The joy of six – Thai League 2 review

The joy of six. Just six games have been played in a 34 game season but after two years of footballing misery the crowds are back; there are even a handful at Rajpracha. The drums are back. Cheering is back. Masks are a personal choice. It may not be 100% normal but this season has already felt like a giant leap forward.

With the FIFA international break last weekend now is a good time to take a quick look at the news from our less than predictable league. Indeed the only thing that appears predictable is how quickly a club’s head coach can become unemployed.

Since the season started Chainat Hornbill, Udon Thani FC, Nakhon Si United, Chiang Mai United and most recently Ranong United have all changed their head coach. No doubt more heads will roll over the next six months.

Before going any further it is worth noting that just one win separates 17th place from 7th place. This is a league where quality and consistency can be hard to find but where every match is competitive. There are no outstanding teams; there are a handful of weaker teams. Teams that were looking for a quick return to T1 have started slowly.

Unlikely though it sounds, after finishing 9th and 11th the last two seasons, Ayutthaya United are top of the table and are there in style. Seventeen goals in six games with ten shared by their new Brazilian strikers, Nilson and Gustavinho. Samba football is back in Thailand’s ancient capital and the crowds have returned; there were 1,700 for their last home game; an earlier 4-1 win at Chiang Mai United was very impressive.

It would be unwise, as some have done, to write Ayutthaya off; if they keep their Brazilian strikers well fed and happy then more goals will come.

Of the promoted teams Nakhon Si United have been the stand out. An opening day defeat at Chiang Mai United was a setback; but four wins and a draw (at Trat) see the club in second place. They are a solid blend of experienced players who are now coached by the Brazilian Wanderley Junior. Wanderley led Lamphun Warriors to promotion from this league last season. Excellent home support with crowds in excess of 2,000 in their small stadium have seen them win all three of their home matches.

Customs, after an opening day defeat at Suphanburi, won four in a row before a surprise home defeat to Nakhon Pathom on matchday six. 21 year old Phodchara Chainarong, on loan from Port FC, has six goals to his name including a hat-trick at Chainat.

Arguably Customs have played and beaten weaker opposition and they will have tougher games ahead, with three of their next five games away at Phrae United, Chiang Mai FC and Trat FC.

Also on 12 points, tied in third with Customs, are Rayong FC; quietly and effectively going about their business including winning their only two away games at Udon Thani FC and Chiang Mai FC.

Rayong, Ayutthaya and Nakhon Pathom are the three, as yet, unbeaten sides.

Nakhon Pathom seem to have hit on a novel formula for success – boring the opposition into submission. Six games (four of which were away from home), scored four, conceded two. Their win at Customs came from Athit Berg’s 92nd minute strike.

There are, of course, clubs that are misfiring. Chiang Mai United retained many of last season’s T1 squad. A change of coach saw the arrival of Somchai Chuayboonchum. Yet the last two games have seen away defeats at Rajpracha and Samut Prakan City; who both recorded their only wins so far this season.

Chiang Mai United failed to score in either game and maybe paid the price for leaving Bill on the substitutes’ bench at Samut Prakan.

Udon Thani came into the season with talk of new money and of past problems put behind them. But six successive defeats, seventeen goals conceded, two different coaches, a new team manager and changes in club management have made for a difficult start and falling attendances. It is hard to see how the club is turned around before mid-season.

A few oddities to finish off this review of the opening weeks.

Two bizarre goals have been matchwinners. Ayutthaya goalkeeper, Prin Goonchorn, hoofing a free kick from 75 yards over the head of his opposite number in a 2-0 win at home to Kasetsart; Ranong’s full back, Yusaku Yamadera, scored from a similar distance for an unlikely away win at Phrae. Both will no doubt say their optimistic efforts were intentional.

The weekend of 26-28 August saw six away wins and three draws. How often is there a full weekend of fixtures without even a single home win?

Samut Prakan City have the youngest goalscorer in the League this season with 17 year old Yotsakorn Burapha scoring the second at home (actually at Chonburi) to Chiang Mai United. The club may also have played the oldest player in the League, and almost certainly the oldest to be booked, with the veteran Phichitphong Choeichiu coming on as a late substitute against Customs.

The League restarts on Friday, weather permitting, with a full set of fixtures over the weekend, including a meeting of the two meanest defenses as Nakhon Pathom host Rayong, and a good test for Customs as they visit Trat.

Enjoy the game.

Here we Bo

Picture – CMFC Official

Thai League 2 Match Report

Saturday 17 September 2022
Phrae United 1 Chiang Mai FC 2
Chiang Mai FC:
Stenio Jnr
Bo Yong Kim

This was a terrific game of football to watch and a fine advertisement for Thai League 2.

