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

London

September 2015

Monday, April 22, 2013

TOT SC (Thailand)


TOT Sports Club are a professional football club based in the northern Lak Si district of Bangkok in Thailand. The club were formed in 1954, originally representing the national Telephone Organisation of Thailand. The club lifted the FA Cup in 1993.




The club became founder members of the Thai Premier League for the 1996-97 season, when they lost in the semi final of the Championship play off to Bangkok Bank. In 2003 the team were relegated to Division One, but promotion was won at the first attempt. 

However TOT found themselves in the second tier Provincial League by 2006. They were crowned champions at the first attempt, regaining their TPL status. The club played its home games at Namkaejon Stadium in Nonthaburi to the north west of the capital. The club decided to relocate to the Kleab Bua Kanchanaburi Provincial Stadium for the 2009 to try and generate new support.




The move did not work, with a local side Muangkan FC being formed, so TOT upped sticks once more to share the then named Yamaha Stadium with Muangthong United. Crowds were once again poor with TOT fans being regularly outnumbered by visiting supporters.



Further problems hit the club by the way of an ownership dispute in 2010. Piroj Suwannachavee took over and arranged an agreement with another telecommunication organisation; CAT. The clubs name was changed to TOT-CAT FC. The FA of Thailand were called in by TOT, the original owners, to settle the dispute and they agreed that TOT still owned the club, so the name reverted back to TOT SC.



The club eventually completed a new home stadium on the premises of TOT in Lak Si, with the club moving into TOT Stadium for the second half of the 2011 season. The club began to develop its youth structure from its new home, while Somchai Subpherm took on the role of Head Coach.




TOT SC will play in the Thai Premier League in the 2015 season.


My visits

Wednesday 27th March 2013

I had a spare day on my cricket tour of Thailand, and with the majority of my team mates not arriving until the following day, I decided to get stuck into my favourite spare time hobby of adventuring and visiting new stadiums. 

I had already visited the home of Regional League side Kasetsart University, when I flagged down a taxi and showed him my print from Google maps and asked him to take me to Soi 5 Watthana by Lak Si. My basic Thai and the map did the trick as we travelled along the easy route towards Don Mueng Airport, with the familiar signs of the railway to our left. I had travelled much of the route several times in the past on the way to playing cricket at the Harrow International School.



Although I'd looked at the street view on Google, I really wasn't sure as to whether I'd get access inside the stadium. I wandered through the gates of TOT smiling at the guards and keeping walking. It was easy to find the way to the arena with the tell tale signs of canvas covered tables either side of the main walkway, which no doubt furnished fans on match days. 

There was sign of activity on the pitch, with the gates open. I wandered in to see the Summer Soccer School in full swing, with several parents occupying the stands. I got on with wandering around taking photos.



The Main Stand was three separate raised and covered seated structures occupying one touchline. Opposite was an open seated section, which again ran the full length of the pitch. The Lak Si end was unoccupied with just an high fence separating the pitch from the covered car and bicycle park. The TOT End was extremely basic, with a small roof covering an area back from the pitch reserved for away supporters.



A few smiles seemed to defuse any suspicion, as it often does in the wonderful country that is Thailand. I went along my way and walked up to the main road before I attempted to hail a taxi on to my next destination.


TOT SC 1 Port FC 2 (Saturday 31st October 2015) Thai Premier League (att: 1,580)



My second game of the evening had something to live up to. I had been to the Air Force Central v Police United game in the second tier, and it had been very good. I’d been slightly reluctant to leave it before full time, but Port needed all the support that they could muster.

The last of my pals had gone home after a successful Beer Battered Seadogs cricket and sightseeing holiday. I had taken them along with three ex-pat locals to Port’s home 2-0 defeat to Army United the previous Wednesday. They were awful in all honesty, and this game was about the last chance to start their serious challenge to stay up. TOT were bottom of the table and getting close to the point of requiring a miracle.



My taxi driver from Thupatemee Stadium spoke English and knew the way to the TOT Stadium, which was good news. He was honest enough to admit we’d struggle to make kick off, but I told him that was no problem and just to do his best.

Unbelievably we hit a standstill near Don Muang Airport as we were underneath the tollway. Surely there hadn’t been an accident? My pilot told me that he’d seen on the news that there was some kind of official visit to the airport over the weekend. Perhaps we’d found it?



After nigh on ten minutes of not moving at all we suddenly went back to normal speed. It did look to be some kind of controlled blockage for access further up. Sure enough, my driver did know the way. However, the main gate on Chang Watthana was closed to the TOT. I paid the driver up and set off with blistered feet back along and down Chang Watthana past the stadium. Vendors in the street were selling their wares to fans over the wall inside the ground.

The game was still 0-0 as I approached the away fans entrance behind the goal. I was turned away and told that I had to buy a ticket. Instead of having a ticket office nearby for away fans I had to go all the way round behind the Main Stand, past the away end and half the far side.



