Posts Tagged ‘Police’

Police v Army, Saturday 2nd June 2018, 3pm

June 8, 2018

Laos is one of those countries where it’s quite difficult to plan ahead if you are trying to see a football game. The information is all out there somewhere but it’s not the easiest to find until a week or so before any matches take place.

I had a three-day weekend back in March and on that occasion we made a speculative trip only to find that the top-level fixtures had been cancelled in preparation for a forthcoming international game. That time we stayed the Saturday night in the capital, Vientiane and our hotel was just around the corner from the old national stadium.

We had a wander around the old ground and, rather frustratingly, were told that a match would take place the following day, a couple of hours after our onward flight to Luang Prabang was due to depart. The fella I was talking to spoke no English, so I wasn’t able to work out what level of game I was missing, but it suggested that their league structure might be a little deeper than the Premier League that I was aware of.

We arrived in Luang Prabang the next day and I had faint hopes that there might also be some sort of game on at the local ground. It normally hosts a Premier League team, but if there was another level below that then who knows?

I was briefly encouraged as we approached the ground after a two miles walk from the town centre. There was a woman with a stall outside the main entrance selling shirts and flags. It’s hard to imagine that she would bother doing that on a non-match day.

Hard to imagine it may have been, but that’s exactly what she was doing. After she confirmed that no game was scheduled we made a lap of what appeared to be a stadium as old as the one we’d seen the day before. There was a gate open further around which gave us the opportunity to have a look from inside the ground rather than just peeking in.

Oh well. Still, it wasn’t a completely wasted trip as Luang Prabang is an interesting place to visit. There are the usual temples and markets, a rickety bridge across the Mekong and any number of elephant ‘sanctuaries’. I’m not wholly convinced by the use of elephants in tourism though and had little desire to join a queue of backpackers to sit on the back of one.

However, I found a place that seemed to better balance the need for cash with the best interests of the elephants. You weren’t allowed to ride them, but instead a group of no more than four people could walk alongside the elephants for a couple of hours.

You took a boat across a river to a spot where a couple of females and a two-year old male calf were fed bananas every morning at the same time. You then walked a mile or so along a track to a spot where they were fed again. The elephants weren’t guaranteed to turn up, or indeed to move to the next spot, but elephants aren’t daft and are unlikely to turn down a regular feed.

We fed them bananas at the first place as planned and then walked with them to the second one. Sometimes we plodged though rivers or mud but with some kind of wet-suit material socks on our feet it was easy enough.

A one stage the young ‘un got a bit arsey and charged at me. The guides flapped a bit but I stood my ground and steered him away. I don’t think he had any really bad intentions, but I imagine he could be a bit of a handful as he gets older.

Anyway, after a third and final stop for bananas another mile or so along, the elephants had no further need for us and left the trail by heading up a bank into the undergrowth. It was a worthwhile way to spend a couple of hours and I’d be happy to do it again at some point.

This latest trip was just to Vientiane and planned around a fixture that I’d noticed on a list posted on Lao Toyota FC Facebook feed. I’m not really a big user of Facebook as, this blog apart, I’m quite a secretive person who doesn’t like people knowing what I’m up to. Still, I can appreciate that it has its uses at times.

Once we were into the final few days before the flight a bit more information appeared and as luck would have it I had a choice of three games. I picked the first one of a double-header taking place at the New National Stadium, mainly on the basis that the three o’clock kick-off left more time for carousing later in the day.

The new national stadium, didn’t look that new to me, although I suppose it’s relative. I still see the Riverside as new, but I’ve been going there longer than the twenty-one years that I went to Ayresome Park. In another similarity it’s out of town, in this case by more than half an hour in a taxi.

With plenty of time before kick-off we had a mooch around the outside for a bit, nipping in through an open entrance to photograph the main stand before heading back around to the main entrance to get inside.

Nobody was selling or asking for tickets and so we followed the VVIP signs and emerged in the directors box where we took a couple of seats. If I were a real director I’d be asking them to remove the loud speakers that were blasting out the fucking racket that I hear all over Asia about somebody sending out misleading dating signals by leaving their clothes on someone else’s bedroom floor.

Our covered seats were in the west stand, giving us shade throughout the match. I spotted one person in the uncovered end to our left, but nobody in the covered, but less shaded, stand opposite or the uncovered end to our right.

At kick-off there probably weren’t more than thirty people in the stadium, including our somewhat bemused taxi-driver who had agreed to wait for us and who found it hard to understand why a local game would have any spectators at all. The rest of the crowd at that stage were predominantly wives and girlfriends of the players and they were quick to fold the team sheets that they were given into makeshift fans.

