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.

Deserved better

Thai League 2
Sunday 14 August 2022

Grand Andaman Ranong United 1 Chiang Mai FC 1

Chiang Mai FC:

Stenio Jnr

For the first game of a new season a visit to Ranong will always be difficult.

So a come-from-behind draw is far from the worst possible result. Yet the visitors’ second half performance was worthy of all three points and Ranong were saved by a combination of desperate defending, wasteful finishing, the woodwork and a very generous referee.

Coach Fukuda gave debuts to Sarawut Koedsri, Rhyan Stewart, Ronnayod Mingmitwan, Srithai Bookok, and Stenio Jnr as well as welcoming Suwannaphat Kingkaew back to the club.

The surprise was that Patrick Gustavsson did not start in a lineup that felt a little too cautious against one of the weaker sides in this League.

On a difficult pitch of uneven bounce both sides opened carefully. Veljko reached a long, looping free kick beyond the far post and his volleyed cross was cleared for a corner.

Ronnayod’s partially cleared corner was returned to him and his second cross reached Veljko who headed onto the top of the crossbar from ten yards.

Sarawut volleyed another Ronnayod free kick narrowly wide.

Stenio was the subject of less than friendly attention and eventually Nyein Chan was booked for a series of fouls on the Brazilian.

It took 28 minutes for Ranong to threaten with Jennarong shooting wide. Meanwhile the Ranong dark arts had started; the bench gathering on the touchline like an angry tribe to protest imaginary injustice.

All of this brings pressure on the referee. The freekicks started to go the way of Ranong and from one well worked freekick in the 34th minute Ranong scored.

Jennarong held up the free kick by the left side corner flag; his pass found Muhammadburhan. A low left foot cross was cushioned by Ononiwu into the path of Wathit who with great composure from close range pushed the ball wide of Kiadtiphon and inside the far post.

Half time. Ranong led 1-0. There had been little to cheer.

However, Chiang Mai  emerged to dominate the second half.

Immediately Tawan cut inside from the right wing; his left foot shot finishing high and wide.

The referee played advantage after a foul on Stewart and Tawan’s left foot cross beat everyone as it bounced in front of and over Stenio Jnr.

Chiang Mai kept pressing forward. Seven minutes into the second half Ronnayod’s free kick found Sarawut on the left side of the penalty area and he volleyed the ball across goal for Stenio, unmarked, to score from close range.

Patrik Gustavsson replaced Phommin and looked lively alongside Stenio.

Ranong goalkeeper Taro should have made a simple catch of another Ronnayod free kick. Instead he pushed the ball out on front of goal leaving his defenders to make goal saving headers from each of Suwannaphat, Stenio and Ronnayod. It was an almighty scramble and some desperate defending.

A rare Ranong attack saw Jennarong shoot wide form the left side of the penalty area. With ten minutes to go Gustavsson’s cross found Stenio in front of goal. Controlling the ball with his first touch he then tried to flick the ball beyond Taro who atoned for his earlier mishaps by making himself big and extending a huge left hand to make the save.

As the ball ran loose to the edge of the area Gustavsson curled a left-foot shot from twenty yards against the underside of the cross bar and Stewart  could not keep his shot on goal from the rebound.

All this pressure looked to have led to a CMFC winner. Tawan beating the defense to power home a header, from yet another Ronnayod free-kick, past Taro only for the referee to disallow the goal for a foul. Although it was Gustavsson who was on his back looking aggrieved.

There was time for Ranong to threaten a late winner as CMFC struggled to clear a last minute free kick and for Ononiwu’s left foot shot to require a comfortable save at the near post by Kiadtiphon.

Three minutes of injury time were signaled the fourth official who must have had a pressing appointment; with two long injury stoppages requiring stretchers, a series of substitutions and other delays a realistic number would have been at least double that.

A frustrating result. CMFC looked solid in defense; promising in offense; a little short of composure on a tricky pitch in midfield.

Early days. The season is underway and there is plenty more drama to come in the next 33 matches.

Finally, one piece of good news; the annual trip to Ranong is already history.

Fields of Dreams – third and final part

Reporting from Udon Thani

Fields of Dreams Part 3.
Thai League 2 Predictions for 2022-2023

And so to part 3 of my T2 (M150 Championship) predictions for 2022-2023. From Rajpracha to Uthai Thani.

Rajpracha FC was saved from relegation by disciplinary action taken to remove Muangkan United  from T2 for financial irregularities.

Since the end of last season the club has severed its connection with BGPU and has also moved away from the BG stadium taking up residency at the NT (formerly home of the  TOT Sports Club) Stadium close to Don Muang airport.

Residency at the NT has in the last few days been delayed and Rapracha will play their opening game on Sunday at SCG Muangthong and then use Nonthaburi Province Stadium until the NT stadium renovations are complete.

Followers of T2 will recognise a number of familiar faces starting with goalkeeper Pathomtat Sudprasert signed from Phrae; Atthawit Sukchuai and Panudech Maiwong also join from Phrae. There are also a number of players that will be familiar to BGPU and Chiang Mai FC supporters including Somyot Pongsuwan, Pinyo Inpinit and Somroeng Hanchiaw.

Although Paraguayan Anggello Machuca is still widely listed as a Rajpracha player he is reported to have returned to his home country after a decade as a fan favourite wherever he played in Thailand.

Veteran centre forward Ronnachai Rangsiyo has joined from Lamphun. His efforts really do deserve to be rewarded by more goals.

The BGPU/Chiang Mai connection continues with the appointment of Supachai Komsilp as coach.

Rajpracha will need to improve upon last season’s average of one goal a game. They may need to invest to do so.
Prediction: 13th

Rayong FC were relegated from T1 at the end of the 2020/2021 season and finished mid-table last season in T2 without ever looking likely to challenge for promotion or dabble with relegation.

The new manager, Songyot Klinsrisuk comes from T3 Bankhai United and brings a number of players with him.

But new hires have been limited. Seiya Sugishita has joined from Chiang Mai FC – if he stays free of injury he will score goals alongside Gi-Seung Yeon who played last season at Ranong and Rajpracha (maybe he only plays for clubs that start with R).

Myanmar centre forward Kyaw Ko spent last season with Chiang Mai United and then at Phrae.

The Japanese midfielder Anto Okamura joins from Athetic 220 the 2020/2021 Mongolian champions.

Overall Rayong is another side that lacks the firepower for anything other than the lower half of the  table.
Prediction: 14th

Samut Prakan City FC have released 24 players since relegation from T1. They are now managed by Chonburi FC effectively becoming the feeder club to their T1 partner. At the time of writing a handful of youthful loan replacements have arrived from Chonburi FC. Together with experienced goalkeeper Thatpicha Auksornsri.