Of course, an away win helps; but both teams gave everything in front of 1.020 fans, Phrae’s biggest home crowd of the season in large part thanks to around 200 loud and happy traveling fans.

Coach Fukuda made three changes; Sarawut, back from suspension, replaced Suwit. Rhyan Stewart, back from injury, replaced Piyachanok, and as predicted Bo Yong Kim made his first start for CMFC; with Stenio moving to left wing and Pongrawit starting on the right side.

This was a different world from the woeful 0-3 defeat at Phrae back in March 2022, in the middle of Covid and in front of a handful of traveling fans.

The feisty start reflected the referee’s intention to let the game flow as much as possible; and also ended any doubts about Rhyan Stewart’s fitness as he went toe to toe with Maranhao. Thai referees do not get much credit. The referee, Wathanyu Morin, did well tonight.

The first real threat of the game came, predictably from Taku Ito, cutting inside from the left and curling his shot wide of the far post.

Veljko’s strong interception then released Stewart galloping, like a young gazelle, down the right wing. His left footed cross to the far post was met by the stretching Stenio who headed narrowly over.

The opening goal came from Chiang Mai, again down the right side. Full back Kandanai tried, and failed, to cut out Saharat’s pass from midfield for Bo Yong Kim, now in space on the right; he advanced into the penalty area, strongly held off two defenders and slid a low pass to Stenio; the Brazilian cleverly let the ball run across his body to finish low with his left foot past the veteran Nantapol.

Three Chiang Mai bookings in 5 minutes reflected Phrae’s pressure for an equalizer. Veljko, Sarawut and Suwannaphat were all booked in quick succession.

Then Decha, 12 yards out and in front of goal, scuffed his left foot shot allowing Fahas an easy save; Fahas did better to ensure Arsan’s header went wide of the far post.

But, as the two minutes of injury time mysteriously turned into at least three, Phrae equalized. Chiang Mai could only clear a corner as far as Kandanai; Teerayut, perhaps the smallest forward on the pitch, stepped in front of Veljko to head home his cross from six yards inside Fahas’ right post.

1-1 at half time; and that was probably a fair reflection of a well contested 45 (plus!) minutes.

The second half quickly continued with chances at both ends; a rebound off Stenio going narrowly wide for Chiang Mai and Fahas making a good catch from Marlon Silva’s well struck volley.

A long ball out of defense from Veljko found Pongrawit wide right; his hard low cross narrowly evading the lively Stenio at the far post.

Stenio was not to be denied; right place and right time. Bo Yong Kim got to the goal line in the penalty area; his cross lobbed up, possibly off a Marlon Silva. Goalkeeper Nantapol was left clutching at thin air and behind him Stenio stooped to nod home his second of the night.

In reply Fahas dived to his left to push away substitute Elivelton’s header. The same forward then volleyed over from a narrow angle.

Stenio came close to a hattrick when his low shot from eighteen yards was pushed wide by Nantapol.
Some late substitutions brought fresh legs and a five-man back line to ensure that Chiang Mai played out the remaining time without any unwelcome scares.

There was much to like about this performance; strong from back to front. Bo Yong Kim and Stenio look like a partnership that should get stronger; Fahas was assured in goal; the back line was strong and Saharat Phosri, who rarely gets a mention, covered every blade of grass. Stenio led once again by example and finished in style.

Thai Leagues One and Two take a break next week while the Kings Cup takes place. CMFC’s next game is at home to Krabi on 1 October.

We hate eachother – let’s get together

Dubai AirShow

So after years of angry bickering and huge spending on lawyers and lobbyists United Airlines and Emirates Airline have kissed and made up. So sweet.

This would not be about competing with the alliance between American and Qatar?

The deal brings a reconciliation between United and Emirates, which had defended opposing positions during a subsidy-related spat last decade.

Tim Clark for Emirates said the new deal will “terrify our competitors.”

“Putting two great brands together is… what this is all about,” United’s Kirby adds. “It’s going to open up a lot of cities in India and Africa that we just don’t have access to today.”

The deal encompasses United, Emirates and Flydubai, which shares the same ownership as Emirates, and was necessary to compete on lower capacity routes. The agreement will involve code-sharing, with the airlines selling each others’ flight as their own.

The new partnership will start in November, when customers travelling on Emirates to Chicago, San Francisco and Houston will be able to transfer to United flights to some 200 US cities, the airlines say.