The Police team, in red, had more of the early chances. The Army, who were in white, had a striker with a weird little top knot that I like to think was some sort of variation on a fusilier’s hackle. There was no real niggle in the game which surprised me as you never know when the two teams could find themselves on opposite sides in a coup.

By the time the teams went in goalless at the break the crowd had swollen to around a hundred. It probably doubled during the second half as the officials and fans of Lao Toyota and Young Elephant arrived in advance of their 5.30pm kick-off.

It was Top Knot who broke the deadlock when he knocked the opener in off the far post. The goal caused his wag to scream in delight for a good minute or so afterwards.

There was a lot of of Army timewasting  in the closing stages. I’d have hated to have had to try and get any of them to go ‘over the top’in the trenches and I suspect that the victory parade would have been long over before any of these fellas were ready to make a move. The delaying tactics paid off though and the Army comfortably saw out the remaining minutes for a one-nil victory.

The match took the total number of countries in which I’ve seen a football game to forty-five. My next game will be country number forty-six and the World Cup clash in Saint Petersburg between Brazil and Costa Rica. Whilst there will be a bigger crowd and better players, I’m sure that there will be a similar level of time-wasting in the final few minutes.

 

Penang v Police, Saturday 10th September 2016, 9pm

November 11, 2016

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Jen and I don’t live too far from Kuala Lumpur airport and so there are quite a few options for a Friday evening getaway. For this weekend we’d chosen Penang which is an hour’s flight up the coast.

We stayed in Georgetown, an old town that has a couple of interesting museums, a nineteenth century fort and a town centre that late on the Friday night seemed to be a magnet for travelling white boys with dreads. We didn’t stay out for long.

On the Saturday we had a look around the other attractions and then in the evening walked the couple of miles towards the Bandar Raya stadium. On the way we passed someone getting a massage. Nothing unusual there, I’m sure Georgetown has plenty of options for massages, as does most of Asia. What made this one different was that it involved a couple of meat cleavers. Not much prospect of a happy ending with that one, I suppose.

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We were still two hours or so early by the time we reached the ground but the floodlights were on and the gates open. We checked the kickoff time with a couple of coppers on the gate, whom I presumed were on duty and not waiting to get changed for the game.

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The ticket office was right next door to the turnstiles and there were already people milling around. It was a big game, in as much as Penang were in danger of being relegated if they lost, whilst the Police weren’t far enough ahead of them in the table to be considered safe from the drop either.

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Tickets were fifteen ringgits which is about three quid. I just asked for two, without specifying any area of the ground. It didn’t look like rain and so I wasn’t really bothered about where we sat.

With our tickets in hand we called in at a restaurant a minute or two away for something to eat. It was mainly outdoor tables but fortunately there was a light breeze to cool things down a little.

The place was filling up quickly, perhaps as a consequence of them having a telly that was showing the Manchester derby. We ordered chicken and rice which, when you aren’t confident in identifying the items on the menu, was a safe enough option.

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After dinner we popped into the petrol station next to the turnstiles to pick up a couple of drinks. We got as far as the turnstile with them, where they were confiscated for being potential missiles. The police couldn’t have been more apologetic though and suggested a compromise whereby we could leave them in the turnstile hut and, if we promised not to hurl the bottle at anyone, we could call in for a drink whenever we liked. Perfect.

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The stadium is the oldest in Malaysia, dating back to 1956 and with the usual uncovered bowl and one main stand arrangement. We just sat at the top of the terracing behind the goal, mainly because it meant a shorter walk to the turnstile hut whenever I wanted a swig of coke.

There was a decent turnout from the Penang fans and also a handful of ultras to our right who were supporting the visitors. They seemed well-organised and so I presume they were actual junior policemen who had been ‘encouraged’ to attend and offer some support.

Curiously, one of them had a scarf with A.C.A.B. on it. If it meant the same as it did on those knuckle tattoos in the seventies, it seemed an odd sentiment. Mind you, there was another one with a ‘Fuck The System’ scarf. Probably CID.

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At half-time we had a chat with the rozzer on the gate. After admitting to supporting Penang rather than his employer he expressed his reservations over their chances of survival. He had faith in the manager who had been recently appointed but was worried that the upturn had come too late for this season.

After finishing our drinks we moved around to the other side of the ground, passing a prayer hut where a few of the fans were doing their best to get some divine assistance for the second half.

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The prayers turned out to be in vain, unless one of them had put the game down for a one-all draw on his coupon. It was a result that didn’t really help either team out in a definite case of two points dropped for both sides.

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We made it back to the hotel without encountering anyone else waving a meat cleaver and had a few drinks on the rooftop terrace where there wasn’t a white boy dread in sight.