Welcome to volume two of my blog paying homage to the football clubs I've visited all over the world and the wonderful people responsible for keeping them going and looking after the stadiums, and in some cases basic grounds.

Since I was a little lad I've been fascinated in football and more so where games are played. With my love of travel and curiosity of the game I wanted to visit as many grounds and see games wherever possible. I was lucky that my Dad also loved the game and spent so much of his spare time taking me to matches. As I got older the boundaries widened owing to my location and increased wages to Europe and indeed the world. The sight of a stand or a floodlight pylon in the distance immediately hightens my senses and eagerness for a closer look.

I hope this site gives you the chance to share in my pleasure and experiences and maybe one day set you on the road to adventure. If you get half as much out of the hobby as I've done I can guarantee some great memories, good friends and stories to pass on to future generations.

Give your local club a go today. They'll be pleased to see you!

Everlasting thanks primarily to my late and very much missed and dearly loved parents; my Dad Bob Bernard and my Mum; Ann, who put up with endless years of football chat and my brothers Nick and Paul who gave me the chance and encouragement to do what I have. Thanks to all my friends who offer encouragement and Sally and Stan who inspire and give me great pride. Young Stan is showing a keen interest in my hobby!

Please feel free to post any comments (please use sensible language - I want everyone to be able to enjoy reading) or ask any questions relating to visiting grounds or events. If you want to see any ground reviewed please let me know. It will take quite some time for everywhere to appear, but make sure you keep having a look as the site is continually updated.

If you click on a lot of the pictures you will get a larger version on your screen.

I have also added links to video clips on youtube where appropriate for those of you who are bored of reading or are filling in time at work. I haven't always gone for the most obvious choices, but items that will be in some cases unusual but always historically interesting.

Click to see volume one of HAOTW.

Rob Bernard


September 2015

Monday, April 22, 2013

Air Force Central (Thailand)

Air Force Central FC is a professional football club who are based in the north of the Thai capital of Bangkok. The club were formed as Royal Thai Air Force FC in 1937 as they quickly became one of the most successful outfits in the country.

The clubs honours included several Khor Royal Cup and Queen's Cup triumphs throughout the decades. Success continued into the nineties as the Thai FA Cup was lifted in 1995 and 1996. This brought league honours as the Thai Premier League title was claimed in 1997 and 1999. 

Silverware once again arrived at Thupatemee Stadium in 2001 as Air Force once more won the FA Cup. Unfortunately that saw the end of the run, which saw the team were relegated from the TPL at the end of the 2003-04 season.

In 2009 the club changed its name to Air Force United as regulations in Thai football required all clubs to become private franchises. United continued in the second tier of Division One as they tried to regain their top flight status without really getting close to promotion.

United had to re-locate to Ramkhamheang University for the latter part of the 2011 season as the floods in the north of the season hit Thupatemee Stadium. They moved out once more at the end of the following campaign to North Bangkok Stadium, while their home venue was renovated.

'The Blue Eagles' battled successfully against relegation in both 2011 and 2012, while the 2013 campaign under the stewardship of club legend Narasak Boonkleng turned out to be one of great success, after a couple of lengthy unbeaten runs led to the team winning promotion under the title of Air Force AVIA FC.

The club changed its title to Air Force Central FC for the 2014 campaign. Unfortunately the change didn't bring any good fortune back in the top flight. The team were relegated after finish second from bottom of the table and Boonkleng departed.

Sasom Pobprsert took over for the 2015, with the aim of taking Central straight back up at the first attempt. 

Air Force Central FC will play in Thai League Division One in the 2015 season.

My visits

Luk Tapfah Pathum Thani 1 Futera Seeker 1 (Wednesday 27th March 2013) Thai Regional League Central West Region (att: approx 400)

To see my round up and photos from the above match, click here

I had the opportunity to visit Thupatemee Stadium at the above game, after visiting several stadiums in the area. Because of its location I'd been past a few times and had flown right over it when using the nearby Don Mueng Airport. Indeed, during the match several Nok Air and Air Asia flights went close by over the pitch.

The stadium had a running track around the playing surface but the stands were straight at the ends, which would mean quite a viewing distance from the corners. It was immaculately painted in white, both inside and out. Just one side had a roof, with blue seating and a VIP and press area occupying the centre section. Old fashioned scoreboards stood at the rear of both ends. 

Outside there was a large car park and some smaller pitches leading out onto Phahonyothin Road. The rear of the Main Stand had an excellent club shop, which would be well worth a second visit as it stocked shirts from many other Thai clubs as well as a paraphernalia of Blue Eagles souvenirs.

Air Force Central 2 Police United 2 (Saturday 31st October 2015) Thai League Division One (att: 3,389)

The last of my touring mates were heading home after the Beer Battered Seadogs tour. I had taken Karl and Tony for lunch at the Australian Bar in Soi 11, before we enjoyed a relaxing leg and foot massage on Soi 5. Last minute shopping had been purchased at MBK followed by the slowest served strawberry smoothie in history in the plush Siam Center.

