Anyone who spends any amount of time here in Thailand will soon realise that Thais are obsessed with football, or soccer to our American friends.
Pattaya is home to several football clubs, both Thai and foreign, with the most well known being Pattaya United, currently languishing in the lower half of the Thai Premier League.
Pattaya City F.C., who presently play in Division 2, may not be as popular as their Premier League city mates, but the team, formerly known as Sriracha FC, has recently gained several hundred new fans, most of them from the Father Ray Foundation.
Owner of Pattaya City FC, Poonpol Kamuttira, recently visited the Foundation to pledge his support by offering all revenue from the sale of tickets at the club’s home games, which are currently being played at Nongprue 2 Stadium, just off Siam Country Road.
Following the announcement, and at the team’s next home game, several vehicles arrived at the stadium from the Father Ray Children’s Home, Special Needs Center, Vocational School for People with Disabilities and the School for the Blind all full of Pattaya City FC’s new fans.
The students from the School for the Blind were selected to be the local team’s match mascots, which may be a first in the world of football, and then they sat in the grandstand as their teacher giving a commentary as they game was played.
But the local fans were outnumbered by the visiting supporters who had traveled for many hours along the coast to Pattaya. They cheered, booed, banged drums, waved flags, shouted abuse at the referee and were as devoted as any supporter of an English Premier or La Liga team.
The local team may have been playing on their home ground, but the team from Trat was just too good and they won the match two goals to one.
Nongprue 2 Stadium may not be as big as Wembley in London, San Siro in Milan or Madrid’s Bernabeu, but what it lacks in size it makes up in enthusiasm and passion.