The partnership will expand in March 2023 with United’s planned launch of a flight from Newark to Dubai. There, United’s customers will be able to connect to some 100 cities on Emirates and Flydubai.

The carriers will also offer connections in Boston, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York-JFK, Orlando, Seattle and Washington-Dulles. They say they will offer reciprocal benefits to members of their frequent flier programmes.

As a part of this new deal Emirates has terminated a codeshare deal with JetBlue Airways.

The codeshares still require regulatory approval and the deal has been meet with concern by unions with many of the same arguments as were raised before.

It was seven years ago that the CEOs of American, Delta and United complained to senior US officials that three Gulf-region carriers – Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways – had received unfair government subsidies to the tune of $50 billion.

The US carriers said the subsidies let those airlines sell tickets at below-cost fares.

They asked the administration of President Barack Obama to prohibit the Gulf airlines from further US expansion, and to rescind their “fifth freedom” rights.

The Gulf carriers denied the subsidy allegations and noted US carriers received hefty aid following the terrorist attacks of 2001. (More recently, US airlines landed $58 billion in pandemic-related government aid.)

In 2016, amid the spat, United and Delta ended flights to Dubai.

Now the airlines are rushing to head down the aisle together. Delta may be feeling left out..

Veni, Vidi, Vici, Boggy. (They came; they saw; they conquered; they played in a bog.)

Thai League 2

Picture: cmfc official

Saturday 10 September 2022
Chiang Mai FC 0 Rayong FC 2

Chiang Mai FC:

Stenio Jnr

Attendance: 1,639

I owe Rayong FC an apology. My expectations were low and I believed that Chiang Mai would have enough firepower to take the three points.

But on a pitch that, after incessant rain, resembled a lowland bog, Rayong played with energy and determination to take all three points and remain unbeaten after five games of the season.

As predicted (a rare insight) Fahas made his first appearance of the season replacing Kiadtiphon. Suwit replaced the suspended Sarawut at left back. And Suwannaphat moved to right back due to an injury to Rhyan Stewart.

Veljko Filipovic returned to partner Piyachanok at center-back.

The pitch was truly horrible; standing water and mud; not just down the centre of the pitch but down the wings as well. Rayong’s style proved better suited. This was not a pitch on which to try and play neat, incisive, passing football

The early threats came from the home side. Stenio, who was busy throughout the game, broke down the left and chipped the ball into the penalty areas where Tawan was unable to control the ball and was driven wide.

Pongrawit’s free-kick from wide right was handled by GiSung Yeon just outside his own penalty area. Tawan disappointingly drove the free-kick into the defensive wall.

Rayong then opened the scoring. A right side corner came low towards the front post; The Rayong centre-half, Wasusiwakit, reacted quickest in front of Piyachanok and the ball rather awkwardly diverted from the top of his head; over Fahas, and crept inside the far post.

Chiang Mai pushed for an equalizer; Piyachanok headed a corner straight at Noppakun; Suchanon swung and missed while unmarked in the penalty area.

Half time and Chiang Mai coach Fukuda brought on Amornthep for Tawan and Kiadtisak for Saharat Phosri.

Amornthep found the space to shoot from an angle. It was a comfortable save.

The best move of the game gave Rayong their second goal. Siwakorn spotted the run of Kirati into the penalty area. KIrati ran in behind Veljko and held the ball long enough for support to arrive before his short low pass gave Lwin Moe Aung a straightforward tap in.

Chiang Mai responded with Bo Yong Kim’s low shot producing a comfortable save; Piyachanok then directed his header invitingly across goal, but the big boot of substitute Obama was well-positioned to clear the threat.

Stenio, looking increasingly frustrated, was coming ever deeper to fetch the ball; filling the gaps that were all too visible in midfield. His cross from the left side was met by Bo Yong Kim and his header would have crept inside the far post without the sprawling intervention of Noppakun in goal.

One last chance came for Chiang Mai as Stenio chipped the ball onto the six-yard line where Amornthep’s header cannoned off the crossbar. Amornthep went down in pain – it looked like an ankle injury.

Rayong played out the game with little new threat. It was a classic away win built around a solid defense, a midfield that harried and harassed and an offense that took its chances.

Five games played, two successive defeats, goal-less at home, and a growing injury list. It is not yet a crisis, but it is unclear where goals, and wins, will come from.

Death of a Queen

There is only one story today; Queen Elizabeth II – Queen of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth – died peacefully at Balmoral Castle yesterday afternoon.

She became Queen in early 1952 on the death of her father. She is succeeded by King Charles III. Elizabeth R. was not only the oldest sovereign in the UK’s history but also its longest serving. Most of her people have never known another monarch.