Juakkapant Punpee, also with strong links to Chonburi as a player and coach, has taken over as manager.

With a week left in the transfer window two Brazilians and a Moldovan have joined the club. Paulo Enrique was originally moving to Uthai Thani from Persiraja Banda Aceh in the Indonesia Liga 2. Centre Back Renan Costa arrived in Thailand for the first time from Doce Mel FC in his homeland. And the tall and much traveled Moldovan centre forward, Petru Luca, has joined from Nagaworld FC in Cambodia. 

Also new to the club is Sho Shimoji; he was a regular with Udon Thani from 2017 to 2019 and has been without a club since. A father figure for the Chonburi youth!

Samut Prakan have also been linked with Phichitphong Choeichiu; the veteran Thai international turns 40 later this month.

It is a squad with little T2 experience that looks ill-equipped for a long physical season. At best T2 survival appears to be the early season target. Without reinforcements even that seems optimistic.
Prediction: 17th.

Suphanburi FC were also relegated from T1; they have released eighteen players but have been on a recruiting spree with 25 new players. It is a young squad anchored by a number of players with solid T2 experience. Jetjinn Sripach arrives from Phrae; Norraseth Lukthong, Rachanon Kanyathong and Panupong Rungsuree from Muangkan.

Seiya Kojima will work hard in midfield as he did at Ayutthaya last season. 

It is beginning to sound like a broken record but it is unclear who in their squad can be a regular goalscorer at this level? Matheus Souza has joined from Loei and Douglas Tardin from Saraburi. Both may find T2 a step too far. Centre forward Kittipong Wongma has also joined from Nongbua, though he was not a regular in their T1 squad.

Suphanburi will be looking for an immediate return to T1 and have built a resilient, perhaps unspectacular, T2 squad.
Prediction: 2nd

Trat FC were top of T2 for 25 of 34 weeks last season. Then a spell of four defeats in five games from mid-March saw Trat fall to third. They never fully recovered and rather wearily lost the two-legged play-off final to Lampang.

Big name departures include Conrado, Babo, Tossaporn Sri-reung and Zaw Min Tun.

It was also reported over the last weekend that coach, Somchai Chuayboonchum, has resigned just one week before the start of the season; suggesting some discord behind the scenes.

A solid core of last season’s squad remains. Valdo remains and will no doubt add to his goals for Trat. Alongside him will be Joao Paulo, who arrived from Phitsanulok FC, and Taua, a right winger from PT Prachuap.

Trat conceded a fraction less than a goal a game last season; the best ‘goals against’ in the League. While goalkeeper Tossapon has moved to Chiang Mai United the remainder of the defense, built around Hiromichi Katano has stayed for the new season.

On the last day of the transfer window Trat confirmed loan players from SCG Muangthong including Thatchapol Chai-yan, Nonthawat Klinchampasri and Jirawat Janpong. All three have T2 experience from loans at Ayutthaya last season.

Reunyos Janchaichit also returned from Muangthong for another loan season.

It is hard to see the new forwards having the same impact as Babo and Conrado. But it is equally hard to imagine that Trat will be anything less than competitive. Anything worse than a play-off place would be a surprise.
Prediction 5th.

Udon Thani FC came through a summer of uncertainty with new owners and a new injection of funding.
Traditionally one of the better supported clubs it is now under the leadership of the very colourful Wiriya Phong-Artharn.

The club has returned to the Thai National Sports University Udon Thani Campus Stadium; which just as an aside is bad news for away supporters as the away zone is one of the worst in T2, hidden on temporary seating behind a goal and running track, comparable in misery to Chiang Mai FC.

Experience has been added to the squad with Poonsak Masuk from Chiang Mai United, Kritsada Mewiphat from Khon Kaen United, Saranyu Intaraj from PT Prachuap and in goal Korrakot Pipatnadda on loan from SCG Muangthong.  

Panipol Kerdyam arrived from Kasetsart in June as the new coach. Overseas players include Greg Houla, also from Kasetsart, who will be hoping to show the form of two seasons ago at nearby Nongbua. He will presumably partner Arnold Suew in attack.

Flodyn Belocki is a German centre back (born in the Congo) who has arrived from German fourth tier club SV Atlas.

There is certainly reason for optimism. A season of financial and squad stability would be very welcome.

The club will look to threaten for at least a play-off spot but the nagging feeling is that backroom drama is never far away.
Prediction: 7th

Uthai Thani FC spent a season in T3 before returning in style to T2 and have rebuilt their squad for the new season.

With no time for sentimentality nineteen players have left and twenty-three have joined for the new season. They are managed by Somchai Makmool, who spent last season with Muangkan navigating through issues behind the scenes which eventually saw the club demoted to the Thai Amateur League.

Makmool has brought some of his players with him from Muangkan, including Kento Nagasaki,  Samerpak Srinon and the centre backs, Jakkrit Khemnak and Suwat Yadee.

Carlos Damian, the Brazilian midfielder has joined from Khon Kaen FC.

Goals will be expected from  Ricardo Santos after a successful T3 campaign.  He will be supported by the Nigerian Gafar Durosinmi who joins from Navy FC and the young winger Muhammadnasay Kolaeh from Suphanburi.

Defensively Uthai Thani should be solid; and they will no doubt be a hard working team. But goals are likely to be an issue. The mid-season addition of a regular goalscorer may be required.
Predictions 8th.

Finally – please do not take any predictions too seriously – so much can change over the next eight months. In the meantime do get out and support your local club wherever possible. Buy their shirt. Support the local vendors. Go for the atmosphere, the camaraderie, the occasional moments of brilliance or comedy. Because after two really difficult seasons the clubs and players and everyone associated with Thai football need our support.

Fields of Dreams – part 2

Mae Sapong FC

Thai League 2 Predictions for 2022-2023

Part 2 of my T2 (M150 Championship) predictions for 2022-2023  – from Customs United to Phrae.

Customs United (formerly Ladkrabang Customs United) have been revitalized by an alliance with Port FC that brings in a new coach, Jadet Meelarp, twenty-one (at the time of writing) new players including  a number of interesting additions to a large squad.

Customs’ little stadium, hidden among the endless roadworks of Ladkrabang, will, under its new management, hopefully see crowds improve upon the 248 average of last season.

In addition to Port FC loanees the club has added loan players from Buriram Academy. This youthful enthusiasm will be led by the experience of centre-back Adnan Orahovac, in from PT Prachuap, David Cuerva from Rayong, and Daisuke Sakai from Samut Prakan City. Miguel Clariño, a centre back, has joined from Maharlika Manila FC.

