Wednesday, 26 May 2010
Muangthong United Vs Chonburi - Special preview
It will be second against first at the Yamaha Thunderdome Stadium on Friday.
If Muangthong United are "The Manchester United of Thailand" as some seem to call us, then Chonburi FC are probably its Arsenal.
The Sharks - once officially named 'Chonburi Code Red' (no kidding) - are respected throughout the league for their attacking style of play and their widespread ground of loyal supporters. By no means short of funds, the club have progressed through cautious advance, team spirit and effective management. When they don't win trophies, you can be sure they came close. Their first and so far only TPL title came in 2007.
Chonburi were one of the first Thai clubs to market themselves and it shows. Walk into any school in the Kingdom of Thailand and talk to the kids, you'll find at least one Chonburi fan. Walk through any city in the country and you'll see at least one Chonburi shirt. Even areas that should be Muangthong or Bangkok Glass territory have Chonburi fans.
The seeds of rivalry between Chonburi and Muangthong were sown last season. It wasn't just the two horse race for the TPL title that was eventually won by United, on top of this, there is the predictable culture clash between the old, long term heavyweight of the football league and the nouveau-riche who have stepped in as challengers.
But if all this sounds negative, it has, so far, brought out the best of both teams. Chonburi have blazed through the league so far this season and the Quilins are equally determined to retain. Both sets of fans have behaved in exemplary fashion, too.
Predictably, I caught up with Dale, from the Chonburi website for a bit of pre-match banter for Friday's crucial clash. Less predictably perhaps, I was also lucky enough to ask some questions of coach Rene' Desaeyere. Thanks to my source at Harrow for the Rene interview.
2) There's been some great results and just one or two disappointments so far. How is the spirit in the dressing room?Very good – because in the group there are no problem between African players as the African players speak Thai
3) From a fan's view, the squad have looked a little tired in some recent games. Is that due to the large number of games we are playing?Sure – we have played double the games the other teams have played already
4) Chonburi have been on fire so far this season. Do you see them as our main title challengers?We must count more than only Chonburi. Of course Chonburi are number one now but there are other teams who can be champions.
5) Are there any players in the Chonburi side you think are especially dangerous?Number 10 is very strong.
6) The Ultras will be as loud as they can on Friday. Does the large home crowd make any difference to the team?Without the crowd it will be even more difficult for Muang Thong to get to the top
7) Finally, what do you think the score will be on Friday?I never predict the score before a game.
Dale ( Chonburi FC website )
A) Thank you for the kind words. I think the main driving force for me is the fact that I genuinely enjoy doing it. Many, many years ago I used to edit music, and then football, fanzines, which was great fun, and websites seem to be the modern equivalent. So it's a natural progression from that. I do try to limit the amount of time I spend working on the site, especially as computers are by and large are a mystery to me and my typing skills would embarrass a five year old.
2) You were quite possibly the first ever farang to get involved with Thai football. Apart from crowd sizes, how has it changed? A) I could write a book about the number of changes that I've seen during the past 13+ years of watching Thai football (now there's an idea!). However, the biggest change has to be the amount of information that is available. I've gone on record as saying that following the domestic game used to be like belonging to a secret underground movement but that is largely true. Word of mouth seemed to be the preferred method of communication. When I first started going to watch Chonburi on a regular basis I had to call one of the players to get all the information about kick off times and fixtures.
Other improvements include a more professional approach by clubs, FAT, SAT etc ; the availability of merchandise; television coverage has increased dramatically; the rise of the provincial clubs; all ticket games etc etc. We used to joke about all this being a reality when we were sitting in crowds of less than 200 not that long ago. I could go on but you'll have to wait for my book to come out. :)
3) I try to get some of my fellow foreigners into the local footie, but often they don't give it a chance. Have you managed to convert any farangs to Thai football?
A) I have. With varying degrees of success. One of my best mates, Ian - a Southampton fan - used to come to all the Chonburi Pro League matches with me, until he moved to Vietnam. My parents, both life long Oldham supporters, go to all the games they can whenever they come to visit. I've also dragged many of my work colleagues along over the years, and one or two are pretty regular attendees these days. However, the biggest convert of all is Thai. My wife. She used to hate football and would look forward to Sunday afternoons when I would be out from under her feet. She started coming towards the end of the 2004 season - I can't remember why - and has hardly missed a game since.
4) OK, so to the big game build up...... Chonburi look to be on fire this season. What's the secret?A) I believe that there are a few reasons why we've enjoyed such a good start to the campaign. Therdsak has made a big difference. You can tell that the other players respect him and his intelligent approach certainly rubs off on those around him. The return of Jadet Meelarp is also a key factor. He, along with the rest of the coaching staff, has instilled a lot of confidence and belief into the players, and this is evident when you watch them on matchdays.
5) Has any player stood out so far?
A) Therdsak, obviously, but for me Puritat Jarigarnon has been our most outstanding player. This lad has a bright future and I expect that he'll be a fixture in the Thailand national team, and, hopefully, Chonburi team, for many years to come. However, I'd be happy to let him go to one of the big European clubs.
6) We think we've spotted at least one weakness in your team. Do you think you've spotted any with MTU? Don't worry you don't need to be specific!
A) You are strong in all departments and have equal strength in cover, so finding a weakness on the field is very difficult. As I've said before, Muang Thong have been the best side in the country for me over the past two years. However, as far as I'm concerned, your Achilles' heel is your coach and his assistant. They do tend to come across as being rather arrogant and are not afraid to make their feelings known. It's quite possible that this approach could backfire on them, and your club. As long as you keep winning, it might not be a problem but if a couple of decisions go against you, and they start to criticise, it will be interesting to see how that goes down in certain quarters.
7) Is it too early to call this a title decider?A) Yes. In spite of last Sunday's result, Bangkok Glass will still have a big part to play in this season's title race.
8) Finally, what do you think will be the score on Friday?
A) 1-1. The same as last October.
9) Anything you want to add?A) I'm really looking forward to my trip to the Thunderdome/Yamaha Stadium. When I came up for the TOT match a couple of weeks ago I was mightily impressed with all the improvements you've made since my last visit. As you know, I had a few issues with certain things last year, when the ground clearly wasn't ready to stage such a big game, but I don't envisage any problems on Friday. It'll be a fine sight when it's full and I hope that the game lives up to its billing and everybody enjoys the occasion.
Thanks to Rene and Dale for their answers. Let's hope everyone at the Thunderdome enjoys a good game of football.
Photo credits: mtufc.tv , www.clubwebsite.co.uk/chonburifc/ via http://bangkokglassfc.webs.com