She has departed at a time of great uncertainty in the UK; a new Prime Minister just two days into her new job; a massive cost of living crisis; a post-Brexit identity crisis; a nation emerging from two years of pandemic deaths, lockdowns and sickness. It is the saddest of days for her family, for the nation and for many people across the wider Commonwealth that she did so much to create and nurture.

One of the most articulate tributes came from former PM, Boris Johnson. He was a dire PM but his words spoke for so many.

She was served by 15 prime ministers, from Winston Churchill to Liz Truss. She was served by 12 Canadian Prime Ministers with Justin Trudeau describing her as “one of my favorite people in the world.”

She met 12 American presidents. There was a lovely tribute yesterday from President Obama. She also met five popes, hundreds of national leaders, thousands of celebrities and – it is calculated – more than 2 million more “ordinary” people.

She was easily the most travelled monarch in British, indeed world, history: criss-crossing the globe regularly to visit the Commonwealth and just about every other significant country in the world, into her 90th year.

I never met her; I do remember the celebrations and street parties held for her silver jubilee in 1977. By 1988 I had left the UK and the daily feed of royal news became more distant; except in times of major events; from Royal Weddings to the death of Diana Spencer.

International tributes will talk about her sense of duty, her service and loyalty and of the respect that she had earned globally.

But she was also a mother, grandmother and a great-grandmother. Indeed, her only real mis-steps were in her unwavering support and protection of her own family. Her delayed response to the death of Diana, Princess of Wales was a real crisis for the monarchy; her protection, and indulgence, of her second son, Andrew, was misjudged but was the reaction of a mother.

But she managed through those crises and perhaps her greatest achievement was to maintain the popularity of the British monarchy despite decades of seismic political, social and cultural change.

There will be 24/7 television coverage up to and including the funeral in ten days time. There will be pages of news and magazine print.

King Charles III become the new monarch. It is 25 years from Diana’s death and Charles has done a lot of rehabilitation since then.

The Monarchy will carry on – though its international influence has been eroding throughout her reign and will continue to do so.

Charles may not have his mother’s popularity but he inherits her goodwill and will continue very much with her legacy.

Some links to news reports and commentaries:

The Queen’s death will shake this country deeply – she was a steady centre amid constant flux
Why do we mourn people we don’t know?
Queen Elizabeth II: a royal life in pictures
Charles III, Britain’s conflicted new monarch
David Olusuga on the Queen, the Commonwealth and the monarchy’s future

The Wanderley effect

Picture from cmfc official

Sunday 4 August 2022
Nakhon Si United 1 Chiang Mai FC 0

Chiang Mai FC:

Stenio Jnr

Football is a funny old game. Last week Chiang Mai FC looked fluid and stylish in a 3-1 win at Uthai Thani. This week, at Nakhon Si United, CMFC never settled and lost to a 76th minute goal from one of few chances created by either side.

With Veljko Filipovic recovering from sickness coach Fukuda gave a debut to the tall Bangkok Glass loan player, Piyachanok, at centre half. CMFC were otherwise unchanged from last week.

Meanwhile Wanderley, last year’s league 2 winning Lamphun Warriors coach, has taken over at Nakhon Si United; a more direct approach was inevitable with wingers on either side of Evandro Paulista. It worked at Lamphun; it can work again.

With a group of players looking to impress their new master this was never going to be an easy game for the visitors.

NakhonSi were the first to threaten, Abdussalam running behind Sarawut; his first touch was heavy and Kiadtiphon decided to clear feet first; it made for a clumsy and painful challenge for the goalkeeper.

Suchanon’s 30 yard drive was deflected for one of seven first half CMFC corners; with 37 minutes gone Stenio comfortably outjumped Praweenat, but his powerful header hit the top of the crossbar. This was to be Chiang Mai’s only on target goal attempt in the game.

At the other end Phillerson, playing wide left, dragged a shot wide; before combining with Paulista for a shot that was too close to Kiadtiphon.

A Suchanon pass released Tawan on the edge of the Nakhon SI penalty area but Tawan’s shot was wide of the far post.

Stalemate at half time and not a great deal for a good crowd of 2,088 to get excited about.

Into the second half and Tawan neatly netted for Chiang Mai running onto a Pongrawit pass. But Tawan went too soon and was a yard offside. The celebrations were short-lived.

The momentum was increasingly with the home side. Phillerson drove a low cross into the six yard box where Suwannaphat under pressure was able to clear the ball over the cross bar.