Goals will be expected from Alexandre di Estefano (also rather confusingly known as Alexandre Balotelli) who netted fourteen for Krabi last season.
Prediction: 10th

Grand Andaman Ranong United look likely to have a difficult season. The club has retained many of the squad from last season. However, the two centre halfs, Frank Nzola and Kaham Marochee have both left the club which is now managed by Nattawut Rattanaporn, formerly the goalkeeping coach.

New players are few and far between. Japanese centre back Yusaku has joined from Pathum Thani University while the Africa connection continues with the forwards Julius Chukwuma Ononiwu who returns to Ranong from See Khwae City and the wonderfully-named Alpha Barry most recently from Pattani FC but with experience in Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand..

Home advantage is always important for Ranong; especially playing in monsoon weather. Ranong lost just three times at home last season. Teams need to work out how to win there. If they do then home advantage will not be enough to escape relegation.
Prediction. 18th.

Kasetsart FC is another club that has seen some significant departures. Centre-half Celio Santos, together with French forwards Greg Houla and Simon Dia have all left the club.

New manager Worrawoot Srimaka has previously managed Kasetsart and was most recently in charge of  Thailand’s U23 national team.

New arrivals include Soe Moe Kyaw, a Myanmar international centre-half who joins the Korean Hyun -Woo Park in defense. There are four new players arriving from the squad that helped Uthai Thani to promotion from T3 last season. League 1 experience comes from Anon Samakorn from the Swatcats. Centre back Anusorn Jaiphet is one of two players from Udon Thani.

Kasetsart will be hoping for goals from Adalgiso Pitbull. Though there may be concern at his statistics (one goal in eighteen games) from Rayong last season. Also expect to see Mateus Totô up front, a Brazilian arriving from Al-Washm who play in the Saudi Arabia second tier.
Prediction: 11th.

Krabi FC, newly promoted from T3, unlike Uthai Thani and Nakhon Si United, will rely in large part on their promotion squad from last season. It will not be an easy place for clubs to visit confronted by long travel times and a healthy rainy season.

That said there are some interesting new additions. Up front Badar Ali has joined from Chainat and the much-traveled Brazilian Jean Moser arrived from Asswehly SC in Libya.

They will be supported by Phuchakhen Chandaeng who scored twelve times for Krabi last season.

Victor Oliveira is a tall centre back who has arrived from Barra Futebol Clube in Brazil. He will likely partner Santipap Yaemsaen who is on loan from Bangkok United.

Unfortunately Krabi’s limited squad may struggle without further investment.
Prediction: 16th.

Nakhon Pathom United are led by long-serving manager, Thongchai Sukkoki who was appointed in November 2017 and has built a sound T2 side. Much of last season’s squad has been retained. However the Brazilian winger, Neto, has left for Sisaket. 

A new centre back partnership should include the Iranian Abdolreza Zarei, ex-Customs United.

The Egyptian Mohamed Essam is an interesting recruit at centre forward; arriving in Thailand after a career in Egypt and Indonesia. The Norwegian Peter Nergaard is a second striker previously with Bangkok FC.

The club’s large squad finished 10th last season. Despite maintaining a stable squad it is hard to see the club finishing any higher than mid table.
Prediction 12th.

Nakhon Si United could be this year’s Lamphun Warriors. They have recruited eighteen new players under Jorg Steinebrunner most with some experience in League 1.

Steinebrunner is joined by Wanderley Junior, who coached Lamphun Warriors to the T2 title last season.

It is not a young squad but it is a squad built to succeed in T2. The defense will be built around Aleksander Kapisoda, recruited from Udon Thani and Ong-jin Kim who arrives in Thailand from Gwangju FC. Other centre back options include Praweenwat Boonyong from PT Prachuap and Narongrit Boonsuk from Khon Kaen United.

Full backs include Poomphat Sarapisitphat from Chiang Mai FC. His long throws will still cause havoc in some defenses. Weerawut Kayem is a left back from Suphanburi.

Myanmar international midfielder Nyein Chan Aung is one of a growing number of Myanmar players coming to the Thai League. He  was previously with Yangon United.

Evandro Paulista, ex Chiang Mai United and Police Tero, adds some power up front alongside Apdussalam Saman on loan from Police Tero.

The club has ambition – and it would be good to see one of Thailand’s most southerly teams battling for  promotion to T1.
Prediction: 3rd

Phrae United have been a playoff side the last two seasons. They will likely be there again – although not unreasonably fans would like a top 2 finish.

There is a core group of players from last season with depth provided by a number of new squad players. Carlos remains at centre back alongside Arsan Phengbanrai; both were almost ever present last season. Marlon Silva has arrived from Muangkan to strengthen the defense.

At centre forward Rodrigo Marahao, who scored 17 last season, is joined by Elivélton who returns to Phrae after almost three years playing in his homeland. They will again be supported by Taku Ito, who will create opportunities from the left wing.

Phrae look to have replaced like with like for the new season and should again be competing for a play-off position.
Prediction: 6th

Part 3 will take us from Rajpracha to Uthai Thani.

Fields of Dreams

Welcome back to a new Thai League 2 season where this year the quality may be as unpredictable as the drama.

After two long seasons that were blighted by Covid the new season will start on time and no club has yet announced restrictions on the number of supporters who may attend. Fingers remain crossed that common sense prevails and everyone is made welcome.

With the removal of the Covid quarantine restrictions we will also see a good number of foreign players coming to Thailand for the first time.

There are six new clubs in the League – the three relegated from T1 are Suphanburi, Chiang Mai United and Samut Prakan City. The three promoted sides from T3 are Krabi FC, Nakhon Si United and Uthai Thani, who return after just one season in T3.

With the transfer window running until 9 August some clubs were last minute shoppers; either hunting out the bargains that other clubs have over-looked or finally capitulating to the endless pressure of players’ agents. That also means that there will be changes to some squads after this article is completed. Apologies in advance for what may be seen as oversights.

The issue with late arrivals is that there is little time to assess fitness, assimilate them into the playing ethos of the coach and create relationships with their new squad. Some teams built their squad early and that must be an advantage at the start of the season.

As last year this preview will arrive in three parts – if only to keep Samut Prakan and Udon Thani fans in suspense for a few days.

Meanwhile some perhaps obvious thoughts about how to succeed in this League.

Scoring goals matters: the promoted teams from the last three seasons have each averaged 69 goals in the season.

Meanwhile 65 points should get a club into the top two automatic promotion places; Trat were unlucky last year to be overtaken by Lamphun and Sukhothai.

Home form matters; Lamphun, Sukhothai and Trat all won 13 home games last season.  The next best was nine home wins. Lamphun and Sukhothai were promoted as they also won 9 games on the road.

