Maybe that was true in the past but things are changing now with Thailand’s new professional premier league. Money’s coming in, foreign players are being signed up, crowd numbers are on the rise and top TPL teams regularly progress in the Asian Champion’s League. (Bangkok based BEC Tero were losing finalists to UAR’s Al Ain in 2003 whilst in the 2009/10 competition Muang Thong United were knocked out by Singapore Armed Forces after a remarkable 3-0 away victory to Danang). Current top teams include the aforementioned Muang Thong from Nonthaburi Province, (good Muang Thong blog in English here!), & BEC Tero Chonburi, and Buriram PEA.
That the small provincial town of Buriram has one of the top teams is due largely to the financial largess of owner Newin Chidchob – high profile businessman and politician – (sort of like a legal version of Thaksin – well so far), but they’re a great case in point. Go to Buriram and you’ll actually see more PEA shirts, posters, paraphernalia etc than Man Utd or Chelsea ones! Their 12,000 seat stadium is regularly sold out, plans are afoot for a new purpose-built stadium and they have, what is still unusual for Thailand, a keen ‘travelling army’.
Strip is blue shirts, black shorts and they go by the great nickname of ‘Thunder Castle’. (Phnom Rung, an old Angkor period temple/fort built on an extinct volcano, being the Province’s most famous landmark.) Buriram possess no less than 4 famous Brazilian players, (well famous in certain Rio favellas and N. E. Thai villages), as well as 2 Ivorian players, so eat your heart out Chelsea – the new Drogba’s alive and well and living in a remote town in N. Eastern Thailand! At time of writing Buriram PEA were in 3rd place behind Chonburi and Muang Thong. Would give you their homepage but we can only find it in Thai, (maybe someone can help us out?), so in the meantime….Buriram PEA.
‘Come on you Thunder Castle’ we say, (well it sounds better in Thai!)