700th Anniversary Stadium – Chiangmai FC

28 Mar

The first guest post! The honour befalls John Wilson of TwoFromWales.com. John is a mate of mine from school, fellow Colwyn Bay Sheddite, and a United fan. Him and his girlfriend Jemma have been travelling the world for the last 3 months. Whilst in Thailand, he went to watch Chiangmai FC. Here’s the report.

Chiangmai FC – 1

Cash Today Chanthaburi FC – 1

Thai Division 1 League – 20th March 2011

Travelling for almost 8 months, we left with a very open mind and equally open schedule but what we both wanted to do form the start is to watch live sports where ever possible. The first opportunity came in Changmai, northern Thailand. This would be my first time watching a match outside of the UK (and Jemma’s first ever game) and we weren’t disappointed by the experience.

Arriving after a 30 minute Tuk Tuk ride from the centre of Changmai, which we managed to negotiate (while probably still getting ripped off) for £10 return, we were at the 700 Stadium in the centre of a sports complex including gyms, various sports courts and training facilities. Outside the pretty impressive stadium, we were greated with a large number of Changmai fans all stocking up on supplies for the game. Here, which we have since discovered, you don’t go at half time for a pie & a pint, you stock up and take it all in. You can buy a crate of beer and bags of ice to keep them cool and take them all in with you. You can also buy all sorts of food, Western snacks or Thai specialities, the choice is yours. We got ourselves a few beers, a Fanzine which is written in Thai so can’t read it and a Changmai FC scarf to show our support.

Thai Tigers. Thaigers.

Paying £1.80 each for the most expensive tickets including a small donation to the Japanese disaster fund, we went into the stadium and took our seats. We managed to sit on the halfway line, about 10 rows back and would have a great view of all the action. The stadium here has one large, mostly seated stand and 3 terraces around an athletics track. Pre-match formalities out of the way, including a minutes silence for the victims of the Japan earthquake and tsunami and the Thai national anthem the game was underway.

Respectfully observed minute silence.

The opening exchanges were scrappy, misplaced passes and first time control from both teams but the first opportunity for an opening goal fell to Chanthaburi, with their forward shooting and just missing the far corner with the keeper left scrambling. Early on, players from both teams were trying the patience of a very lenient referee who wasn’t in a hurry to hand out yellow cards. Petulant fouls here & there, play acting and time wasting still couldn’t draw a card.

Midway through the first half, Changmai escaped the first of two, what we both thought were clear penalty chances. A Changmai defender clumsily bringing down the Chanthaburi forward as he beared down one on one with the keeper. After that, both teams had the odd opportunity which neither could convert and the referee’s whistle brought to an end a pretty average first half of football. Most of the first halves entertainment came from the mascot and the drummers who tried their hardest to get the crowd going and to create an atmosphere.

Half Time: 0-0

Chiang Mai had some dodgy looking cheerleaders.

During half time, and as a result of our failure to prepare before the game left us sitting waiting for the game to restart. There wasn’t much in the way of half time entertainment but there was a few speaches and a presentation for the fundraising for the Japanese victims. Unfortunately, but as expected, the presentation was all done in Thai so we don’t know exactly what was said or how much it raised, but I’m sure it’ll all help.

The second half got underway and was much the same as the first half, a little scrappy but there was a little more pressure as Changmai seemed to grow with confidence. This improvement though didn’t deliver anything and again Chanthaburi looked more likely to score and it wouldn’t be long before they did. A mix up at the back allowed the Chanthaburi forward in on goal, and seeing the keeper off his line, he managed to lift the ball over him with a cheeky little chip. 1-0 to Chanthaburi.

Can Chiang Mai come back and win?

Needless to say, the Changmai fans went crazy, trying even harder to lift their team and even harder to attack the away team and as the second half progressed, the goal down Changmai continued further to press for a goal. A couple of good efforts, including a sweet long range effort from outside the box drawing a good save from the Chanthaburi keeper. In doing so, he became yet another injury of the game. By the end of the game, we would loose track of the amount of times both teams required the physio’s attention and between the physio & the stretcher teams of both sides, they probably covered more ground than either team player.

The game continued in the same manner, with the time quickly passing for Changmai to find the elusive equaliser and before long, the fourth official raised the board to indicate 5 more minutes of scrappy play which would surprise us both to be the best 5 minutes of the game. Changmai, who we’re fortunate not to give a penalty away in the dying moments of regular time for what from the stands was a clear penalty, a decision which further infuriated the away team bench, managed to float a freekick in from deep in their own half, a brief scramble in the box and the Changmai forward manages to get the ball across the line from no more than 5 yards out. Cue the celebrations from the home fans. The response was incredibly intense, much more than I’ve ever experienced in the UK and you could feel the relief of the home supporters.

The final whistle then blew straight after the restart. That wasn’t the end of the action though, it just meant the Chanthaburi bench could voice their frustrations on the referee for a poor performance which even as a Changmai fan for the day, he did make some poor decisions and probably deserved the police escort off the pitch as protection.

Final Score: 1-1.

The fans didn't care much for the ref.

To be honest, Changmai were lucky to just concede the one goal, they could easily have let in more had the 2 clear penalty claims had gone their way not to mention the close efforts in either half for Chanthaburi. None the less, passion for the Division 1 (semi-professional I believe) football team here in Changmai is extraordinary, even if the quality of play on the pitch is scrappy most of the time. Watching the game is certainly going to be a highlight of the trip and in the future a very good yard stick to measure other events we’ll be attending.

And that elusive question for a budget conscious traveler, was it worth the £20 or so for us both to have an evening out surrounded by noisy, quite possibly drunken Thai people? You bet it was.

About John Wilson

You can read more of John & Jemma's travels at TwoFromWales.com, follow them on Twitter at @twofromwales.