There is a four week break and a transfer window mid-season. Any team that is in the top half of the League mid-season can re-assess both their objectives and available resources as Lamphun Warriors did last season to great effect.

The play-offs (now starting their third year) keep players and fans interested until the last kick of the season. Anything better than 56 or 57 points should earn a play-off spot at which point anything can happen. Lampang finished 11 points behind Trat in the League but it is Lampang who are playing in T1 this season. So who has the squad to score enough goals for at least a play-off berth?  Here are my 2022/2023 predictions. Again alphabetically with four clubs in part one and seven each in parts 2 and 3.

Ayutthaya United: After 9th and then 11th places in the last two seasons their squad looks incomplete at the time of writing.

Ayutthaya are no longer connected with SCG Muangthong United who provided at least a dozen (it was hard to keep track) loan players last season.  

The addition of three new-to-Thailand Brazilians should give local fans reason for some optimism. As a centre – forward Nilson has played most of his football in Brazil but has also ventured to Bolivia and to play for Pegasus in Hong Kong.  He is joined in attack by Gustavinho from SER Caxias do Sul in Brazil. Thiago Duchatsch is a 1.90m centre back from Audax Rio de Janeiro EC.

Also new to the club is defender Kazuki Murakami (not the author) who joins from Sisaket.

Ayutthaya were Jekyll and Hide home and away last season. Just two defeats at home and eleven losses on the road. That will need to be addressed to avoid anything other than the lower half of the table. Prediction: 15th.

Chiang Mai FC: After two grim seasons for CMFC fans it does appear that owners and management have made a commitment to rebuilding the club with a combination of new players and the return of some of last year’s most promising loan players from BGPU.

However, with twelve of the squad on loan from BGPU it is clear where the money and influence lies and there will always be questions over whether loan players are available for the full season and what objectives BGPU has for the club. At some stage for CMFC, and any other feeder club, to succeed the club needs its own identity and long-term sustainability.

The catch with being a loan player is that you are serving three masters, yourself and your own career, the coach of the club that you are playing for, and the dream of being called back to contribute to the success of your parent club. It is at least one master, or mistress, too many.

The issue for Chiang Mai, as it was last season, is where will  the goals come from? Patrick Gustavsson, who joined in the middle of last season, and Stenio Junior (recruited from FK Partizani in Tirana) appear to be the starting forwards supported by a packed midfield.

The defense looks solid. Veljko Filipovic starts his second season at the club; ex club captain Suwannaphat Kingkaew returns on loan from BGPU and Singaporean international Rhyhan Stewart has joined from Garena Young Lions. A late addition is Suwit Paipromet who made a big contribution at Lamphun in the second half of last season.
Prediction: 4th

Chiang Mai United had a miserable last season in T1. Looking for an immediate return they have managed to keep a core group of players under new manager Chusak Sribhum.

The veteran Bill Rosimar remains on loan from Chiang Rai United. Bill will play alongside Melvin de Leeuw, who has returned to Chiang Mai after helping Sukhothai back to T1. They could be the goal scoring partnership to watch this season.

In defense the club has retained Evson, Sirisak and Ronnapee. Trat’s 2021/2022 first choice goalkeeper, Tossaporn Sri-reung has also joined Chiang Mai and will compete with Pairote Elam-mak for a first team place.

New additions also include Sansern Limwatthana and Nantawat Suankaew, both on loan from Port FC; Yuto Ono (not related) from Samut Prakan City and a number of ex T3 players presumably better known to the new manager.

Do not be surprised if the club looks for one additional striker and/or some pace on either wing as support for Bill and de Leeuw. A day or so after I wrote this the club signed Oliver Bias, primarily a right winger and a Philippines international. He is also the captain of the Philippines U23 team. He previously played for the youth national teams of Germany, the country of his birth.

Through slightly gritted teeth this looks to be the team to beat this season.
Prediction. League Champions

Chainat Hornbill FC have made the playoffs the last two seasons. Daniel Blanco has joined as manager and has plenty of experience with clubs at this level.

But the departure of Wellington Priori is significant – he was their talisman last season and it is hard to see where that drive will come from. Dennis Nieblas joins from Ayutthaya to replace Daneil Cyrus.  

Theerapat Laohabut and Sarayut Yoosuebchuea have arrived on loan from Muangthong. They were at Ayutthaya last season.

The issue, once again, will be goals. Last season’s three leading goalscorers have left the club. Diego Oliveiras has arrived from Nakhon Si United together with Ho-ju Choi from Rajpracha.  Chainat may need Warayut Klomnak to contribute more than the six goals netted last season.

Chainat is a club that is easy to admire with a focus of developing local young players and a stadium that is T1 ready. They may just not have the firepower this season.
Prediction: 9th.

Part Two will travel from Customs United to Phrae FC.

New Statesman on the UK PM’s resignation

In a momentous day in UK politics the Prime Minister has announced his resignation as Conservative Party leader. Pushed out by a record number of resignations by senior and junior Tory ministers over the previous 48 hours. There have, for instance , been three education secretaries in 36 hours.

He was pushed out by the very ministers that had clung devotedly to Johnson’s coat-tails; that until just a few weeks ago were giving Johnson a resounding vote of confidence.

For all the platitudes about the good of the country for all of these individuals it was about their political careers and office.

A series of pious, preening resignation letters have been sent from MPs who knew exactly what Boris Johnson is like when they ran for election under his leadership and accepted jobs in his government.

This isn’t a good group of people doing the right thing. This is them doing him before he does them all.

Survival. Nothing more.

So here is the New Statesman’s leader this morning. It does not mince words. It also hopes for the near impossible.

Leader: Boris Johnson’s departure alone is not enough
The UK needs transformative political, constitutional and economic change.

By New Statesman

The squalor and ineptitude of Boris Johnson’s premiership damages not only the Conservative Party but the whole of the United Kingdom. It was only a month ago that 211 Tory MPs voted that they had confidence in the Prime Minister. At the time, the rebels warned that another scandal was inevitable because of Mr Johnson’s suspect moral character, and so it proved.

Downing Street’s lies over whether the Prime Minister knew about the past allegations against the former deputy chief whip, Chris Pincher, prompted a long overdue cabinet revolt. A man accused of sexual harassment was appointed to a position of power by a leader who reportedly referred to him as “Pincher by name, pincher by nature”. For Rishi Sunak, who had long contemplated resignation, and for Sajid Javid, who previously walked away from Johnson’s cabinet in February 2020, this proved too much.

