Football in Bangkok: Port FC

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Port FC of Bangkok [Credit: From Boothferry to Germany]

In this guest post, our friend James of the From Boothferry to Germany blog discusses his favourite team in Thailand from his travels in the country.

Everyone should indulge themselves with Thailand at some point. It is a country of fun and beauty and more fun, and to western appetites, the Thai culture of convenience and consumption make it feel far more like home than its neighbours. Fast food, craft beer and trap music available in a stunner of a country. An obvious destination.

But Outside Write readers visiting the country are likely to want to check out a football game or two there, and the choice of club becomes less obvious. The two big names you are likely to know are Muangthong and Buriram, but one is situated in a city that offers little else for visitors and the other is stuck out awkwardly in the Bangkok suburbs, obligating a designated driver and compromising the fun. Many other teams are so obscure thanks to name changes and relocations, it can be difficult to know which will offer an enjoyable 90 minutes. What to do? We at From Boothferry To Germany want to simplify the choice for you.

Port FC

Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, Port FC is a dying breed of club from a time when Thai clubs were mostly owned by public entities. The Port Authorities Thailand are long-standing owners with the PAT Stadium a nod to that relationship, a stadium that happily remains close to the Bangkok dockside area from whence the club came.

The 12,000-capacity PAT Stadium, Bangkok [Credit: From Boothferry to Germany]

For Europeans who appreciate football and fan tradition, Port FC is the clear Thai club to plum for. All other previously publicly-owned Bangkok clubs have experienced far too many geographical relocations to legitimately stand next to Port with regards to tradition. The Navy team, the Electric Works team, the Airforce team, the Police team…. all have changed hands and been given so many rebrands, it’s hard to tell which is which anymore.

Why? Next to many of its Asian neighbours, Thailand, despite having a turbulent modern political history and a heavy recession between 1985 and 1995, has experienced long periods of economic growth and development throughout the late 20th and 21st centuries, generating a lot of money in private hands. Companies that sprouted in the Thai free markets are now in a position to buy out football clubs from publically-owned organisations that are less endowed financially and brazenly use them as advertising vehicles with relative impunity.

This, however, doesn’t explain why Port FC has escaped this capitalist-meets-sport merry-go-round. The answer lies in that resilient connection with the dockside industry; Port FC is the team of the Khlong Toei neighbourhood. This underprivileged district of Bangkok is more associated with violence and drug abuse, dangerous in the minds of many, albeit a bit over-exaggerated. But the working class across the world have always flocked to the football terraces in search of meaning and purpose. Port FC has remained a pillar in the community of Khlong Toei for half a century as a pastime for those earning their keep with the Port Authorities Thailand. This stable and passionate fan base provides strong negative incentive against geographical relocation and rebranding for any potential new owner, as the existing fans would desert the team, and other potential fans would still fear the association with the Khlong Toei neighbourhood. If you believe that community football is a thing of the past, go check out Port FC.

The stadium oozes nostalgia to old-school British grounds. Four open terraces hugging a simple turf of grass. No giant multi-purpose family-orientated gimmick fest as so often seen throughout Asia. And the tough identity of Khlong Toei spills over onto the fans. Port FC fans are known for violence and crowd-trouble locally (especially when playing against cross-town rivals Muangthong), but 90 minutes at the PAT Stadium is very unlikely to result in any real danger. The fans are enthusiastic, engaged and traditional. It’s not the Yellow Wall or the Green Brigade, but Port fans cock a leg up over all others in Thailand.

Port FC fans discuss the game [Credit: From Boothferry to Germany]

Unfortunately, the Thai playing style is not particularly conducive to high scoring games. Thai players tend not to be very creative. Creative players have to take individual responsibility for what they’re doing, and when you try being creative and don’t pull it off, you lose face and look stupid. This is a sporting manifestation of the typically Thai cultural importance of saving face and not being publically humiliated. Even as professional sportsmen, not embarrassing yourself is more important than taking every risk for victory in Thailand.

How to visit Port FC in Bangkok

Getting to the PAT Stadium is very easy, another reason to choose Port FC. The club is situated fairly centrally in Bangkok and is endowed with good public transport links. Simply hop onto the MRT metro line to either Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre before walking southward down Rama III road and turning left to get onto Sunthon Kosa road, or to the Khlong Toei MRT station, one stop westward from Queen Sirikit. The fact that the neighbourhood doesn’t boast the greatest array of pre-game food and drink spots will not spoil your day, as the Port fans always pack out the training ground next to the stadium with streetfood desks and coolers full of chilled Singha, Leo and Chang. Walk toward the stadium from the Sunthon Kosa road and you cannot miss the streetfood vendors to your left. Whatever happens on the pitch, the smells and sounds of the giant communal cook-off pre, during and post-game will top off your trip to Bangkok in epic style.

Outside Write‘s blog is a place for thought-provoking content from contributors. These views are not necessarily shared or endorsed by Outside Write.

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