A Red Letter Day in Bangkok
by rick olivares
In a few days’ time, I will be off to Bangkok, Thailand to watch Liverpool Football Club play the Thai national team as part of its pre-season tour. As a LFC fan living in Southeast Asia, I try to catch them as much as I can when they are in these neck of woods because it is the only chance to see them play live even if only a friendly. Not unless a long-planned move to Great Britain materializes soon.
This will be the fifth time for me to catch them in Southeast Asia — and incidentally, the fifth time that LFC will be performing in Thailand since 2001 — and making it seven live matches all in all scattered across three continents — North America, Europe and Asia. It all culminated last year when I was finally able to make good on my Anfield pilgrimage as a guest of the club with access to the hospitality suite, a really terrific seat, and some goodies.
My LFC matches:
2004 A.S. Roma 2-1 Giants Stadium
2009 Singapore 5-0 Kallang
2012 Malaysia 6-3 Bukit Jalil
2013 Indonesia 2-0 GBK
2013 Thailand 3-0 Rajamangala
2014 Everton 1-1 Anfield
During their trip to Singapore in 2009, I was supposed to have interviewed then manager Rafa Benitez but was unable to arrive in the Lion City in time for that (due to the unavailability of an earlier flight). What a botched opportunity! You bet I was incensed!
Three years later at Malaysia, I sort of got a little closer when I came within three feet of the players during the team’s public appearance at the Pavilion at Kuala Lumpur. Managed to chat for a few seconds with then striker Andy Carroll but was unable to snap a photo with him because of the sheer number of people.
This time around, I’ll get to be able to have lunch with one of four Reds legends who will accompany the team for their pre-season tour — Ian Rush, Luis Garcia, Didi Hamman, or Robbie Fowler.
Of the four, I am a massive fan of Fowler but I wouldn’t mind any of the others. After all, they still wore the red shirt.
Why, how, and when did I become a fan of the Reds?
To be truthful about it? It began with the Beatles never mind if they weren’t football fans. Being a fan of the Fab Four meant that I had to learn about Liverpool as a city. And it was a great time for the city as both their music and their football team (sorry Everton) were on top of the world. And since 1979, I’ve rooted for them. Through thick or thin. And in good times and especially the bad times that mostly plagued the team since the Premier League was organized.
That 1979-80 team had Kenny Dalglish, Phil Neal, Phil Thompson, Alan Hansen, Alan Kennedy, Steve Heighway, Sammy Lee, Graeme Souness, and David Johnson among others and they won their 12th league title by a mere two points ahead of nemesis Manchester United who wouldn’t see a change of fortunes until 1991. That photo finish thrilled me as that last day 1-nil win over Middlesbrough allowed them to pip United.
As a fan, I began collecting football jerseys in 2004. Today, I now have some three dozen Liverpool kits with names like Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres, Dirk Kuyt, and Mario Balotelli to name a few on the back.
And speaking of Balotelli, the enigmatic Italian has been left off the squad that will be traveling to the Far East pending fitness concerns. Also left off were Luis Enrique and Fabio Borini. No doubt that doesn’t augur well for their place in the team for the upcoming season. Privately, I hope they give Balotelli a chance. Maybe his second year in Anfield will see him play much better. I mean how much could it get worse, right?
Fans are also eager to see the first post-Steven Gerrard team. Gerrard is my all-time Reds hero and I still feel bad that he will not round out his playing career in Anfield but in Los Angeles of all places. Not that I won’t root for him Stateside but still, I believe he should have been allowed to end his career wearing a Reds shirt and not anything else.
So the post-Gerrard Reds named for the Far East trip include: Simon Mignolet, Adam Bogdan, Fulton, Nathaniel Clyne, Joe Gomez, Dejan Lovren, Alberto Moreno, Kolo Toure, Andre Wisdom, Martin Skrtel, Mamadou Sakho, Joe Allen, Jordan Henderson, Lucas Leiva, James Milner, Joao Carlos Teixeira, Jordon Ibe, Adam Lallana, Lazar Markovic, Raheem Sterling, Danny Ings, Rickie Lambert, and Divock Origi. Promising LFC Academy players Dan Cleary, Joe Maguire, Pedro Chirivella, Jordan Rossiter, Ryan Kent, Sheyi Ojo, and Harry Wilson have been likewise tabbed for the tour so hopefully, we get a good look at their play.
Aside from Balotelli, other players not making the trip for various reasons are Emre Can, Philippe Coutinho, Daniel Sturridge, and Roberto Firmino. The latter four though are in good standing with the club which is more than I can say about Sterling who in my opinion, should be let go. Why keep a player who doesn’t want to be in Anfield?
I recall during the 2009 friendly in Singapore, massive crowd implored then midfielder Xabi Alonso to stay in Anfield. But the Spaniard soon left for Real Madrid. Alonso was a fan favorite which is more than I can say for Sterling who has put off quite a few LFC fans not to mention alumni. Somehow, I don’t think the club’s Asian fans will implore Sterling to stay during kick off at the Rajamangala Stadium.
So it’s on. And like always, am excited.
Bangkok, here I come.
P.S. As always thanks to Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Philippines, Mr. Asif Ahmad and the fine folks at Standard Chartered Bank — Ms. Mai and Anne. Miss ya, Ms. Nimii!