Friday, 22 October 2010

We are the champions

A goaless draw with also-rans - and notoriously petulant -  Samut Songkhram  was no doubt a somewhat anti-climatic end to a noble championship campaign. But the maxim I've been repeating a lot lately - that results matter more than performances at this stage - is undoubtedly true.

For Muangthong United have paid their footballing dues tenfold throughout this season, and ran out worthy winners because of it. We didn't do it by splashing the cash, either. In fact I'd wager that - with the exception of Gotken, who never kicked a ball - we had a positive turnover in player transfers. We also didn't do it by trying to "influence" other teams or officials which is certainly more than can be said for certain teams that finished close to us. Indeed, I understand there may have been what economists would call "external incentives" on offer to the opposition tonight.  We didn't do it by whining, lobbying, looking for penalties, wasting time, or any other type of hook or crook. We did it by playing damn good football.

At the start of the season Robert Procurer guaranteed we would win the league. After the first match of the season I said that if we played that way throughout the campaign, nobody would stop us. We were both right.

Team after team tried to solve the riddle of the Thunderdome, team after team got demolished. There was no side good enough to handle the likes of Teerasil, Yaya, Christian, Kone and Siaka at the same time. There is too much skill, pace, teamwork and commitment in that bunch. In the midfield, Datsakorn Thonglao popped up with "Le-Tissier" style goals with frequency, backed up by the likes of Zaizen's passing, Pitchipong's work rate and Sylla or Abdoul cleaning up at the back. In the trenches, Jetsada, Panupong and Nattaporn stood firm and strong all season, as Piyachart, Pakasit and Kaewprom all proved their worth on the flanks. As for the man between the posts, you don't really need me to talk about Kawin, do you?

Hot pre-season favourites amongst Thais and Farangs, Bangkok Glass may have had equal levels of talent, but they clearly lacked the team spirit and mental resolve that has been bred into the Quilins squad by the coaching staff. BG tried to catwalk and bankroll their way to the TPL, Muangthong worked hard for it, not just on the pitch but every day. Robert and Rene may rub some people up the wrong way and sometimes understandably so, but their management and coaching skills have taken Thai football to new heights.

Amongst the rest of the opposition, Thai Port and Pattaya United punched above their weight, but didn't have the strength or depth in quality to finish in the top group. Chonburi pushed us the longest and hardest and as far as I'm concerned, they are the true runners up, whatever happens in their final game. In the end, we were just that tiny bit better. Buriram PEA found that they couldn't buy the title, at least not this year, but with the obvious skill in their ranks, cash in the bank and"influences" their owner has, they will almost certainly be our main challenger next season.  All those who whined and complained about Muangthong may get their wish next season. As the old saying goes: "Be careful what you wish for".

Ultimately, the biggest threat to our championship campaign turned out to be....ourselves. With so much success in so many tournaments, the players have been visibly exhausted in these last few weeks. Now that we've crossed the line, I do hope we rest a few players this Sunday for the final league game - we can still beat TOT with our reserve side - and then allow the players some time to rest before resuming the two cup campaigns. The fixtures will at least level out now, allowing clear recuperative time the lads so desperately need. Moreover, with the rainy season finally, finally starting to ease off, the Thunderdome pitch is notably past its worst stage. Still not exactly pristine but how could it be, with no less than four teams using it?

Even to a mere fan like myself, this season has felt like a marathon and it's still not done, but it will soon come to a close and unlike last year when I had my Xbox360 to distract me (I've brought three of the buggers and they've all broken on me) I'll have little better to do than write a few articles reflecting on the season.  Indeed, we may yet claim a treble that would mean I have to write this article again, pushing our achievements even more strongly.

For now though, I hope that all fans of Thai football will join me in congratulating Muangthong United for tremendous football, superb achievements in the AFC Cup and for being the best team in Thailand over the course of a long, long season. Like I said, we could yet take that incredible accomplishment to a new height.

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