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

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Chiangrai United (Thailand)

Chiangrai United FC is a professional football club from the city of the same name, which is located in the northernmost province of Thailand.

The club was formed in 2009 when the football league system in Thailand was expanded, to play in the third tier Regional League Northern Division and playing at the Mae Fah Luang University Stadium north of the city under coaches Sarith Wutchuay and then Thawatchai Damrong-Ongtrakul.

‘The Beetles’ won the divisional title and went forward into the Regional League Championships, where they finished as runners-up in the five team group of regional winners and won promotion to Thai Division 1 League.

The 2010 season was another successful one for United as a third place finish saw the club promoted to the Thai Premier League in spite of the club going through three coaches; Kajohn Punnaves, Rungsimun Songkrohtham and then the Brazilian Teco during the season.

Following a tenth place finish in their debut season, Chiang Rai opened their new United Stadium of Chiangrai in July 2012 as the team finished in ninth position as well as reaching the semi-final of the FA Cup where they were defeated by Army United.

The 2013 campaign was a rocky one as the club once again went through several managers as Teco, Henk Wisman, Anurak Srikerd all had spells in charge before United’s former defensive midfield player Teerasak Po-on took over for the final few games.

In 2014 United finished in seventh position as well as reaching the FA Cup semi-finals once again. This time the team were defeated after a penalty shoot out by Bangkok Glass at Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok.

2015 and 2016 both resulted in more mid table finishes, with Teerasak being replaced in December 2016 to be replaced by the Brazilian coach Alexandre Gama for the 2017 season as the Thai League was rebranded.

The club had brokered a deal with the JARKEN group in 2016 to enhance their marketing and brand strategy. A sponsorship deal led to the rename United’s home to Singha Stadium, with big money signings Tanaboon Kesarat, Vander Luiz, Felipe Azevedo and Henrique Silva arriving at the club.

The 2017 season saw United finish in fourth place in the league under head coach Gama. However, the team excelled in the cup competitions.

Chiangrai reached the final of the League Cup against MuangThong United at the Supachalasai Stadium in Bangkok. The match ended in a 2-0 defeat with Everton Gonçalves being sent off to add to the agony.

United showed great character as they returned to the same venue just four days later to defeat Bangkok United 4-2 to lift the FA Cup. Chiangrai’s goals came from a Vander brace, with Everton Gonçalves and Rafael Coelho also scoring to bring joy to the travelling fans.

Chiangrai United FC will play in the Thai League 1 in the 2018 season.

My visit

Chiangrai United 1 Port FC 3 (Sunday 9th April 2017) Thai League 1 (att: 8,417)

The annual Chiang Mai International Cricket Sixes had come to an end and it was time to get on with my few days break before the next event down in Phuket. As luck would have it, Port, my Thai team were playing up north at Chiang Rai. I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity.

My good pal Steve Walker had arrived in Chiang Mai for a few nights and stayed with me so we could head off on the Sunday morning. Our only route by public transport was by bus. A few services stood out but booking online was unavailable.

We headed to the bus station where Steve stood in the queue. I noticed things were not going to plan as he was having an extended discussion with the lady behind the counter. I went across to see what was wrong?

Basically all the buses were full until it was too late for us to travel. Action was needed, so I asked my pal to see if he could negotiate a taxi fare. At first our wannabe driver asked for 2,500 Baht. This was a bit steep. Eventually he backed down to 2,000 (around £45).

The ride was dramatic in places as we headed up through the hills on roads that put most back in the UK to shame. Our driver wasn’t mucking about, but he was competent. Steve and I both grabbed a brief nap as we headed north.

Following a phone call to our hotel we eventually found where we needed to be by the clock tower just after midday, which was a far better result than the bus could offer. We had lunch before checking into the smart and excellent value Moon House @ Clock Tower rooms.

We had a bit of an adventure after a siesta to try and plan for our evening’s adventures and found the excellent Easy House on Jeytod Road where the beers were good value and the food excellent.

We managed to hail down a small sangteaw to head to Singha Stadium, and came up trumps as the driver knew every trick in the book to get through the heavy traffic that was building for the match. We arrived outside the busy stadium around forty five minutes before kick off.

There was a few Port fans among the mass of orange United shirts outside. We headed to where most of the away fans, including quite a few ex-pats were gathered. I asked where we could buy our tickets, only to have to go back to the main ticket booths.

After finding the correct window I was a bit dismayed to find that we were being charged 200 Baht; double the price of the home fans. OK, it was only £5 in my money, but the principle was wrong. I wanted an away win more than ever. I grabbed us a couple of cold drinks before we entered our section.