But no one who accepted a place in Mr Johnson’s government should be surprised that he has been consumed by scandal. The Prime Minister specialises in bypassing legal and ethical obstacles. He ennobled the Tory donor Peter Cruddas (in defiance of the House of Lords Appointments Commission) and the Russian businessman Evgeny Lebedev (in defiance of the British intelligence services), broke lockdown laws and breached party funding rules. As the historian Peter Hennessy has observed, Mr Johnson is “the great debaser in modern times of decency in public and political life, and of our constitutional conventions”.

The Prime Minister has worn many masks throughout his long career, but mendacity has been a constant. As the stakes have grown, so have the lies. The claim that Brexit would gift the UK £350m a week for the NHS; the assurance that there would be no customs checks in the Irish Sea; the insistence that no parties were held at Downing Street during lockdown. All of these have unravelled and have stained the UK’s global reputation. Now, as even his most sycophantic supporters lose faith, the Prime Minister has no one left to lie to.

Mr Johnson’s Britain, in its rampant corruption, seediness and economic decay, increasingly resembles Silvio Berlusconi’s Italy. The Conservative Party, which saw in Mr Johnson an election-winner rather than a huckster unfit to hold the highest public office, must now end this farce or be further damned by its complicity.

But the UK’s malaise will not end with the Prime Minister’s exit. The kingdom is fragmented and if the Union is to endure – the SNP is mobilising for a second Scottish independence referendum, as the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, made clear on 28 June, in a speech to the Holyrood parliament – transformative political, constitutional and economic change is urgently required.

Since 2010, the UK has endured a lost decade not only for the economy but also for the nation’s constitution. Far from redressing Britain’s democratic defects and deficits, the Conservatives have intensified them. They have stuffed the House of Lords with yet more donors and stooges. They have extended the use of the arcane first-past-the-post system to mayoral contests and introduced US-style voter ID laws. And they have used the “good chaps” theory of government to entrench Mr Johnson in power. If any of this is to be remedied, it will take more than a Conservative defeat at the next election.

But Mr Johnson should never have become prime minister. It bears remembering that he did not seize Downing Street in a coup d’état; he was nominated by 160 Conservative MPs – who knew his defects – and then overwhelmingly elected by the party membership. He also won a commanding majority in the 2019 general election on the crude pledge to “get Brexit done”, whatever that means.

At every point, Mr Johnson’s advance has depended upon the complicity of others, including the right-wing press. Some of those who knew him well, such as his former editor at the Daily Telegraph, Max Hastings, and his former Spectator colleague Matthew Parris, tried in vain to warn Tory MPs that he would betray them just as he had betrayed others. But his dismal rule has shown why the UK needs more than a change of leader: it needs a complete renewal of its moral purpose and governance. Mr Johnson has disgraced the office of prime minister and shamed Britain.”

LIV Golf – money trumps morality

The Saudi backed series of golf events under the LIV brand kicks off in England this week.

54 holes; no cut; ludicrous amounts of prize money; and for the marquee names appearance money that leaves them set up for life even if they finish last in the 48 player field.

There is something vulgar about the whole business. It is as obvious an attempt at sportswashing as one is ever likely to see.

Useful idiots that can be bought for a price and are willing to rebrand and promote the KSA as a benign, warm, sports-loving nation distant from their backing of 9-11; their dismal human rights record; their treatment of women as second class citizens and of course the murder and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi.

Lining up at the inaugural event are some of the least liked golfers from the US PGA. Phil Mickelson, who memorably described his prospective Saudi benefactors as “scary” people to get involved with, will be there. As will:

Dustin Johnson who is rumoured to have been paid US$150 million just to join the LIV tour. Mickelson even more.

Bryson de Chambeau, Patrick Reed and Ricky Fowler are not playing in London but have apparently all committed to future LIV events. Fowler is a disappointment, I thought he placed more value on the history of the game and the legacy it can leave.

From Europe – European tour veterans Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Graham McDowell. The South Africans Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Shwartzel and Branden Grace. All have won or made multiple millions on the European and PGA tours and through their sponsors. But offered another few million for less work and guaranteed pay-outs; thank you very much.

The chief executive of the LIV tour is Australian, Greg Norman. Speaking at a promotional event in the UK last month, the Australian was quizzed about the death of Khashoggi and issued a response that prompted outrage. “Look, we’ve all made mistakes and you just want to learn by those mistakes and how you can correct them going forward,” he said. Greg Norman is the CUI – Chief Useful Idiot.

Most of us do not brutally murder and dismember Washington Post journalists because we do not like what they have written about us.

McDowell, one of Irish golf’s star names, with career winnings of more than $35m, stated that he had “decided that following the LIV opportunity was best for me and my family” even if it is likely to cost the 42-year-old future captaincy of the European Ryder Cup team. Of course, Graham.

Their pre-tournament media interviews have been embarrassing. They are all clearly prepped by a PR firm that, like too many of their kind, also has no moral compass. Feigning outrage; saying that it is all about growing the game and being role models. Would they play a tournament in Putin’s Russia was one of the questions….it is a hypothetical question was the standard reply. Of course they would – for the right price.

Meanwhile the PGA this weeks tees up in Canada for the RBC Canadian Open. A tournament much higher in prestige and that will take a lot more winning. But those competing in it will be acutely aware that its $8.7m purse is a pittance compared to the riches on offer in Hertfordshire for what amounts to morally questionable but far less difficult work.

One standard question is why should golfers- and other sports people – not deal with Saudi Arabia when governments around the world buy their oil; sell them ludicrous amounts of weaponry, much of it used in the Saudi oppression of Yemen, and even now, describe their nations as allies? The state is not an individual – and there is basically a state recognition of a both a dependency on Saudi Arabian oil and a need to retain KSA as an force for a stable Middle East. Geopolitical necessity.

The question remains why should sportspeople be held to a higher moral code?

Which rather misses the point. The issue is that they are not held to a higher standard; but they are very public figures. They are being used specifically for their names; their fame. They are being used as window-dressing by a regime that knows that money can buy anything.

And that is what LIV is counting on – greed. For blood money.

They may well be right. More players will jump to LIV for the cash on offer. The European Tour (now unfortunately known as the DP World Tour) is near death; the purses are too small; the players are not good enough; and for the most part no one, other than family friends or Sky Sports actually cares. Name the winner of last week’s Porsche European Open? I doubt many can.

The Asian tour has already hitched its future to the LIV tour with 13 Asian Tour golfers lined up to play in this week’s LIV tournament.

Outline a possible future: there will be two primary tours; LIV and the US PGA (which will have to go global and incorporate the European Tour.) The Majors will continue – for instance the US Open is run by the USGA not the USPGA. But the majors will also need to go global as well. That 3 of the 4 majors are in the USA is head in the sands stuff!

