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2011 Thai Futsal League kicked off

Futsal in generall

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Finally last weekend Thailand Futsal league season kicked off. Originally the season was scheduled to start in April/May but had to be postponed because financial difficulties. The new season at the same time marks the countdown for the Futsal world championship taking place next year in Thailand.

With great weather for indoor activities, to speak with an all-day rain, the 5th USM Thai Futsal Championship started into its new season last weekend. Originally it was scheduled to launched the season in May, but as one of the sponsors was freezing all the money, the season had to be postponed. To make the league and the national team more competitive for international matches the number of participating teams increased from 12 to 16. In adition, a newly founded Regional League was introduced, divided into five regional groups.

Defending champion and top favorite is GH Bank RBAC. Besides, respectively behind, the team of Port Authority must be reckoned, which came in second last year. However, they do not seem to be quite as strong after the departure of some players.

Samut Prakan and Sripathum University from Bangkok saved themselves from relegation and used their second chance at the playoffs this year and are still present in the top flight. The promoted teams are Suphanburi, Tobacco, Lampang and Pattaya City.

The 2011 season are to be played until March 2012, interrupted by the FA Futsal Cup. While over the last years matches could be only seen played in Bangkok, but this season Lampang and Surat Thani will play some of their home matches at their own fields. Of course the 3 main venues are still in the Capital (North Bangkok College, University Sripathum and Fashion Iceland) and most matches will be played there.

The eight games of the first matchday were all played at the North Bangkok College on Saturday and Sunday. The sports hall provides space for around 1000 spectators. A total of around 500 were there on the first day, but only a few watched all four games. Many spectators had come just to cheer on their own team but took the time to watch also one or two other games.

The season was kicked off by two teams finished at the bottom last year, Samut Prakan and Sripathum. Both teams looked forward to the new season with certain euphoria. Sripathum, because they will host now some match days and Samut because they opened the cash box and got busy on the transfer market. Two Brazilians, Maykel and Jackson, came from I Am Sport but the last one has already left the club again in the summer. Elsewhere it was more money to earn. Samut got the better start, but Sripatum properly fight back after the initial excitement. With the score at 4-4 Sripatum got their sixth foul on the display, so it was penalty. Fortunately for Samut Prakan, in Futsal there is given a penalty immediately after each subsequent foul. At the end Maykel Ferreira needed three attempts to hit the goal for the final score of 5-4.

Half time for Rajnavy
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Second pair of the day were I Am Sport and newcomer Suphanburi. The latter got attention at the beginning of the year when they reached the semifinals of the FA Futsal Cup. Although already with 3-0 in the lead it was still tight and in the end Suphanburi had to settle for a disappointing 3-3 draw. Despite the successful comeback I Am Sport was much weaker than last year.

By the third game one of the two favorites came into action: Port Authority. Compared to the last year, when the club gathered far more than a hundred fans at the games behind it, only about 60 Thai Port fans found the way to the north of Bangkok. The opponent was newcomer Muang Pattaya. As expected, the clear favorite got quickly into a 1-0 lead. But Pattaya increased rapidly and was able to equalize the lead after 10 minutes and was subsequently a perfectly equal opponent. In the second half they even managed to lead with 2-1.

Two short moments of inattention brought the clever team of Thai Port back into the game. But Pattaya never gave up and finally stroke back to score for the 3-3. As a point loss could cost the championship already, 90 seconds before the final whistle Thai Port switched in their second goalkeeper as a fifth field player, who then scored shortly after and made the final score 4-3. Certainly a bitter defeat for the young team from Pattaya, but their good performance should encourage them for the rest of the season.

In the 4th and last match of the day CAT FC and FC Bangkok clashed. Bangkok lost its narrow lead at the end and lost 3-4 to the favorite. Especially some of the CAT players were often slipping on the floor like on thin ice. Even the mop brigade couldn´t help no longer after they had tried hard all day to rub away the wet spots on the floor. Apparently the humidity outside also covered the floor in the hall with a light film.

On the second day the first match was between LEO Bangsue and rookie Lampang. As Bangkok Glass had withdrawn from the futsal business, also their name was taken off from the name of the club. I must say that I was quite curious to watch the performance of the newcomer from Lampang. The day before I had a short talk with the president of the club, who had seen all the games on site. The club seems is very confident to compete with the other clubs in the league. This year they´ve already won some smaller tournaments like the Tiger Cup and a Charity Cup for the flood victims in the south.

In both half-times the match took place more or less in the half of Bangsue, and it was a bit lucky for Bangsue that they got the equalizer in the second half to make it 2-2. Although Lampang tried to score another goal it seems that bad luck stuck to their players shoes. Only when the clock indicated the Bond time 0:07, the Tigers from the north of Thailand finally could score the well-deserved victory goal.

The second game of the day was played by Tobacco and Nonthaburi. Nonthaburi got a close 2-1 win. The Tobacco players all looked very young. They are actually still in school, but the school team has dominated the Junior Futsal competitions always so much in recent years that it has now decided to participate in the First League competition. So now there is the possibility that more students move up in the original school team. For the Tobacco-boys it is the greatest thing, to compete with their older models, especially of course to play against RBAC.

Reigning champions RBAC made their debut in the third encounter of the day when they faced Rajnavi Rayong. RBAC, which practically provide all of Thailand's national team players, transfered some players before the season. Two players went to Iran, as there is more money to earn (around 4000 US $). On the other side the club welcomed back Thai national team captain Lertchai Issarasuwipakorn from Tokyo Fuchu Athletic. Lertchai was voted for the best foreign player in the Japanese league last year. Adriano joined RBAC from league rival Thai Port.

RBAC pushed back in defense
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RBAC, right from the start, didn't want to leave anyone in doubt about who could become champion again at the end of the season. Rajnavy tried to argue, but was basically powerless. The spectators soon waved their expressions of sympathy from the all-powerful Goliath to David and Rajnavys goal back to 1-2 by the young 22-year old Chacrit was cheered loudly. Shortly afterwards Nattapol Suttiroj restored the old distance with a spectacular single-handedly goal. In the end it was 4:2 for RBAC.

Last match of the day finally saw Samut Sakhon and Surat Thani. Even the appearance of Surat could be exciting, because the “Shrimps” try to establish similiar professional structures like in Lampang. Moreover, with the Brazilian Anderson a player was recruited, who could already gain experience in the Thai League. Almost single-handedly, he shot 4 goals for  the 5-2 half time lead. At the end Surat convincingly won with 11-2. However, it remained at four goals from Anderson, who is leading now the scoring list.

Overall, after the first round we got the impression that the teams are pretty much closer than least year. Besides the 11-2 from Surat Thani and the appearance of RBAC, the rest of the games were balanced. Since Thai Port seems not as strong as last year, there is probably no team that RBAC can even come close to defy.

The Teams behind the “Big Two” could be CAT, Lampang, Rajnavy and Surat Thani. Teasm who look weekest for us are Samut Sakhon and Tobacco. Although technically very good, the guys probably just still lack the experience and assertiveness in the duels in order to compete with the top teams.

Beside the competition last weekend we met league official Utchen Udomdejwatana. We had the chance to talk to him about the development of the League, the National team and World Cup preparations. More on that in the coming days.

The 2nd matchday took already place midweek and round number three is on the coming weekend at North Bangkok College, Pahol Yothin Soi 52. All matches are broadcast at Live TV, available via D-TV.
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