10/7/09 NRFC XI 0-4 Chonburi

During the 2009 mid season break, Chonburi embarked on a goodwill tour of the north east of Thailand. In the space of eight days they played four fixtures against the local regional league teams, sold numerous scarves and replica shirts, and won themselves a lot of new fans. Fortunately, I was able to get to one of the games – against a side representing Sunday’s opponents, Nakhon Ratchasima. You can read my report from the day, below.

NAKHON RATCHASIMA XI 0-4 CHONBURI

Friday 10th July, 2009

80th Birthday Stadium

Scorers: Pipob On-Mo (2), Soilson Rodregues DaSilva, Teerasak Po-On

Chonburi’s tour of the north-east has more than just a touch of the Harlem Globetrotters about it. So much so, that I half expected them to run out to the strains of “Sweet Georgia Brown”. However, it was the usual dirgelike anthem that heralded the arrival of the two teams for this rather strangely scheduled fixture. As comforting as it was to be attending a 3 o’clock Saturday afternoon kick off, I couldn’t help reflecting on the fact that Chonburi were only the support act for a Division 2 (North Eastern Region) league match. How the mighty have fallen.

The game itself was nothing more than a glorified training workout. The home team was made up of triallists, schoolboys and possibly a couple of blokes who’d just been passing. And the visitors – shorn of their internationals – were a mix of first team regulars, fringe players and new signings. However, it was my first chance to see Michael Byrne in a Chonburi shirt so I was quite looking forward to that.

Needless to say, the match wasn’t a classic, but it gave the current TPL leaders a few opportunities to experiment. Zico started with a front two of Pipob and Byrne. They looked quite impressive together, with the new man being very busy and always finding space in which to receive the ball. In spite have already having played two other games in a short space of time, the Welshman showed good energy levels and a willingness to put himself about. He’s going to be a great addition to an already strong squad.

In the second half, Byrne was dropped back to the right side of midfield and our, recently acquired striker, Da Silva entered the fray. It only took the big, old-fashioned centre forward (as I feel obliged to call him) a few seconds to get on the score sheet. Unfortunately I missed the goal as I was still downstairs re-fuelling and watching the locals clamour around the visiting Chonburi merchandise stall.

On returning to my seat, I sat back to watch the shot count and substitute count grow to astronomical levels. In spite of this, the Chonburi players did seem to be taking things seriously and hoping to prove their worth, having been given the chance in the absence of their more illustrious colleagues. Da Silva, in particular, was on a mission. He lambasted a team mate for a poor pass and later indulged in a frenzy of arm waving and gesticulating when a through ball was knocked too far in front of him. I guess it bodes well that he seemingly cares so much.

Overall it is difficult to see what Zico will have learned from this from a tactical point of view, but the match will have generated a lot of goodwill and we’ve won a few more friends.

Finally, I’d just like to say what an impressive stadium Korat has. It’s one of the best I’ve visited in Thailand – including both the big ones in Bangkok – and hopefully it won’t be too long before it’s hosting top level football.

CHONBURI’s TOUR OF THE NORTH EAST – JULY, 2009

Sunday 5th July: Chaiyapoom 2-6 Chonburi

Wednesday 8th July: Khon Kaen 3-2 Chonburi

Friday 10th July: Nakhon Ratchasima 0-4 Chonburi

Sunday 12th July: Buriram 1-2 Chonburi