The problem with the US PGA tour is that it is too parochial; too local and too comfortable. Patrick Reed, love him or hate him, embraced the European Tour because of the challenges of different countries, courses, climate etc. The US PGA is pretty much cookie-cutter courses played by cookie-cutter golfers each week.

The European tour will become a development tour – much like the Korn Ferry Tour in the USA.

Prize money will need to increase to create near parity of the remaining tours. Golf will need to appeal to a new generation; the 54 hole shotgun format may work; a 2pm start each day with everyone finished by 6.30pm. Think T20 cricket rather than a test match. Louder; noisier, brasher; better suited to an audience that has a myriad of other distractions.

LIV may in the end be necessary for golf; but it needs to be honest and transparent in its actions and objectives. As do the mercenaries that have already signed up.

The LIV 2022 tournament schedule is:

1 Centurion Club Hertfordshire, England June 9-11
2 Pumpkin Ridge Portland, Oregon June 30 – July 2
3 Trump National Golf Club Bedminster Bedminster, New Jersey July 29-31
4 The International Boston, Massachusetts September 2-4
5 Rich Harvest Farms Chicago, Illinois September 16-18
6 Stonehill Bangkok, Thailand October 7-9
7 Royal Greens Golf & Country Club Jeddah, Saudi Arabia October 14-16
8 Trump National Golf Club Doral Miami, Florida October 27-30

Ros Atkins of the “future of news.”

Last week, I gave a speech at the Society of Editors. There’s been some interest in it so, if you’ll indulge me, I thought I’d post it here. I was asked to talk on ‘future of news’. Once I’d cleared up that I definitely don’t know that, I launched in.

I don’t know what’s next but I have spent long enough trying to guess where we’re heading to have some rules of thumb – some guidelines that help me to work out how to give new types of journalism the best chance. And my speech was based on those – this is what I said. 

The work of innovation and modernisation can sometimes feel like an extra. The form our journalism takes – the way we structure staffing, the way we structure daily output, developing products – can feel secondary to the stories. 

And I get that – we all became journalists because of a desire to hold to account, to uncover stories – to tell stories. None of that has gone anywhere. 

But for me the moment we’ve reached is asking fundamental questions about where journalism fits into our world. News is not a given in people’s lives. It can’t be assumed people will seek to learn about our world via journalism. 

It can’t be assumed people understand and value the way that journalism work or why we think that gives the information we produce has value. It can’t be assumed that the way we tell stories is the way people want to hear them. Our place in people’s lives is not a guarantee. 

And so when I look at the need to innovate, to reimagine, to restructure what we do – it’s not because change is fun and creative and exciting – though it can be all of those things. For me this is a necessity. 

If you believe in the importance of journalism to our society – and to the world – then actively engaging in what we need to become isn’t optional. This isn’t some distant moment. 

When we talk about the future of news – what we really mean is what do we need to do now. Because we can see how radically people’s media consumption habits are shifting. There is though a catch here. 

We can observe those shifts in habits – from linear TV to streaming, from print to digital, from branded digital destinations to social. But it very hard to know what to do about it. My career is littered with evidence of this. 

In 2015, I was in Athens for the Greek debt crisis – and amongst other things was recording six second summaries of the story on Vine. That soon passed. 

Or in 2017, I was doing livestreams on facebook from the BBC newsroom. They felt like the future. I’ve not done one for several years. 

Or in 2018, I tried to persuade the BBC to develop an app based around the touchscreen I used to use on Outside Source. The BBC declined – rightly arguing that we didn’t need another digital destination. Those are three examples. Believe me, I could go on. 

But these false starts weren’t necessarily a problem, though maybe I didn’t feel that way at the time. For me they are inevitable. 

Because the degree of disruption that the internet has brought to our information ecosystem is so total, so huge, so unknown in many ways – we can’t expect anything other than a constant need to change. 

And if there’s a constant need – certain things follow. One is that we expect from ourselves – that this becomes a non-negotiable – just as coming being factually accurate, fairness, nigh production standards already are. 

What also follows if the need is constant – our innovation should be constant. We should keep doing it. Again and again. Not everything is going to work of course – but there are things we can to do give ourselves the best chance. 

I’ve been lucky enough to see some of my ideas blossom – from Outside Source to the 50:50 Project to our explainers to my podcast with Keith Olbermann. And I think I can see some patterns. In what I’ve done – in what the BBC has done. 

And I now have a list of things – 7 for me, 4 broader ones – that I ask myself if I’m working on a one-off idea – or a new product. Some of this may seem obvious – but it’s helpful to me. 

1. What problem are we helping with? Are we clear on the need we’re meeting? On one level, journalism is a service. It’s offering help. So what help is our idea offering? 

2. What is different with this idea? An old editor of mine used to say – ‘we’re making news for people who know the news’. Beyond the basic facts of a story that may well be known – what is different here? What are we adding? Bluntly, why are we doing this? 

3. Show them the journalism. Don’t assume people understand why we believe the information we have is of value. Show people the evidence – don’t just assert things. Make the case for journalism. Earn people’s trust. Our processes, our journalism is our greatest asset. 

4. The idea needs a digital and social dimension. Money spent on journalism without a digital element is not making the most of your investment. 

And success connects to sharing. My drum and bass mix on 6 Music is one of their most downloaded programmes of the year. Evidently, it’s not news – but there’s still a lesson there. 

First, I had to try and do a good mix – if the product isn’t there the rest won’t follow. But then I spent the day before it was released writing a twitter thread about DJing in my 20s and connecting it to this mix. 

It was designed to go viral and promote the mix and, happily in this case, it did. Without that too the mix wouldn’t be one of the most downloaded programmes. |

5. Assemble a multi-disciplinary team. In 2016, I visited Stanford University. I spent a very high impact hour with an academic called Justin Ferrell. He talked about small multi-disciplinary teams are incredibly powerful – even in big organisations. He’s right. 

Build one – however informal – around your idea as soon as possible. When we began the relaunch of Outside Source in 2020 – we immediately involved designers, producers, editors, directors, marketing, engineers, digital. You maximise the chance of the idea developing well. 

6. What’s your definition of success? Be clear on what you’re hoping to achieve – and if it’s not happening, stop or change how you’re doing it. Being able to stop is an important as being able to start.

I see so many digital examples of news organisations doing things because they feel they should – but no-one is consuming what they’re doing. And they carry on. That it’s not working isn’t a problem. Not stopping is. You damage your brand and waste resources. 

There’s one more on my list – arguably the most important one. How do you want to tell the story? This might seem obvious – we ask ourselves this every day. But our answers are often the same ones we’ve been giving for a while. And there’s a risk here. 

