So before I left for Thailand I saw this Unusual Football Field Project video where they built these inner city soccer fields, but in unconventional shapes because the space they have to play isn’t rectangular. So the fields are all crooked and misshapen and jagged and just form to whatever alleyway/backyard space they do have. I asked on the YouTube video where they were located, and someone responded with the name of the region in Bangkok and someone else said they were slums. So with several hours to kill on my last day, I wandered that way with slight trepidation. I noticed that the subway stop where the supposed slums were really wasn’t far city center in general, so I wondered how run down this place really is. Hesitantly stepping out of the stop, I realized it was a perfectly okay area, with shops, people, cars and the subway like anywhere else in Bangkok. I googled the area a bit, and sure enough I was okay.
As I wandered for 15 minutes, I realized I would really need to get off the main drag. So I jumped up on the overpass to peer into the neighborhoods, and could see absolutely nothing clearly. So I just meandered on the back streets and found myself in what was actually an upscale looking place. The people who saw me didn’t act at all as if I didn’t belong. No glares. No stares. Just a deadpan gaze straight ahead. So, assured, I tried a different side street area. I found the main soccer stadium in this area and figured it had to be near, but after 10-15 minutes my search was fruitless and my body doused in perspiration. Time for a Coke, and time to pull out pics and see if the store owner knew where these fields were. She tried to communicate to me endlessly in Thai, but I literally only knew “thank you” and place names.
Turns out they didn’t know exactly where the fields I wanted were, but they did know where there was a futsal court in an old warehouse. (I know now that “futsal” is a word in Thai. Also I don’t think the majority of 50-year-old, quasi-slum store owners in New York know what futsal even is. I was shocked.) So after nodding to a random guy’s motor bike, indicating for me to hop on, I got a free lift to the warehouse, which is the Port Authority of Thailand (obviously) and found a huge futsal game was at half time. A little research showed me this was literally the Thai Futsal League and I just happened to find it. Sweet deal. Game was 10-1. Team in yellow struggled. They could’ve used a washed-up American out there.
Furthermore, I think the Beautiful Game is alive and well in Thailand. They certainly need some improvement (they lost to the UAE in World Cup Qualifiers when I was there) but it seems there are hoards of fans, based solely on the fact that I saw kids playing everywhere, people wearing jerseys and a door maker who put an Arsenal logo on his stuff. In any case, it was awesome to see the love for the game anywhere we go!
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