The sports that figure prominently in Thailand are Muay Thai boxing, badminton and … football? Considering that this country doesn’t have professional football (or soccer for us Americans) teams to speak of, who do they follow? The English Premier League.
Not only do they follow the clubs, they garner a fan following that is on par with England itself. Team jerseys are sold at every sporting outlet; hats, towels and various gear are sold at street stalls and mall kiosks; and they even offer a Man U credit card.
But on this Saturday night, I witnessed an obsession with the Premiership that is as entertaining as it is puzzling. About 100 people were gathered on all five floors of the MBK Center shopping mall, one of the largest and most popular in Bangkok, to watch Liverpool take on rival Manchester United.
Two jumbo screens were broadcasting the game on both ends and Thai fans, decked out in Man U and Liverpool gear, sat around the railings with friends and cheered on their respective teams. Close goals and Liverpool’s eventual win drew hoots and hollers that could be heard at every level and inside every store.
This kind of rousing display makes me curious about what Thai football fans would be like at a Premiership game. Would they stick to their Buddhist instincts and cheer peacefully? Or adopt the behavior of English football hooligans, and start chucking beer and throwing an inebriated fit? Considering how cool and calm Thais are on a daily basis, I would totally pay to see the latter. We could bond.