Suwannaphat then excelled in a one on one sprint with Paulista into the Chiang Mai area.

Another NakhonSi corner; inswinging under the crossbar was turned over by the stretching Kiadtiphon. Changing sides the follow-up corner was hit towards the six yard box. Kiadtiphon came for the ball but was not even close. Praweenat, at the far post, simply stood his ground to hold off Pongrawit and nodded the ball into the net for the game’s only goal.

In a late flurry Kiatidsak, on for Tawan, shot into the side netting and Piyachanok headed over the bar.

There was also time for Sarawut to pick up a second yellow card, and therefore a sending off, in injury time for kicking Paulista.

There were, as always, performances to admire; Stenio is a constant threat; Suwannaphat’s commitment in defense makes his the first name on a team sheet. But Filipovic was clearly missed and we seem unable to hold onto the ball in midfield and distribute it effectively. Attacks that should have seen us on the front foot too often ended up in retreat.

No matter; early days. Just assign this performance to the history bin and quickly move on.

Tear down this wall

Gorbachev and Reagan

Mikhail Gorbachev died overnight aged 91.

For those of us who grew up in the Cold War – with a wall that divided a nation; with nuclear warheads about to be parked 40 miles off the Florida coast – Mikhail Gorbachev was a pragmatic revelation.

Almost singlehandedly Gorbachev brought an end to 40 years of east-west confrontation in Europe and liberated the world from the danger of nuclear conflagration.

It was not the objective he set himself when he was elected general secretary of the Soviet Communist party in March 1985, nor did he predict or plan the way the cold war would end, the haemorrhaging of the Communist party, the withdrawal of Soviet troops from eastern Europe, the reunification of Germany or the break-up of the Soviet Union itself.

What distinguished Gorbachev from previous Soviet leaders was that he started a process of reform and did not try to reverse it once it threatened to spin out of control. The great facilitator, he carried on, even to the point of resigning with dignity as his power faded away.

Like other great reformers in history, he ended up in isolation, condemned by some for doing too much and by others for doing too little. For the world beyond Russia, his great service lay in allowing the cold war to come to an end. It did not end as he had hoped – in a grand reconciliation between east and west. Indeed, in retirement he criticised western leaders for expanding Nato to take in several of the former Soviet republics, which he thought was unnecessary and provocative. Inside Russia, his economic reforms failed, though not as catastrophically as those that followed under Yeltsin.

Here is the Economist on the Gorbachev legacy. Above all else here was a modern statesman that western leaders could do business with.

“The two great heroes in Mikhail Gorbachev’s pantheon were 19th-century socialist thinkers, Alexander Herzen and Vissarion Belinsky, whose main concerns were the dignity of the individual, and whose books he knew almost by heart. When they appeared on the Russian stage, in Tom Stoppard’s trilogy “The Coast of Utopia”, he went to see them. At the end of the performance he was called on stage and given a standing ovation by an audience that, for the most part, had scarcely been born when, in 1985, he became the last general secretary of the Soviet Union.

The perestroika (“restructuring” or “reformation”) which he started never reached the destination he wanted, a democratic, humane socialism—perhaps because that destination was Utopia, rather than a real place. To the elite of modern Russia, he seems an oddity if not a traitor: a fool who brought about the collapse of the Soviet Union and made no money out of it. He had power, a comfortable life and the fate of hundreds of millions of people in his hands—and he let it all go when, on December 25th 1991, he resigned as president of the Soviet Union.

He had spent eight hours in a meeting with Boris Yeltsin, Russia’s president and his bitter rival, discussing the transfer of power. Afterwards, he went to lie down in his office—for the last time. When Alexander Yakovlev, his closest comrade, walked in, he saw tears in Mr Gorbachev’s eyes. “You see, Sasha,” said the president, “this is how it goes.”

He did not mean the Soviet Union to die like that. The man who ended the cold war, who changed the course of 20th-century history, was neither a dissident nor a revolutionary. He intended to reform the Soviet Union, not destroy it. But his aversion to violence and his belief in the Enlightenment were enough to finish a system held together by repression and lies.

He was born in 1931, soon after Stalin had seized complete power and launched the collectivisation which would eliminate the peasantry. He grew up in the south of Russia, a rich agricultural region inhabited by Cossacks who had never known serfdom, in a village called Privolnoye, which means “free-willed”. One of his grandfathers hung Orthodox icons; the other preferred portraits of Marx and Lenin. Like many of his generation, he preserved a peasant’s common sense, caution and conservatism. He also had the physical strength of someone who had worked the land from an early age.