While I loved most things Thai, it had to be said that their organisational skills were rock bottom. A major problem is that they take constructive advice as criticism, so things seldom change.

TOT had the nerve to charge 150 Baht (£3) for away fans. While that doesn’t sound much, it is to Thais, especially those who struggle in Khlong Toei. It was the most expensive ticket I’d paid for at a standing ticket in Thailand. They wanted 300 Baht to sit down the side!



At last I managed to get inside, and got myself a place on the back row of the rickety wooden stand. The unused TV gantry in the centre and netting didn’t help the view, the mud at the front was causing dust and mosquitos were biting hell out of me, but I was loving it.

This was a proper do or die relegation battle. My team had a great following and cared passionately. Full families, all in orange and blue, were cheering on Port; from babies to grandparents. The noise from the Khlong Toei Army was incessant, especially from the youths with the drum on the flat standing behind the goal. There must have been around 600 in the away section.



Both teams were giving it everything; despite neither being very good. TOT were more like a Champions League side in a vital home leg than the desperate bunch propping up the league. Port were defending and breaking like lions.

The home players Anucha Taiwong and Dutchman Luciano Dompig were causing problems to the visiting defence, but they held strong. On twenty one minutes the away end went wild when the ball was fed wide. A great cross from the right came in to where an unmarked Wuttichai Tatong headed home.



Despite attacks from the home side, Port looked relatively solid and had plenty of play up the other end. Sadly, just like the previous match, there was far too much procrastination around the box without any end product. TOT were there for the taking, but Port lacked ambition and belief.

At half time I was hugged by several Thai Port fans and even asked to be in a couple of photos. I’m not sure who they thought I was? I enjoyed my first beer of the day, with smiles all around. It’s amazing how happy fans can be when they’re side are winning away from home.



After the break I stood up against the fence to catch the better atmosphere and because I didn’t trust the stands! An expat Englishman had a chat and made me very welcome. There was a small group of three or four others further along.

The bloke and his wife by me at the front had their junior daughter with them. I stepped aside so that she could stand on top of the fence and hang on to the netting. A girl behind was giving the ref some deserved stick, letting him know that she thought he was ‘mao’ (drunk!).



Inevitably Port’s attacks became fewer as TOT threw men forward. The tension was building in the away end. The occasional break wasn’t been capitalised on as the vital final ball was going astray. The home side bought on Bas Savage with twenty five minutes to go.

I was lucky enough to have met Bas at the end of the previous season with Chonburi fan Dale Farrington as TOT staved off relegation and helped deprive the Sharks of the title. He was a smashing bloke, but I was less than pleased to see him again. His pace, height and strength immediately changed the dynamics of the game. Why manager Tewet Kamonsilp hadn’t started with him was a mystery?



Nobody was massively surprised when TOT equalised with just eight minutes to go. It was Dompig who scored with a low shot. The home fans down the open side were going crazy. Port’s followers began the noise again after a few seconds of stunned silence.

Suddenly it dawned on the Port team and manager Masahiro Wada that a draw was no good. Fortunately the home side could sense the chance of a winner and were also going for it. Play was end to end and not of great quality.



In the final minute of normal time a decent pass gave Port’s Hironori Saruta a chance of a shot. His first touch was awful, taking the ball away from goal, but as he looked to turn he was brought down. Referee Taweechai Supatwan pointed to the spot. The place went mad.

Photo: Thanks to Judy from Klongtoey_Army Facebook Page.

After what seemed like a long delay as home players kept time wasting and encroaching into the area, David Rochela stepped up and smashed the ball into the bottom corner of the net as bedlam broke out all around. It doesn’t matter where you go in the world, or what standard; there’s nothing like a last minute winner away from home.


After a few minutes of stoppage time and no great alarms, the ref brought a halt to proceedings and further celebration. The home players came to the away section and were given a great ovation. I really love that feature at Thai games. 

Photo: Thanks to Judy from Klongtoey_Army Facebook Page.

An attractive young lady had been taking photos just in front of the away end as well as a video when the winner went in. She tried to grab my attention for a photo amongst the celebrating fans at full time. I eventually found the pictures on line six weeks later at the Klongtoey_Army Facebook page. I was sent the originals within the hour and told that it was Judy who took the pictures. Thank you very much for such a brilliant service and fantastic photos.



I was away before the Port players came over, with other fish to fry! Within a minute I’d hailed a cab outside and once again the driver knew where I wanted to go. He was pressing the metal to Soi Cowboy. I was in a great mood, especially when he told me Chelsea had lost at home again!

Photo: Thanks to Judy from Klongtoey_Army Facebook Page.

A tired and emotional Steve was waiting for me at the Queen Victoria, where a newly arrived Chris Lamb and his pal Timmy soon turned up. We went round to watch the Rugby World Cup Final and other assorted entertainment while catching up on Yarrambat and personal matters. The opened chips and battered sausage rounded off proceedings. It was a great end to a fantastic day!



To see a video with my reflections, and including the winning goal and celebrations, click here












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