It was like going back to England in the 70’s and 80’s as we were given a small section in the corner of the open section with a relatively high segregation barrier separating us from the home support. No programmes were issued by Chiang Rai.

Singha Stadium was an impressive arena. Aside from our steep bank, there was a raised covered seated stand down our right hand side. Opposite was a magnificent large single tiered main stand. The far end had an open section backed by a leisure facility.

United were top of the table before the weekend’s fixtures, and needed three points to regain their position after Saturday’s results. Newly promoted Port had made a decent start to the new campaign and went into the game in around seventh place. A decent turn out had made the journey from the capital to cheer on the team.

Watch the teams come out onto the immaculate playing surface and stand to attention for the national anthem here.

Chiangrai started the game brightly, attacking down both wings, but the visiting defence were coping pretty well and eventually having one or two moments of their own on the break. By now the ground was nearly filled to capacity and the home fans were getting behind their side, which included four Brazilians in the starting line up.

After seventeen minutes the early pressure eventually paid off as a fine cross came in from the right for Felipe Azevedo to beat Port keeper Worawut Srisupha as the ball rolled in off the post and into the net.

At this point Steve and I both agreed that this had all the omens of being a long night for Port. They had one or two moments of their own. Their big Brazilian forward Josimar was a handful but he was lacking a yard of pace.

After around twenty five minutes it looked like things were going to get far worse for Port. Full back Panphanphong Pinkong was adjudged to have fouled wide man Thitipan Puangchan in the area by referee Dusit Iamsakul. We were not convinced.

Justice was seen to be done as Srisupha pulled off a fantastic save to push Rafael Coelho’s spot kick against the post and wide. The away section celebrated wildly, and had more cause for joy a few minutes later when Japanese midfielder Genki Nagasato scored at the second attempt after being put through.

Our talk was about holding on until half time and maybe grabbing a point from the match but we didn’t account for the sublime Spaniard Sergio Suárez putting Port 2-1 up just before half time as he calmly trapped a cross at the far post and slotted home. Coelho had a goal ruled out for offside just before the interval.

Port were playing so well. The defence was being expertly marshalled by skipper David Rochela. Deputy keeper Srisupha was having a dream game while the hard working Josimar was allowing the talents of Suárez to flourish.

The goal on the break seemed to knock the stuffing out of United, before they gradually regrouped. There was always the chance that they could be exposed at the back as they needed to take more chances.

The Port goal led a charmed life on several occasions, while referee Iamsakul kept his cool on a few occasions where he could have easily being swayed into awarding another penalty. The United players were not scared of going down easily in the area.

Srisupha pulled off a fine save before Suárez beat a challenge to break down the right with eleven minutes of normal time to go. He cut inside past a defender and slotted the ball past home keeper Pattara Piyapatrakitti for Josimar to slot home from close range.

It was bedlam in the away section. Everyone was getting behind the team. United had yet another appeal for a penalty turned away, before the ball somehow stayed out of the net following a scramble. Josimar missed a sitter when teed up in the closing stages.

It was to be Port’s night. As custom, both the home side and then away team greeted all the spectators in the stadium. Then it was the turn of the visiting Khlong Toei Army to celebrate with their victorious team, which can be seen here.

Getting back into town wasn’t going to be easy, but Steve came up with an ingenious plan. Singha Stadium was only a few hundred yards from Chiang Rai Airport. Indeed, some Port fans were heading on foot to catch a plane back to Bangkok. We followed suit, only we got a taxi.

We headed straight back to Easy House for a much needed post match meal. The owner of the establishment did all the cooking, and she was bloody brilliant at it. While enjoying our beers we heard some noise getting closer.

It was the ex pat Port fans, who it turned out had travelled up for the weekend. We chatted with Dominic who was naturally elated with the evening. They were all good guys who certainly loved their football and beer!

Steve and I tried a few other bars; the rather quiet Siam Corner, the mad 69 Bar, the intriguing Smile Bar before we ended the evening in Cat Bar. This was a great choice as the owner played live music while his wife served beer.

Chiang Rai turned out to be a wonderful destination for a couple of nights away. It wasn’t too hectic but both Jetyod Road and the Night Bazaar offered excellent eating and drinking options.

The people were very warm and friendly; especially once you spoke with them and they realised that we were good customers. Many punters spend the bare minimum so they appreciate people buying food and drink rather than a bottle of water to share.

We headed to the Airport on Tuesday morning for our flight down to Phuket and a fantastic relaxing Monday. We even saw an official Port FC car and official on Jetyod Road. Overall it had been a great experience; with the match being the obvious highlight.

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