It was those sensibilities and human instincts that, years later, allowed Ronald Reagan to see in Mr Gorbachev not just a Marxist-Leninist, but a man with whom he had a lot in common. Both were self-made men who started in small farming communities, both believed in decency, both embodied the optimism and confidence of the post-war years.

The end of the cold war was determined as much by this affinity as it was by the inadequacy of the Soviet economy. Mr Gorbachev, who was more concerned with improving the living conditions of his countrymen than with the status of a superpower which he took for granted, saw no sense in carrying on with an arms race.

It was the logical conclusion of a journey that began with the death of Stalin. When Nikita Khrushchev denounced Stalin’s cult of personality in 1956, Mr Gorbachev was one of the young party leaders who had to spread the message among rank-and-file Communists. Clearing socialism of the distortions of Stalinism was to be his life’s work. He came to power with no plan or programme of reforms: only, after 18 years of stagnation, the simple conviction that “We can’t go on living like this.” Instead, he offered the Soviet Union youth, energy and—freshest of all—humanity.

After just a year in power disaster struck: a nuclear explosion in Chernobyl. The accident, which the government tried to cover up, epitomised its dysfunction, arrogance and disregard for human life. Mr Gorbachev, seizing his chance, condemned a system “penetrated by servility, bootlicking, persecution of those who think differently, window-dressing, personal connections and clans.” In its place he offered glasnost, openness. This, he told colleagues, was the true socialism.

In that spirit, in 1989 he declared the first ever competitive elections to the Supreme Soviet. He also agreed that its debates should be televised for the first time. Millions of people saw Andrei Sakharov, a dissident physicist whom he had recalled from exile, openly challenge Mr Gorbachev. In those few days the political monopoly of the Communist Party was broken, along with the mystery of its power.

This was also a signal to all its parts that the Soviet Union was dissolving. In early 1991, desperately trying to hang on to the country, he fatally aligned himself with the forces of repression, sending Soviet tanks into Lithuania. A few months later the same kgb-led forces mounted a coup and put him under house arrest in Crimea, where he was on holiday. When the putsch collapsed and he returned to Moscow, he chose to go home to care for his wife Raisa, who had suffered a stroke, rather than to play a public politician.

In his unconcealed affection for his wife, Mr Gorbachev violated the code that demanded of Russian rulers a complete abnegation of private life. But then again, putting private life above the ephemeral interests of the state was his main credo. Leaving office was not the end of his life, as it had been for most of his predecessors. And unlike his successors he had nothing to fear, no wealth to hide. In the first years after his resignation he did commercials for Pizza Hut to make money. By the standards of today’s Russian elite, he was a poor man. The money from his 1990 Nobel peace prize was used to set up Novaya Gazeta, Russia’s liberal newspaper.

When Raisa was diagnosed with leukaemia, he accompanied her to a German clinic to hold her in his peasant’s arms. Soon after burying her, he appeared at a backstage party at the Moscow Art Theatre. An actor called on the ex-president to read or sing something. Everyone froze with embarrassment, except Mr Gorbachev. The crowd gave him space, and he sang Lermontov’s poem, “Alone I set out on the road. The flinty path is sparkling in the mist.””

Steve Rosenberg’s BBC report is here and a personal tribute from Steve is here: Mikhail Gorbachev: Remembering a warm-hearted and generous man

Mikhail Gorbachev – a life in pictures

Looking good

Thai League 2 – 2022-2023

Friday 26 August 2022

Uthai Thani FC 1 Chiang Mai FC 3

Chiang Mai FC:
Stenio Jnr

Our first three points of the season came from a fine away win for Chiang Mai FC against one of the more experienced sides in Thai League 2.

Coach Fukuda made just one change with Suchanon making his first start of the season in place of Srithai.

Chiang Mai lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation that allowed Suchanon to play in the space behind Stenio with Pongrawit and Tawan wide and Ronnayod and Saharat in holding roles in midfield.

Suchanon was a revelation. Perhaps his best performance in a Chiang Mai shirt; although there were strong performances throughout the team.

There was a perfect start for the visitors. Suchanon drew a foul. Pongrawit’s freekick was headed out for a corner by Santos. Pongrawit followed up with his corner lofted towards the six yard line where Veljko and Stenio jumped with three defenders; Stenio’s timing was immaculate and he planted a strong header low inside the near post. 1-0 to the visitors.

Tawan nearly added a second minutes later when he turned Suchanon’s low cross narrowly wide.

Uthai Thani then had their best chance of the half; Kento Nagasaki’s free kick found Santos deep in the Chiang Mai penalty area. He headed the ball back across goal where Phattaraphon (G) somehow managed to shin the ball back across the goal line when it really was easier to score.

