
Seiya
Tawan

Cometh the hour….93 minutes gone. 1-1. Chiang Mai without an away win in 2022. Penalty. Up steps Seiya Sugishita. Cool, calm, clinical. His penalty is emphatically dispatched into the top left corner of Nutchanon’s goal.

A massive sigh of relief; a shout of joy that could probably be heard in Chiang Mai.

Flirting with relegation has been uncomfortable; mid-season Chiang Mai looked secure – but a poor run of form in February and March has been salvaged by two successive wins that guarantee League 2 football next season.

Nakhon Pathom’s stadium has one of the best playing surfaces in the League – but the lighting is poor. Chiang Mai’s choice of their green away kit on a poorly lit green surface was almost a camouflage.

In reality it was not a great game and before the late drama both sides appeared to be happy to settle for a point.

The first twenty minutes passed without incident before Alberto’s overhead kick, which was acrobatic but well wide of the target.

Nakhon Pathom took the lead in the 26th minute with a gift from the visitors. Under no pressure Kiadtisak at right back gave away the ball to Sajjaporn; Keith Nah was alert enough to run into the penalty area behind Veljko and his first time left foot effort from Sajjaporn’s short pass was scuffed past Kiadtiphon to dribble inside the far post.

Kiadtisak’s frustration saw him jump into a two footed tackle in front of the main stand for which he was booked.

But redemption came quickly when his control and short cross found Seiya who held off a weak challenge from Supoat and his right foot shot was deflected by Chanatat inside the near post with Nutchanon stranded.

Chiang Mai had to hold on to 1-1 at half time;  Anurak met a long free kick at the far post but dragged his finish so wide that a throw in resulted; Veljko deflected Phithack’s 25 yard shot wide and a great ball out of defense found Sajjaporn whose low cross beat Kiadtiphon but was cleared by Poomphat.

Gustavsson replaced Kiadtisak at half time with Tawan moving to, and doing well, at right back.

Phithack’s left foot shot had dip and swerve and was parried clear by Kiadtiphon.

The goalkeeper, who handled confidently throughout, then had his one aberration of the game rolling a ball out to the right side of his penalty area to where he thought Veljko might be. Sajjaporn was comfortably first to the loose ball but in his excitement belted the ball well wide.

In the last ten minutes Neto headed over as a Nakhon Pathom corner ricocheted around the penalty area. Neto was again involved when he ran onto Berg’s pass but his shot was parried away by Kiadtiphon and Neto dragged the rebound well wide.

The penalty came in injury time from Chiang Mai’s only significant attack of the second half. Seiya’s low cross finding Supasak whose shot was initially blocked but as he ran for the rebound he was hauled back and to the ground by Anukorn. There could be little argument.

Seiya scored. Players and supporters celebrated.

Khon Kaen FC were relegated today joining Navy. The third relegation spot is between Rajpracha and Customs. CMFC can relax and enjoy the last two games of this long season.

Chiang Mai stay afloat

Crowd – officially 567.

Chiang Mai FC 2 Navy FC 1
Thai M150 Championship
Saturday 9 April 2022
700th Anniversary Stadium

Starting XI
Kiadtiphon
Pinyo
Veljko
Poomphat
Sumeth
Saharat
Suchanon
Pongrawit
Danilo
Seiya
Gustavsson

This felt like a must win game for Chiang Mai. Although not technically safe this win, ugly as it was, should be enough to ensure League 2 football for Chiang Mai FC next season

Chiang Mai retained just five of the team that lost last week at home to Trat. The changes are so extensive each week that it is hard to know who coach Tanongsak regards as his preferred starting line-up.

Navy are already relegated with just 11 points from their 31 games this season. They are the footballing equivalent of cannon fodder or target practice.

Chiang Mai scored after five minutes and dominated the first forty minutes.

It was Seiya who opened the scoring, leaping high above Durosinmi at the far post to head home Suchanon’s corner from close range and a narrow angle.

Gustavsson, looking lively on his first start since his outing to Dubai with the Thai under-23 squad, volleyed narrowly over.

Seiya then headed Sumeth’s left wing cross, narrowly over the crossbar and a Pongrawit shot drew a comfortable save from Surat in goal for Navy.

Danilo launched himself into a flying header to a cross from the right sides. It looked much more dramatic than the resulting sideways header.

A second goal followed just before the half hour. A throw in on the far side in the Chiang Mai half; a flick of the head that released Gustavsson down the right side. Shaking off a number of attempts to be hauled back by the lumbering Santipap, Gustavsson bore down on goal and had the time and composure to slide the ball past Surat’s left hand.

Danilo nearly added a third with his header from a corner into the near post drawing a fine instinctive save from Surat.

Then completely against the run of play Navy pulled a goal back. Durosinmi wide on the right beat Poomphat, leaving the Chiang Mai captain flat on his back. He advanced into the right side of the penalty area without any Chiang Mai defender trying to close him down, or even looking mildly concerned. Durosinmi simply picked a spot with his left foot to score.

2-1 at half time; Chiang Mai had been dominant but failed to convert that into the goal feast that their fast start had threatened.

The second half opened with Kiadtiphon carefully turning Sirichai’s curling shot over the crossbar.

After that the only second half excitement came from nearby rumbles of thunder and lightning.

A Santipap free kick deflected narrowly wide of Kiadtiphon’s right post.

