Despite temperatures below zero outside, its now spring according to the Chinese calender and that means the start of the football season. This year, things kick off a little early for one Chinese side, Beijing Guoan, as they attempt to qualify for the group stages of the Asian Champions League. They do so by taking on Thai side Chonburi FC tomorrow night at Worker’s Stadium.
Beijing might not have a manager yet, but they have brought in two new players, Korean standout Ha Dae-sung and talented Chinese youngster Song Boxuan, while only losing super sub Wang Xiaolong this offseason. Despite the lack of a manager, Guoan go into the match as favorites and are looking to get into the ACL for the third year in a row. Standing in their way are Chonburi, and talked with Dale Farrington, a supporter of the side who also runs a site about the team.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your website?
My name is Dale. I come from Oldham in the north west of England and I have been living in Thailand since 1997. I started the website – www.clubwebsite.co.uk/chonburifc – in 2009. It is totally independent, although the club does allow me to use photos and videos, for which I am always grateful.
How long have you been supporting Chonburi?
I went to my first match in 2002 – the year the club was formed. In those days, it was extremely difficult to find any information about Thai football – and I was still playing regularly myself – so I didn’t get to many matches. My first full season was 2004 and I’ve only missed a handful of games since.
How much is Chonburi a part of the developing improvements in Thai football?
Chonburi was the the first provincial club to win the TPL and this acted as a catalyst for other provinces to back their local sides. Prior to this, company teams and those connected to the forces, dominated Thai football. There’s absolutely no question that Chonburi’s success in 2006 opened the door for all the other clubs. We also led the way in marketing and were selling officially sanctioned scarves, shirts and other souvenirs in an organised way before anyone else.
The down side of this boom is that a lot of politicians are now connected with their local clubs and this isn’t necessarily a good thing.
How did the side get to their current point in Champions League qualifying?
We finished a distant third in the TPL last season. However, the champions, Buriram Utd, did the league and cup double so an extra place in the qualifiers became available; we beat South China 3-0 in a pre-pre-qualifying match in Chonburi last Sunday.
Will you be travelling to Beijing for the match? Any idea about what the travelling support will be like?
Sadly, work and family commitments mean that I won’t be able to travel to Beijing. However, I am aware that a small group of Chonburi fans will be at the match. I also expect there will be a smattering of Thai ex-pats in the away end. This usually happens when Thai teams travel to other Asian countries.
Who are the players Guoan will need to worry about most on Saturday?
Our Brazilian centre half, Anderson dos Santos (#26), is a steady player. He’s good in the air, on the ground and is a commanding presence. He’s also effective playing just in front of the back four and can hurt teams when he pushes forward. However, I don’t think he’ll be encouraged to do this very much on Saturday, as I expect we’ll adopt a rather defensive approach.
Another Brazilian, Thiago Cunha (#37), is our main striker. He’s undoubtedly very talented – although he does have a lousy first touch – and will score goals for fun but he does tend to let himself down with outbursts of petulance and needless histrionics. I wish he’d just concentrate on his game. He’d be a much better player if he did.
The third player to look out for is Pipob On-Mo (#10). He is our club captain and is Chonburi through and through. The bloke is an absolute legend. He’s rather short and not as quick as he used to be but he will always give 100% and is totally fearless. He also chips in with the odd goal.
What style of football does Chonburi tend to play? Will that be effected by possible below zero temperatures in Beijing on Saturday?
I’m sure the players will be affected by the cold. One of our centre halfs, Jackie (#15), recently wore gloves when the temperature in Thailand dropped to the low 20s. Goodness knows how he’s going to cope in Beijing?!
As for our style of play – I can’t really comment. Our new coach, Masahiro Wada, has only been in charge for one competitive match (v. South China last Sunday) so it’s impossible to say how he will set his team up. Although, I won’t be too surprised if it’s a defensive 4-5-1 formation.
What would it mean for the side to reach the Champions League?
It would be a huge achievement. We weren’t that impressive last season and, as I said earlier, we only scraped into the qualifying rounds for this year’s AFC Champions League. I have mixed feelings about making it through to the group stages. On the one hand, I want us to win every game we play, but, on the other, I think it will be too much of a distraction. I can see us struggling against the quality of opposition we would face in the next round and I’d much rather concentrate on winning one of the domestic cups and finishing as high up as possible in the TPL, than jetting off all over the continent on a fanciful quest for glory. However, I’m sure that the club management would welcome the extra revenue and media exposure.
Want to make a prediction regarding the match?
I can’t see us winning, so I’m just hoping we can give a good account of ourselves and keep the score respectable. 2-0 to Guoan.
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