By Danny Knobler
The drumbeat starts at the opening kickoff and goes to the final whistle and beyond. Joe grabs the megaphone and implores the other members of the Pattaya Dangerous Family supporters group to sing.
The fans are a mixture of Thai and Farang. The words to the songs are a mixture of Thai and English.
“We are Pattaya! We are Loma!”
Loma, of course, is Thai for Dolphin. Pattaya Discovery United FC is the Dolphins. And the Pattaya Dangerous Family are the loyal supporter’s group who follow them home and away in the Thai Fourth Division.
It’s football, or soccer if you’re American or Australian. The game is familiar, even if the level of play isn’t exactly major league. The experience is uniquely Thai, with a little bit of Pattaya uniqueness thrown in.
The Thai Royal Anthem is played before games, just as it is before films at the movie theaters here. The players greet each other and the fans with a wai. After the game, both teams go to salute each group of supporters, and the supporters (for the only time all day) cheer the opposition.
And the Pattaya Discovery United team then joins in the cheers and takes a team picture in front of the supporters.
In recent weeks, the pictures have been happy ones, because the Pattaya team has been on a roll. With four consecutive wins, the Dolphins are 10-4-4 on the season, third in the league, eight points off the top and more importantly just three points from second place. If they can beat Koh Kwang FC Saturday afternoon in Chantaburi, they would go even on points with Koh Kwang for the second promotion spot to the Third Division.
If you’re wondering why a town like Pattaya, with such loyal support, has only a Fourth Division team, that’s a fair question. For the last few years, a premier league team named Pattaya United was based here. But after last season, the owners moved the team to Samut Prakan, in the Bangkok suburbs.
If you Google the Thai Premier League standings, it still shows the team as Pattaya United, just two points off the top of the table. But if you check out the attendance totals, you’ll find Samut Prakan at the very bottom, averaging just 2,476 a game.
Needless to say, a team that successful would have done much better in Pattaya. Much, much better with any amount of promotion and/or with a stadium more accessible from the center of town.
Pattaya United played at the Nongprue Municipality Stadium, the same ground Pattaya Discovery United use now. It’s on the Darkside, nearly nine kilometers from the main tourist area, a 20-40 minute drive in a taxi or hired baht bus.
Fortunately, a loyal Pattaya Discovery fan named Mike Lowe organizes a baht bus from Retox Game On Soi Honey for every home game. Kickoff is at 4 p.m., but the bus leaves just after 2 p.m. to allow for a pregame stop at a bar close to the ground. Pregame beers at that bar sell for 55 baht, and beer at the ground is 80 baht for a big bottle of Chang or Leo. Several food vendors regularly show up at the ground, with kebabs, chicken and squid skewers and prawn balls among the items on offer at the last home game.
The next home game is July 27, and it’s a big one. Pattaya Discovery plays Bankhai United, the team at the top of the table.
There are various other sports events in Pattaya during the year, and this periodic column in The Pattaya News will keep you up to date on all of them.
The biggest annual event is the Honda LPGA Thailand, a regular stop on the top women’s golf tour. The tournament has been held every year since 2006, with 70 of the best players in the world and a prize purse of $1.6 million. The dates for the 2020 tournament have not yet been announced, but it is normally held the final weekend of February at the Siam Country Club.
The other big event this year comes up in September when Pattaya will host the 2019 World Weightlifting Championships. This is a huge tournament in the weightlifting world because it serves as qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The tournament is set for Sept. 18-27 at the Eastern National Indoor Sports Stadium, which is located off Sukhumvit just south of town. Weightlifters from 197 countries are expected to take part.
Danny Knobler has covered sports in the United States for 40 years, writing for Bleacher Report, CBSSports.com, ESPN.com, and many other websites and publications. You can find him now at Danny’s Sports Bar on Soi Made In Thailand in Pattaya, where you can watch live and taped sporting events from anywhere in the world.
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