The Thai football season returns on 14th February, and for many it is a chance to rekindle their love with the beautiful game. Following the Thai National Teams win in the Suzuki Cup (South East Asian Champs), and current Kings Cup tournament, Thai football is on a high, so why not get involved.
What to Expect
Thai football is fun, and provides a low cost and enjoyable way for Westerners to take part in a recognizable but very much Thai influenced event. Prices are low, you're watching football, the temperature is warm, there are normally lots of pretty girls around - and the atmosphere is very friendly.
Also you will meet real Thai football fans who watch live Thai football , not people who change clubs 5 times a year, shout "Man U" or "Liverpool" randomly, or think watching games involves going to a bar, eating, playing on their phone and reacting to a goal a minute after it goes in.
Prices are cheap. Normally between 100 - 200B depending on whether you want a seat or a roof (useful in wet season). Beers is priced around 65-90B, but isn't available at all grounds. As always there is great food at rock bottom prices. There is no stadium price hike here. Snacks from 20B, full meals from 35B. Football for 500B including your ticket, beer and food. Value!
Atmosphere / Crowd
Some clubs are better than others, but it is normally noisy and fun, with school sports day cheer practice coming into its own. Expect drums, loudhailers, cheering and most of the crowd in the team kit and very little anger that you can get in Europe.
The crowd is very mixed and friendly, up to 50% female, so expect to see more pretty girls than you've ever seen at a football match before. Attendances are as high as 25000 for some games, and lower than 250 for others, so the atmosphere varies. As a farang, you will be in the minority, but Thais will love you for going.
If you have a car or motorbike, it is easy. If not, then a taxi will be easy to get there, but not so getting home. Some stadiums have public transport, but how and where you get it is not advertised in English.
When are Games?
Weekend games take place on Saturday & Sunday evenings depending on the team, kicking off between 4pm and 8pm. There are also regular games on Wednesday nights if once every 2 weeks isn't enough.
And the football?
As with most things Western here, it looks similar but isn't quite the same. The quality isn't as high as the top leagues, but it is good enough and it is competitive. The heat and humidity means games can be slow in tempo, but at the top end of the TPL you will find good quality games. Thai players are technical and skillful, but Thai refereeing is neither. You have been warned.
Who should I go to watch?
As always, you should support your local team. If you live in Buriram, home of Champions Buriram United, or Chonburi, home of the Sharks, unlucky runners up last season, then you're in luck. Good crowds are found at Suphanburi, Thailand's 2nd best supported team who do well every year and play in front of big crowds, or Chiang Rai, Ratchaburi, Sisaket and Korat Swat Cats.
In Bangkok, there are a lot of clubs, some more watchable than others.
If you're a supporter who likes success and supporting a big club, Muang Thong United are the club for you. Based at Impact Arena (at the 18000 capacity English style SCG Thunderdome), they are established Trophy winners, and home to some big stars and big crowds with "Ultras" providing great noise. Thailand's Captain and best player play there, as well as overseas stars.
If you are not a glory supporter, and like a "no one likes us, we don't care" attitude, Thai Port FC are the club for you. Based in Khlong Toey, close to the MRT Station (30B on Motosi), their ground is basic, cheap, atmospheric and edgy. Although sometimes their fans go too far, the atmosphere is English style, and they have a good number of farang supporters.
Bangkok United are another centrally located club. Based at Thai Nippon Stadium in Din Daeng, near BTS Victory Monument (40B on Motosi). They are home to half British and half American Thai players, and ex Championship players, as well as the TPL's most excitable management duo. The ground isn't great for atmosphere, and no beer is allowed inside, but they did very well in the second half of last season, and have big names sponsors. Could do well this year.
If you live in Minburi / Lad Krabang area, BEC Tero Sasana are your team. They won the Toyota League Cup last year, and are home to the next Thai superstar Chanatip (Messi J) and exciting Westerner Gilbert Koomson. Be warned their ground isn't easy to get to.
Despite the name, Thai FA Cup winners Bangkok Glass play in Thanyaburi. The "Glass Rabbits" (seriously) have a great 3 sided stadium (seriously), excellent facilities, team "bunny girls" and some good players. If you live closeby, why not.
If you don't live near a team mentioned, find who your local team are and go to a game. Even teams in Division 2 Regional Leagues can have crowds up to 2000 and good Western players. The most it will cost you is 500B, and you could find something that you love and look forward to every week.
Good websites for fixtures
For more reading on the Thailand football league, Ajarn.com did a hot seat interview with Thai footy expert, Dale Farrington, back in June 2014