Digital isn’t only a distribution revolution – it’s a story-telling revolution too. Look around at how people are sharing their stories – it often doesn’t look anything like news. From TikTok to gaming livestreams to comedy on YouTube to threads on twitter to podcasts. 

We are in an era of extreme creativity – we need to match that in news. We need to look far and wide for our inspiration. Otherwise the news risks feeling tired and constrained to our audiences compared to everything else they can consume. 

That’s my 7 points. But if individuals or teams are doing all of this – you’ll need an organisation that is doing certain things too. I’ve four things on this list – again they may seem obvious but I keep an eye out for them. 

1. Build product and story innovation into your processes. If you make it part of your systems and routines – you have a far greater chance of it becoming habit. It also communicates that this is something the organisation expects. 

Second, think about how you process and assess ideas. If you’re asking for them, you may a lot of ideas coming your way. But commitment to innovation, doesn’t mean doing all of it. Saying no is important. So you need to clear on your criteria. 

Third – don’t assume your brand will be enough. Brands can help a lot (I, of course, am completely reliant on the BBC’s journalism and reputation) – but brands count for little if the content isn’t right. 

Be humble when taking this on – you’re going to have to fight for this however big you are. I start from the point of view that a new idea is not going to work (even if it’s a good one!) – and try and address all the reasons it could get stuck. 

And fourth – you need flexibility in your newsroom. The rhythm of news has changed – daily papers and shows are being replaced by whatever we like – new products and new stories can take many different forms. 

That will require flexibility in how we manage staffing and budgets. It will require flexibility in your output structures – in other words we tend to make journalism in fixed forms and then distribute in fixed ways. New ideas may not fit into this. 

Without that flexibility, your best ideas will struggle. Don’t underestimate the number of blocks that exist to the idea being made and being distributed well. 

All of these things helps me work out how to have the best chance of creating journalism that works for our audiences. I should add that what works now, won’t necessarily work next year so this remains a work in progress. That’s exciting as well as challenging. 

But let us also be honest – as we survey British journalism, the form it takes in many cases is much like the news I consumed in the 90s – the news that inspired me – that made me want to be a journalist. But that was some while ago. 

The future of news is here – it’s all around us in how people consume media content in a multitude of different ways – the test for all of us is whether we’re willing to take part. 

…so that is the speech. If you got this far, I’m flattered and impressed! I’m sure there are many journalists and consumers who have many better thoughts on what we can do. I’m all ears. As ever, I’m feeling my way. 

Farewell to Hong Kong

Western Market terminal on Hong Kong Island

Bloomberg’s Matthew Brooker reports on “The Hard Way Home to the UK From Hong Kong
A look at the challenges and frustrations of uprooting from the Chinese city to travel back to Britain after three decades away.”

He is braver than I am – and has family reasons for returning to the UK – but after 28 years in Hong Kong the UK will be a hard place to settle down. I left in 1988. I have not lived there since and have no family reason or personal need to live there again.

This was Matthew’s commentary – every word of it feels familiar:

“The light on the harbor; the hum of escalators on the MTR; the battered orange Ikea sofa that I will leave behind. Even the most mundane sights and sounds have become invested recently with the rare and precious significance that impending loss brings. More than 100,000 Hong Kong people have taken steps to move to the UK in the past year. Sometime in the next two months or so, I will join them.

Hong Kong isn’t what it was. The exuberantly free and pluralist society that I knew for 28 years has largely vanished. Activists for a kaleidoscope of political and social causes no longer line the road outside Causeway Bay station. People who were part of the fabric of public life for decades are in prison; others have fled. Walls have been scrubbed clean of graffiti. Hong Kong officials say the national security law that China imposed on the city in 2020 ended the chaos and violence of the 2019 pro-democracy protests and restored order. It did a lot more than that.

“It was as if, in order to fix a leaky pipe, the builders had pulled down the entire house and plowed up the land under its foundations,” as Louisa Lim writes in Indelible City, published last month. After three years marked by the worst unrest since the return to Chinese rule, an unprecedented security crackdown and political purge, and the enforced isolation of draconian Covid restrictions, Hong Kong is a city with PTSD. To that, add the mental pressure of feeling gaslighted almost constantly. On Sunday, Hong Kong held an “election” for its next leader, with one candidate approved by a committee of 1,500 Beijing loyalists, hailed by officials and state media as an example of the city’s “improved” electoral system in action.

In April, I marked the 30th anniversary of my arrival in Hong Kong. The decision to leave is nerve-wracking, and not without pain and doubt. British bureaucracy and London property prices are providing a fair share of each. There’s also the stress of uprooting my family from a stable life when no one is forcing me to. Am I sure about what I’m doing?

There’s a sense of being suspended between two netherworlds: the Hong Kong that has disappeared; and the land of my birth, a country that I no longer know in any meaningful way after so long away. The UK is still more of an idea than a reality to me, apprehended through endless Rightmove searches, school application emails and the occasional Zoom call. I wait for the day when I will have solid ground under my feet once again.

There are personal reasons for leaving. My mother will be 86 this year, and I have a three-year-old boy, a late-life addition that I couldn’t have expected a few years ago. Filial duty is only part of it, though. To contemplate remaining would be a bittersweet prospect, knowing what Hong Kong was and what it has become. It would be so easy to stay. The guilty secret is that this city is kind to foreigners like me, and probably will continue to be — as long as they serve its functions of being an international financial and business center. Taxes are low, domestic help is cheap and available, transport connections are fast and efficient.

These comforts have started to weigh more heavily. It was one thing to accept all that Hong Kong had to offer when the city was, in effect, a benign autocracy — one that didn’t offer meaningful democracy, but where individuals were subject to minimal interference by the state, and where a vigorous civil society flourished. Now the benign part has gone. To continue enjoying the ease of life when the people of Hong Kong have had so many of their freedoms stripped away feels like complicity.

Yet even now, I am torn. Some might argue that the braver course would be to stay in Hong Kong and keep bearing witness. But I ask myself: Is this the society that I wish my three-year-old half-Chinese boy to grow up in? And the answer has to be no.

The financial implications of moving to Britain are bracing. Hong Kong’s standard tax rate is 15%. The UK’s starts at 20% and goes up to 45%. Hong Kong also has an array of allowances and deductions (for children, for example) that can reduce your tax bill. The UK, as far as I can gather, has no such equivalents. It’s hard to look at the figures and not imagine that this will mean a financial sacrifice. Liberty has a price, as one Hong Kong local who’s relocating to the UK remarked to me ruefully.

It wouldn’t be so bad if cheaper property prices balanced out one of Hong Kong’s standout expenses. Outside London, that’s certainly the case. In London, not so much. The cost of renting in the capital looks dizzying to me, relative to the quality of what is within my budget. Hong Kong has famously unaffordable housing prices, yet considering the differences in tax rates, London looks possibly even more extreme. It doesn’t seem to add up. I find myself wondering about the size of the black economy.