Chiang Mai were playing some fluent football on a good surface; moving the ball well out of defense and across the pitch. A more direct route was also an option; Veljko’s long clearance was cleverly flicked on by Suchanon into the path of Stenio whose shot drew a save from Anirut.

Sarawut’s cross into the penalty area found Tawan, neatly ghosting between Phattharaphon and Jakkrit. His lobbed header was turned over at full stretch by Anirut.

Uthai Thani responded with a Kento free kick that was well caught by Kiadtiphon.

Chiang Mai book-ended the half with a second goal of pace and quality. Stenio and Tawan linking up down the right; Stenio nutmegged the full-back Samerpak; looked up; and measured his low cross in for Suchanon to slide the ball home despite the three defenders around him.

A third goal would have ended the contest and almost came with the first attack of the second half; Ronnayod combined with Pongrawit whose low cross reached Stenio at the far post. Anirut’s first save was with his knees; the ball rebounded to Tawan who from close range belted the ball into the goalkeeper’s face. The keeper knew little about either save but he had kept Uthai Thani in the match.

How important these saves were became clear a few minutes later when Carlos Damian pulled a goal back for the home side deftly stooping to head a cross from Samerpak inside the far post.

Kiadtiphon was the busier goalkeeper and saved with his feet from Durasinmi and then smothered Santos’s rebound at the near post; a Kento free kick flew narrowly wide.

But Chiang Mai were solid in defense. Organised and efficient.

As icing in the cake the visitors scored a clever third goal in late injury time when Kiadtisak was first to reach Pongrawit’s low corner and turn it home from 12 yards while the defenders were expecting a high ball for Veljko.

Three games played and it is easy to see the confidence and commitment growing throughout the CMFC team.

Uthai Thani will have better days; though they are overly reliant on long balls biffed downfield towards Santos; who seemed to be at his fastest when chasing the referee to argue some perceived affront.

Next up for Chiang Mai is a long haul to Nakhon Si Thammarat for Sunday’s game against another of the promoted teams.

Toothless Tigers

Near, far, wherever you are. Picture: official cmfc

Thai League 2 – 2022-2023

Sunday 21 August 2022
Chiang Mai FC 0 Nakhon Pathom United 0

Chiang Mai FC:

Stenio Jnr

The Lanna Tigers and King Tigers failed to live up to the implied threat in their names on Sunday night. The game at Chiang Mai’s municipal stadium ending in a battling stalemate.

Chiang Mai made just one change from last weekend’s outing to Ranong with Pongrawit replacing Phommin in midfield.

Anukorn’s long throws were the main weapon for the visitors; after ten minutes the Chiang Mai defense could only half clear one such throw and Abdolreza chipped the ball back into the penalty area. The Chiang Mai defense had moved forward as one and Chegini was at least a yard offside before heading the ball past Kiadtiphon.

Chiang Mai started to threaten down both flanks; Pongrawit’s cross just eluding Tawan before Tawan pulled a ball back to the edge of the penalty area where Saharat Phosri’s touch took the ball away from Stenio Junior and the chance was lost.

Nakhon Pathom’s best work was coming from their left side. Nergaard was unable to control a lovely pass on the edge of the Chiang Mai penalty area. There was little threat to the Chiang Mai goal.

Into injury time at the end of the first half and Tawan’s close range shot was well saved at his near post by Wattanachai. It was the only save made by either goalkeeper in the first half as an occasionally feisty game broke down in the final thirds of the pitch.

CMFC replaced Srithai with Gustavsson at the start of the second half. Chiang Mai started in a lively manner. Pongrawit’s long range free kick should have been an easy catch for Wattanachai; he spilled the catch and was saved by a fine block by Chegini to deny the onrushing Suwannaphat and Veljko.

As a side note Nakhon Pathom’s two Iranian centre halfs had strong games. Chegini was excellent.

Chiang Mai’s best move of the match started wide right with Gustavsson holding up the ball for Tawan who found Stenio in midfield. Stenio’s fabulous pass off the outside of his right foot was inch perfect for the run of Pongrawit behind the full back. Pongrawit’s second touch was very heavy – allowing the goalkeeper to rush from his line and make the block.

Meanwhile Kiadtiphon had to make a save from Phithack’s long range free kick pushing the ball away for a corner.    

Sajjaporn replaced Phithack for the visitors and he was to make an appreciable difference always offering an outlet and control down the left side. Nakhon Pathom had started to play some very measured possession football.

