Friday, August 10, 2007

Violence on the pitch

Readers may remember that a while back, I wrote an entry describing the juvenile behaviour of the Thai football (soccer) team as they walked off the pitch during a game with Singapore.

A similar incident happened at my school this week and - trivial as it was - I felt it exposed the mindset of some locals.
My school is a large school with a high number of Thai and foreign teachers. The PE teachers of the bunch (Those who can't do....teach. Those who can't teach......teach PE) are of the traditional stereotype jock variety. Stocky, loud guys with a brash and innocent sense of humour. One is an ex pro football player for Hereford United and Shrewsbury Town FC , another played for the Bulgarian under 18's squad.

The two arrived around the same time and sparked a good natured rapport with the Thai PE teachers who love to talk to farangs about football in broken English. After a few weeks , the Thai teachers challenged us to a game. I love football myself. I've never been too good at playing it because I'm pint sized yet lacking the quickness of the small strikers. I can hold my own though and playing Thai players obviously doesn't present me with such a great size difference. I agreed to play as did many of the other teachers.

In our first game, we won two - one with a sizeable crowd of onlooking parents and students. We were pleased to win (I played poorly though and went off in the second half) and took it as fun. A large number of the Thai players did not. Many of them refused to shake hands after the game.

The following few weeks were difficult for he farang PE teachers. Several complaints from the Thai teachers on all kinds of petty subjects (often untrue) caused some level of stress. I suspected the Thai staff had not taken our game in the right spirit but I didn't want to add to the tension by suggesting so.

This week we played them again, with another sizeable crowd. My ex Hereford friend had recovered from a recurrence of a knee injury that forced him to retire from playing pro. The knee was bandaged. Midway through the second half, our Bulgarian player had a quick row with a Thai player over a free kick. The kind of quick flare you see often in football. However, as I walked back to my own half I overheard a Thai teacher say "Tae farang". I thought he was joking, I was wrong.

As my Hereford friend (I shall now call Steve) received the ball, he was whacked on the knee. He ignored it and continued to dribble downfield, another teacher ran in with no intention to get the ball and hit him again. Steve bravely played on and was tackled by the same Thai player, he responded by winning the ball back with hard but clean tackle.

The it flared up. he Thai player pushed Steve, who turned round and yelled at him. Then - and I could scarcely believe my eyes at this point - not less than four Thai players charged at Kim. One of the had his eyes bulging out of his face as he literally screamed "This is Thailand you m***** f*****R! You do what WE say!!! You understand m***** f*****?!"

I'm not embellishing, those were his exact words. Steve - a stocky and well built ex pro player - was completely unfazed and gladly squared up to the player. Our Bulgarian colleague was also entering the fray. For my part I wanted to restrain Steve but being the smallest guy on the pitch and seeing the tempers so flared - not to mention some watching parents - I figured it was best to back off.

Just as things seemed to be settling down, one Thai rushed forward and swung for Steve. It was pathetic really, his run up and swing were so long he knew full well he was going to be held back. Had there been nobody to hold him back, he would have wanted no part of Steve, I'm sure.

After some raised voices, we decided to call off the game. I later spoke to Steve and calmed him down, but my friend was a new ex-patriate and perhaps wasn't aware of a few points:

1) Some Thai teachers resent farang presence. They don't like the fact we get paid more and are seen to have special treatment. They become resentful and overly competitive. (However, just as many welcome us, support us and become friends).

2) Some teachers, especially PE teachers, can behave in a shockingly juvenile manner. A friendly game of football that both sides play to win becomes a big issue of keeping face for them.

3) The teacher who had swung for him was related to the school owner. That's why he knew he could get away with his actions even in front of parents. Nepotism.

4) Sorry if this sounds nasty but the type of Thai male who likes to fight will NEVER fight fair. They ALWAYS fight in uneven numbers. That's why so many rushed to Steve at once. That's the mentality of this type of Thai male. Yes, this exists in every country but I think it's more prevalent in the Thai yob. In England for example, the type of guy who always fought when it was four on one would quickly be labelled as a coward.

He seemed to understand more after that. We agreed the best thing to do was to apologise. We didn't feel we had done anything wrong but it was important to keep the peace. The apology was accepted with a super macho "Sure , sure no problem no problem!" response by the Thai PE head. Luckily, the incident seemed to go unreported by those who saw it.

It was a shameful incident to be involved in, but I can honestly say that we didn't knowingly do anything to instigate it. We were searching for a friendly game of football to improve relations with our Thai colleagues. Sadly, it didn't turn out that way and it reminded me that Thai footballers do seem to have a lot of growing up to do. Then again, so do many ex-pat farangs.

Let me stress the comments about fighting, etc are only related to the sort of moron who would want to fight. Most Thais - like most English - are far better educated and moral than that.


Charles Frith said...

Great post. You're in my feeds from now on. - charles

Anonymous said...

who is steve as im a hereford fan