To buy would make more sense, but that depends on being able to sell our apartment in Hong Kong first. We put our suburban mass-residential unit on the market at the beginning of December, thinking that was plenty of time and wanting to stay in our marital home for as long as possible. Then Hong Kong’s fifth wave came along and Russia invaded Ukraine. Now the U.S. is raising interest rates, a key factor for the city’s property market because of the currency peg. We are making contingency plans in case we can’t sell before we leave. It feels like a bare-knuckle ride.

Then there’s shipping. Container freight rates have increased by about five times since the start of the pandemic, rendering it uneconomic to move many of our belongings. I have been quoted the equivalent of more than $9,000 to ship even a reduced volume of goods. As a result, I am busy disposing of three decades’ worth of accumulated books. So many people are leaving Hong Kong that most second-hand bookshops have stopped accepting donations. Luckily, I have found one that’s still interested in my eclectic (and often faded) collection of China, World War II, business, spiritual and fiction texts.

Beyond finances, there is the issue of culture shock. My wife, my 15-year-old stepson and my three-year-old will all have to go through their own adjustment. I may not be immune myself. By choice, I would probably go to live somewhere in southwest London, an area I know well enough. The exigencies of school placement mean that we will probably be heading to the outskirts of north London, an area that is not part of my mental geography. It may be on the tube, but using Google Maps’ street view to cruise around the neighborhood, it looks almost rural.

The Hong Kong writer Karen Cheung describes having a near-panic attack when she left the city for the first time for an exchange semester in Glasgow. “Where are all the people?” she writes in The Impossible City, another outstanding Hong Kong memoir that was published this year. “There was less than a tenth of the crowd I would see back home.” I’ve been in Hong Kong for so long. Will I be struck by pangs of anxiety one day on my suburban street, wondering where all the crowds, all that familiar “frenzied energy” and “language of alienation and impatience” have gone?

Besides being densely packed, Hong Kong also moves fast. Red tape is minimal. Already, I can see this may be a challenge. We applied for UK family visas for my wife and stepson in January. We’re still waiting, with the clock ticking until our planned departure (more bare knuckles). The process itself is worth recalling. To apply for a UK visa, gather: a computer that doesn’t tend to crash (do as I say, not as I do); a print or scan of every official document that everyone in your extended family has ever handled or been named in since the dawn of time; a lot of money (9,000 pounds, or about $11,300, in my case). And set aside the rest of the day.

What follows several weeks later is an appointment at a nondescript industrial building on Hong Kong island, where a private sector agency checks all the documents that you have been told to produce. I arrive with a sheaf of them as thick as my thumb. An elderly Hong Kong employee with a kindly manner helps to arrange the papers into folders to save time once our number is called. The first document he asks for is one I don’t have. The second document he asks for is one I don’t have. Where’s your document checklist, he asks. I show him the list. Not that list, the other list – the one that the UK government website shows you. I have no recollection of the other list. Don’t even ask me about Ecctis letters. I suspect there will be plenty more such experiences after arrival in England.

I have no right to gripe. I may be waking up regularly in a cold sweat, wondering if I am making a terrible mistake. But the challenges I face have solutions, even if I haven’t found all of them yet. At least we have some resources. So many Hong Kong people have left for the UK with far less, seeking a better life in a country they don’t know at all. Their intrepidity should put me to shame.

A March documentary by Singapore’s Channel News Asia focused on a Hong Kong family with two young children who emigrate. They land at Heathrow and drive to an Airbnb house in Crewe in the northwest. An immigration consultant tells the camera that he gives them only a 50-50 chance of being able to adjust to life in the UK. Several months later they have spent half their HK$1 million ($127,000) savings and no longer meet the financial requirements for the British National (Overseas) visa, which they hadn’t obtained before leaving. I stopped watching, my heart sinking and fearing the worst.

I needn’t have worried. When I went back to complete the program, I discovered it was ultimately uplifting rather than depressing. They form networks, find better jobs, look to buy their own house. By the end, they appear to be flourishing. The wife, Fiona Lai, is a classic Hong Kong character: smart, resilient, adaptable. Each part of the two-part documentary has more than 1 million viewers on YouTube; the second has more than 4,000 comments.

They call it the Lion Rock spirit, after a TV show about the lives of everyday Hong Kong citizens that started in the 1970s. The series, named after an iconic Kowloon mountain, embodied the Hong Kong values of perseverance and solidarity that underpinned the city’s rise to prosperity.

I’ve always, from the depth of my soul, admired that spirit: the humor, the irreverence, the will to live and endure of Hong Kong people. If I take one thing with me when I leave, let it be that.

Bubble double toil and trouble

Earlier this year I questioned a tweet from ThaiLeagueCentral promoting Thai League NFTs promoted through their new relationship with Bitkub.

The future is here. A historic event for Thai football as the @thaileague has partnered with @BitkubOfficial to release over 1.2m NFT cards. Go get yours today at:”

As I pointed out at the time “1.2m cards hardly gives them the uniqueness that is where trading cards (inc. NFT cards) get their value. People could lose a lot of money trying to find an NFT trading card that turns out to be a rare winner.”

It should be noted here that I have been writing articles for ThaiLeagueCentral during the season that is coming to a close.

One of the founders of Thai League Central suggested that I did not understand the appeal/value of NFTs and that our disagreement may be a generational issue.

A little reality check – I have far more investment experience, and a far greater understanding of risk, at a personal and corporate level than he does.

Here is a piece in today’s Guardian on “NFT scams, toxic ‘mines’ and lost life savings: the cryptocurrency dream is fading fast”

One of the comments under the article covers rules for investing, these are as valid now as they were in the days of every bubble that we have ever known – from South Sea bubble to Internet bubble.

  1. Do I broadly understand what I’m buying?
  2. Is it something for which there is a liquid market of buyers?
  3. Is it’s pricing easy to understand?
  4. Am I happy with the cost of buying it and owning it (and not just the cost of purchase)?
  5. If I couldn’t know the value of it for ten years, would I still be happy that I owned it?
  6. Is it something I can hold on to indefinitely if I choose to do that, confident I can exchange it for cash at any time?
  7. Is it regulated to a degree that I find acceptable?
  8. Is it legal to buy, own and sell?
  9. If it’s a derivative, can I identify at least 90% of its underlying composition?
  10. Can I explain my entire investing strategy to somebody else in less than two minutes and do they understand it?

If you can’t do all of the above when you buy something……’re going to lose your shirt sooner or later.