Bo Yong Kim replaced Tawan. His main impact appeared to be making Stenio Junior play even deeper; Stenio Junior had a lively first half but made little impact later in the game; he is not going to score when he is collecting the ball deep in his own half.

Suwit also got a welcome late run in place of Pongrawit.

For the visitors Supatep’s low cross from the right side evaded everyone, and the far post.

Sajjaporn released Nergaard on the left side; the big forward’s cross deserved better than the badly misjudged header from Supatep as he found space between the Chiang Mai center halfs.

As the match entered three minutes of injury time Gustavsson headed wide from Stewart’s right wing cross.

And that was it. A goal-less draw that will have pleased Nakhon Pathom more than the home side who would have liked a winning start in front of an excellent crowd of 1,831.

Chiang Mai FC play at Uthai Thani next Friday – 26 August – kick off at 6pm. And then travel to Nakhon Si United on 4 September.

The next CMFC home game Is against Rayong FC on Saturday 10 September.

Mr. Football

Thirty years on from the release of “Mr. Baseball” in 1992, CMFC have found our own Mr. Football. Jun Fukuda lives and breathes football. He probably also dreams it.

Fukuda-san and CMFC general manager Bubet Suppipat sat down with CMFC English for 90 minutes on Sunday in Ranong. They give the impression that the club is in very capable and quietly ambitious hands.

Fukuda-san has an air of quiet authority. Thoughtful. Very comfortable with where he is right now.

His reach is global. Play football and see the world. He grew up in Japan but his playing career, as a goalkeeper, took him from Japan to Brazil, France and Thailand. Fluent, or near-fluent, in Japanese, English and French and happy to chat in Portugese, Italian and Spanish.

CMFC’s Mr. Football is a man of the world. A thoroughly modern manager based in a city steeped in history and tradition.

Retiring from playing football at 37 he had one aim – to coach. His UEFA A Licence was earned in France. Appropriate given that his favorite player and goalkeeping inspiration is Fabien Barthez.

Fukuda-san wanted to be a head coach and opportunities started to present themselves in Asia. He spent three years in Mongolia as manager at FC Ulaanbaatar before moving to Laos Toyota as manager and taking them to three successive League titles from 2018 to 2020.

At that time, Khun Bubet was Marketing & Media Director of the Lao Football Federation. Their connection would eventually lead Fukuda-san to CMFC.

In 2021 Fukuda-san joined up with Masatada Ishii at Samut Prakan City initially as their Academy Manager. They moved together to Buriram before Fukuda-san was offered the head coach position with CMFC. 

Buriram is a great place to learn Thai football – not just managing a squad of players but also managing the presence, ambition and involvement of an ever-present club owner. There can be few better preparations.

Inevitably given the recent history of CMFC there was some discussion of the role of BGPU. It should be reassuring to CMFC fans. Loan players are expected to be with CMFC for the full season. Fukuda-san picks his own team. Everyone involved with the club wants to see CMFC in League One.

He had read my T2 preview for the season. “You gave us 4th place,” he quietly snorted, “I was angry.” I justified it as my reaction to three seasons of disappointment.

Longer term gets interesting. The focus will be on building a CMFC academy supporting local player development both in football and life skills. With less dependency on loan players from BGPU; more on building a sustainable club with a clear northern identity.

Asked who he thinks are the teams to beat in T2 his simple answer was that he does not worry or think about other teams. His concern is getting the very best from his CMFC squad. He will look at other teams in the days leading up to match day. That is sufficient.

Fukuda-san’s coaching style is based upon possession – his influences are French, including red wine! Do not expect to see long balls thumped optimistically upfield. That said he understands that some of the T2 pitches are not ideal for his preferred style. It is one reason why, for the pitch and facilities, the club would ideally like to return to the 700th anniversary stadium for home matches.

That will mean improving relations with the local office of the Sports Authority of Thailand; CMFC have filled the stadium before and can do so again. That has to be good for Chiang Mai’s football fans.

A sports fan, Fukuda-san follows baseball, Yomiuri Giants, and most martial arts. His favorite music is Brazilian; his favorite food is global; his favorite holiday destination is unknown as he has no recollection of having had a holiday.

He does play golf – but has yet to explore Chiang Mai’s courses – even Alpine GC where CMFC train! This needs to be fixed.

All he has seen of Chiang Mai is the Municipal Stadium. This also should change. But in time.

CMFC are at home to Nakhon Pathom on Sunday 21st August at 7pm. Fukuda-san knows that football is not football without the fans. His hope – that you come out and cheer, sing, drum and party. He and the players will give their best for you.