With almost thirty minutes to go Chiang Mai replaced their main goal threat, Gustavsson, with Somyot moving into midfield.

Nattawut replaced Danilo and Seiya, so lively in the first half, disappeared from the game.

Looking comfortable with their one goal lead Chiang Mai were able to play out the game for a much needed win.

This was a stalemate of a second half that was depressingly devoid of both quality and incident.

The positives: three points and two welcome goals after three successive goal-less defeats; but in front of a miserly crowd of just 567.

The legend of Babo

Chiang Mai FC 0 Trat FC 1
Thai M150 Championship
Sunday 3 April 2022

700th Anniversary Stadium

Starting XI

Kiadtiphon
Narupon
Veljko
Poomphat
Chaiyapruek
Somyot
Nawamin
Tawan
Amornthep
Danilo
Seiya

Trat scraped a narrow win thanks to an opportunist goal from Marc Landry Babo, their Ivory Coast winger who has  almost ten years in Thailand with nine different clubs; some of them twice.

If Trat are promoted they will look back at this game as the one that turned their form around. With just three points from their previous last five matches, and after three successive defeats, Trat badly needed a result to keep in touch with Lamphun and Sukhothai.

After last weeks drubbing, at home to Lampang, Chiang Mai made eight changes to the starting line-up. The returns of Veljko, Poomphat and Kiadtiphon were all very welcome. Chiang Mai also moved to a back four with Chaiyapruek and Poomphat (Meedech) playing wide of Veljko and Narupon. This was presumably to limit the threat of the Babo, Conrado and Valdo front line.

And for the most part the new line-up was effective; Chiang Mai opened the game looking lively.

Seiya drove a shot wide after ten minutes following a move that he started down the right side linking up with Amornthep.

Five minutes later Veljko’s long ball forward from his own half was pulled down in style by Amornthep dragging the ball inside Isariya before drilling his left foot shot from twenty yards straight at Tossaporn in goal.

Just before the half hour Poomphat’s pass sliced open the Trat back line but Tossaporn did enough to force Danilo wide and his cross fell harmlessly.

For the opening quarter Trat looked a shambles. CMFC were winning possession with ease. Trat’s passing flew more often out of play than to a fellow red-shirt; Conrado looked sulky and listless. This was a team lacking in drive and leadership.

Their first goal attempt came on the half hour. Somyot’s foul conceded a free kick twenty yards from goal. Conrado’s right foot effort was well saved by Kiadtiphon at his near post.

Tossaporn’s poor clearance then allowed Chiang Mai to break down the exposed left wing at pace. Chaiyapruek’s low cross from wide left eluded Danilo but Amornthep adjusted well to volley from eight yards, beating the goalkeeper but not the crossbar.

From a throw in at the other end Conrado released Babo on the right of the penalty area – his low cross narrowly eluded Siharnat.

The last action of a competitive first half saw Babo, again, find space on the right wing; his cross to the edge of the penalty area was moved on by Valdo and Siharnat to set up Tachanon for a rasping twenty five yard effort that needed a fine diving save to his right from Kiadtiphon.

0-0 at half time. And time for a word about Chiang Mai’s young goalkeeper. He spend last week in Dubai with the Thailand Under-23 team. He seems to have returned louder (a very good thing for goalkeepers,) even taller, and certainly more confident. This was an assured performance.

Nine minutes into the second half and Conrado beat Narupon in the Chiang Mai penalty area and from a tight angle hit the outside of the near post.   

Three minutes later Trat were ahead. Really out of nothing. Conrado, wide left, chipped a hopeful ball towards the penalty spot. Babo jumped tall between the non-existent challenges of Narupon and Chaiyapruek; cushioning the ball from his chest into space where he swept it home with his left foot from six yards.

Chiang Mai’s response was almost immediate. Trat fell asleep at a short corner and Tawan headed an inviting cross no more than a coat of paint wide of the far post.

Kiatiphon’s best save came after 72 minutes; Trat broke forward with Valdo’s pass inviting Conrado to run into the left of the penalty area and shoot; the Chiang Mai goalkeeper doing very well to turn the shot over the crossbar.

Gustavsson, on as a substitute for Amornthep, chased down a ball that neither Tossaporn or Katano seemed to want to deal with. As Katano fell Gustavsson got a shot away from the tightest of angles; the ball burst through the goalkeeper before rolling agonizingly across the goal line, hitting the far post and bouncing back in to the hands of the scrambling goalkeeper.

Trat were rattled. Another poor clearance from Tossaporn found Nattawut well inside the Trat half; he released Tawan on the right; his shot was struck with power but too close to Tossaporn who was able to beat it away.

One last chance – a corner in injury time; Tossaporn flapped at the ball and somehow it fell to the ground at his feet.

Game over and Trat, thanks to one moment of quality and some good fortune, are still very much in the race for automatic promotion.

Chiang Mai battled well with a spirit that has been recently lacking; but just one goal in the last four games is a good indication of their biggest concern.

Chiang Mai play next Saturday, again at the 700th, against already relegated Navy; who surprised everyone in beating Khon Kaen 3-0 on Saturday night. Three points should see Chiang Mai to League 2 safety and we can then all look forward to the 2023 Chiang Mai derbies after Chiang Mai United were relegated from League 1 on Saturday.

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.