Thailand 1 Singapore 0

The 40th King’s Cup tournament has kicked off in Nakshon Ratchasima with a victory for Thailand over Singapore. The ten-men Thais, wearing their ‘unlucky’ yellow shirts, were reduced to 10 men when Teerathep Winothai was sent off early in the second half but shortly thereafter got the only goal of the game.

In the other match, Denmark beat Poland 3-1 with goals from Soren Risks, Morten Rassmussen and Jesper Bech (no, me neither). On Wednesday, Thailand will play the sledded Poles and the Singaporeans will try to determine what is rotten in the state of Denmark.

Thailand 0 Singapore 1

I suggested the ither day that Bryan ‘Robbo’ Robson would have to address the problem of Thai players occasionally thinking they were not quite as good as they like to think they are – and now, after just three days of nationalist braying by Thai journalists of how Thailand wiped the floor in Singapore after the 3-1 win there, they succumbed to a tedious, fairly useless and almost entirely inevitable 0-1 home defeat to the same competitors.  Curiously, not so much coverage of this one.

Still, let’s all bash the evil Cambodians, eh?

Singapore 1 Thailand 3

Congratulations to Bryan “Robbo” Robson for winning his first competitive match – 3-1 away in Singapore, which is a good result. The Thais played the red-shirted Lions off the park for most of the game and went into a 3-0 lead. However, a lack of concentration in the final minutes of the match allowed a consolation goal to be scored. In fact, that is not a bad outcome for Robson because he can put the points safely in his pocket and then use it as a legitimate means of asking for improvement from the players. There have been occasions in the past when some of those players have been guilty of thinking that they are a little bit better than they really are.

Pre-match events included a desperate attempt by PM Abhisit, who was in Singapore on tax payers’ money and supposed to be attending the APEC events, to ingratiate himself with the football players. There is not much football played at the extremely expensive and reclusive educational institutions which Mr Abhisit attended during his long, leisurely childhood.

The Big One – Kill or Be … well, disappointed

It’s the big match on Saturday evening – Singapore v Thailand in the first of two games as part of the qualifying group for the forthcoming Asian Championship (speaking of which, congratulations to the Pohang Steelers as club champions of Asia – do remind me to tell you my amusing Pohang Steel story one day).

It will be the first competitive game for manager Bryan ‘Robbo’ Robson – following the 1-1 draw at home to Syria in a friendly last week, which completely escaped me.

We can expect a reasonable number of Thai workers in the requisite Singaporean stadium on Saturday evening – I wonder how they decide their pricing policy for such an event – things tend not to happen at random in the Lion City. Well, good luck to the boys – let’s hope that either one or the other is dominant over the next two days so our region has some representation.

Robbo – stuff this up and things will turn unpleasant very quickly. There is a very (unpleasant) nationalist sentiment going around these days which will reject the legitimacy of any 0-1 defeats or worse.

The Other Side of the Counter

A third man – a naval conscript – has died as a result of the H1N1 flu. That makes a total of three deaths so far and the overall number of infections has reached 1,330, although more than 1,300 of those people have already covered – the flu itself is not particularly dangerous in comparison with the many other strains going around and can be treated. There should be no need for hysteria.

Having said which, I was this morning forbidden from entering a hospital here in Singapore because I had arrived from Thailand within the previous seven days. Thailand is one of fifteen countries which is now to be treated in this way. In my case, I was unable to stay with my wife while she underwent her medical procedure and while I was hanging around in one of the temporary outside offices I observed a number of other people in the same kind of boat – a woman with her small boy who had somehow hurt his leg, a pregnant woman needing a regular x-ray, another woman who had been scheduled for treatment and could not receive it. It is far from an ideal situation and this kind of needless over-reaction (local people are admitted if their temperature, which is monitored on the spot, can walk around anywhere, symptoms or not). Doctors or other personnel were telephoned inside the hospital to see if they were willing to come outside to visit their patients – most seemed to do so, sooner or later, while an x-ray machine was produced apparently and placed in the temporary area.

Being British, of course, I am familiar with the idea that other people have to wait around and be discriminated against while I can sail through most bureaucracy (it is difficult to avoid being the beneficiary of prejudice and strong incentives to try to minimize its importance). Being on the other side of the wall of officials is quite a different experience. It brings out an unpleasant side in many people involved.

Another Crushing Defeat

With inflation at a ten year high, the Stock Exchange of Thailand taking another big hit yesterday, problems among the police (and also this), as well as doubts that democracy itself can be sustained, let us turn to the world of sport, which so often gives us reason to exalt in honest endeavour and triumph over adversity.

Or not, as the case may be.

Last night Thailand’s bid to qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa was dealt an almost certainly fatal blow – a 3-2 home defeat to Bahrain means the Kingdom now has zero points from three games, which is nine points behind the visitors. The best that can be hoped for now is to win the three remaining games (not very likely) and hope for the best with results elsewhere (also not very likely). Almost certainly Bahrain and Japan will qualify for the next stage of the competition.

Despite all the money and interest shown in sport, especially football, in Southeast Asia, the quality remains disappointingly low. Last night, Southeast Asian champions Singapore were crushed 7-3 at home by not so mighty Uzbekistan. Yes, Uzbekistan are not a bad Central Asian side (although I thought Kazakhstan had more potential in the long run) but to be swatted aside like this is close to humiliating. Can you imagine Qatar or the UAE (which have similar resources) being beaten at home like this? True, those countries play the typically Middle Eastern style which it destroys the soul to watch with the endless murder of football but that is just sensible deployment of resources (and no, not allocation to the referees).

So why is football so bad here, despite the number of people playing it? First, there is no proper national league. Instead, teams from Tobacco Monopoly, BEC Tero and Bangkok University, among others, contest the league. A national league was launched a few years ago but attendances were so low it stopped after one year – yet it offered genuine opportunities for people to support their home town teams. Perhaps Thais would prefer to support Manchester United instead.

Second, the players are not fit enough, both physically and mentally. Last night, the team played spiritedly enough in the first half but then faded in the second.

Third, inconsistent and short termist management. The coach and the coaching structure are relentlessly changed with no thought to long-term development. A few years ago, Peter Withe was in charge and was making real progress – then he was sacked because the FA refused to pay the rent for his apartment. Since then, regression, no matter who gets the chance to be in charge. Sven-Goran Eriksson would understand this.