I was now ready for some ‘me time’. The boys headed back to check out of our fine Bally D Varee Diva Suites on Soi 20 before they headed to the Crossbar for the Birmingham City v Wolves game to say goodbye to Steve, Vaughan and Brian.

For me it was a step into the adventure of local Bangkok transport and I couldn’t wait. The BTS Skytrain took me to the northern terminus of Mo Chit from where I looked down on the enormous Chatuchak Weekend Market and to my delight the row of bus stops. My earlier research had offered me a list of buses heading close to the Thupatemee Stadium and fortunately the 34 service soon arrived.

The bus had seen better days and had a Manchester United large sticker above the driver. The driver dunked his mug into a big bucket of water to stay hydrated. The engine was right next to my seat up front, so I stood for a while until a seat further back became available. Air condition was by courtesy of open windows. The ‘clippie’ operated from a little wooden tin. I think he charged me 8 Baht (16p). It was to be excellent value.

We went slowly up the fascinating Phahon Yothin Road, past lots of markets and thousands of people. This was proper Bangkok. To be honest I had moments when I wondered if I was on the correct bus? Time was passing by as we got stuck in traffic where the Skytrain extension works were being carried out.

Occasionally I recognised a name like Kasetsart University. I tried to place it into a virtual map in my mind. Not being able to spot the familiar Don Muang Tollway was throwing me. When I retraced my footsteps online later I realised I’d been on the same road for a short while with Steve when we took the bus from Minburi looking for the home of Police United the previous March.

Passing more built up shopping areas and population centres I was getting a little concerned. There was less than thirty minutes to the 6pm kick off. We passed the Air Force Museum, which gave me some comfort, but just where was that tollway? When two young lads got on in AFC shirts I was over the moon.

When they got up I followed. Sure enough the stadium was just over the busy road and through the market. Really I should have grabbed some of the beautiful looking chicken on the stalls, but I trusted my luck to food at the stadium. When would I ever learn? 

My ticket was 120 Baht (around £2.40). With a large coke and some fried skewered meat in hand for 45 Baht (90p) I went upstairs into the Main Stand. This was familiar surroundings to me as I’d been to Thupatemee Stadium in March 2013 for a Luk Tapfah Pathum Thani game. The club shared the stadium. There was a good sized mixed crowd in attendance. As usual the game kicked off late; this time eight minutes.

Planes soared above every couple of minutes as they came in to land at nearby Don Muang Airport. Police were cheered on by around 200 away fans. In a delicious twist of irony they were placed in the worst part of the ground, at the far end and a long way from the pitch.

In the early stages Police’s attacking midfielder Adnan Barakat was standing out. Central’s Ghanian front man Issac Honey on loan from BEC Tero Sasana, was proving a handful. After around the half hour mark, Air Force took the lead with a slightly deflected shot at the near post from Hyunjin Lee. The Brazilian Valdo was having a fine game for AFC as he took on opponents with skill.

It really was a good game. Air Force started the game just outside the promotion places against the runaway leaders. The home fans on the far side were doing the best to rouse their side. The bank blasted out a decent version of ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’. It was infinitely more preferable to listen to Southampton fans sing it for the twentieth time in a game. 

Police drew level with an absolutely brilliant goal. Several one touch passes gave the home side air sickness before a solo run and finish from Tana Chanabut gave the scoreline a more realistic tint. Police were not getting many decisions from the officials, so I thought the equaliser was deserved.

The scoring in the first period wasn’t done there. On forty three minutes, an Air Force attack ended with the visitor’s Kon Saipanya putting the ball into his own net at the back post while under pressure 2-1 at the break. I entered the stand at the far end for some additional photography before heading across to the far open side. A fine feature at most grounds is that your ticket allows you to use other stands, as long as the stadium isn’t full.

Before I went in it was time for another coke and a carton of small chicken pieces which really put any KFC product in the shade; quality and price wise. I nearly repeated the dose, but I was wary of leaving room for later beers!

The atmosphere was certainly feisty in the cheap seats, but also humorous. The presence of a foreigner was greeted with lots of smiles. The home fans were excellent with vocal encouragement. One of the older fans seemed to be instructing the ball boys not to rush too much in returning the ball when it went out of play.

The game was ebbing from end to end. Air Force had chances to extend the league, but Police weren’t destined for a swift return to the top flight for nothing. Half way through the second period it was time for me to make a move. I was slightly reluctant, but Port were my team and I wanted to see their 8pm kick off at TOT.

I went through the car park past the numerous vendors and over the Lam Luk Ka Road to flag down a taxi to my second match of the evening.

I later found out from a Central fan at TOT Stadium that the final score was 2-2. Dagno Saika had levelled in the second minute of stoppage time. No wonder he looked fed up.

To see my video, as part of my tour diary, click here

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