One Night In Bangkok

I don’t miss Liverpool games. Whether by fair means or foul, I always watch the Reds play if I’m able to. I was late to the wedding breakfast of my father-in-law because I was watching the end of a game against Brighton once. If the circumstances have called for it then I have begged for a link to a stream to watch us play. I don’t take well to family events being arranged around the same time as kick-offs and when my wife and I got married in September of 2018, we did so during an international break. I’ve even watched one of our matches at 30,000 feet after paying an airline’s exorbitant Wi-Fi fee in order to see the game play out on my iPad. In fact, I couldn’t even remember the last time I didn’t see a single second of a competitive match when I was trying to remember yesterday. All of which should go some way to explain how painful it was for me to miss our game against Spurs on Saturday, especially considering its importance.

Yet in the end I had no choice. Having left Merseyside at 12pm on Friday to head to London for a flight to Bangkok, I had about four hours sleep between then and kick-off. Normally I would make an effort to power through regardless, but the match was getting underway in the early hours local time and my multiple sclerosis means that fatigue is a major problem for me. Despite my deep reservations, I had to admit defeat and instead took a sleeping pill to ensure that I got a good night’s sleep and could be at my fighting fittest for my upcoming holiday. I’ll confess that every time I half woke up during the night I wondered what the score was, but before I could think where my phone was to check I was back to the land of nod. When I was properly awake this morning, I was briefly reluctant to check in case the worst had happened. Of course I should have had more faith in Jürgen Klopp and this Liverpool team. We’re the best in the world.

The Club Is Gargantuan

No sooner had Rachel and I jumped in a taxi to make our way from Bangkok airport to our hotel in the city did we see signs along the motorway with Liverpool players on them. Mo Salah, Sadio Mané and Virgil van Dijk were used to advertise Nivia, Axa or some other business that the club has an official sponsorship deal in place with. When we returned to Bangkok International Airport for our transfer to Phuket, there was another sign featuring the club. In fact, the only team that I’ve seen more references to than Liverpool is Leicester City, but considering the Foxes’ links to Thai retail group King Power, that’s hardly a surprise. We all joke about Liverpool being gargantuan when the Reds are the reference point for pretty much every refereeing decision made in any other Premier League match, but it’s only when you leave England and head to countries much further afield that you truly get a sense of the club’s size.

Plenty of people hate the conversation around kit deals and commercial partnerships, but part of the reason that we’re now the best team in the world and able to compete with the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea despite our financial inequality to them comparatively is because of just those sorts of deals. Nike might not be the favoured kit suppliers of some Liverpool supporters, yet their global branding will allow them to get our merchandise into shops all around the planet, which will in turn give us money to spend on the pitch and improving the club’s facilities. A quick trip abroad will soon help you to realise just why the likes of Peter Moore have been so keen to spread the club’s appeal, given how readily accessible certain markets are. Personally I’m all for it. The more regularly I see someone in a Liverpool kit the happier I am and the happier place I think the world is likely to be. That’s what the Reds do to you.

The Local Versus Out Of Towners Debate Will Forever Be Ridiculous

Despite the fact that it’s 2020, Liverpool as a city has repeatedly rejected the racist and xenophobic rhetoric of Brexit and the Merseyside area has long been welcoming of outside cultures, for some there will always be a debate about the validity of ‘out of town’ supporters in comparison to locals. I’ve always thought it to be the most moronic and banal of conversations, but that has really been driven home for me on this trip. Why on earth should someone who was born in the city and is lucky enough to attend the ground every other week because they were on the season ticket waiting list before it got closed off by the club be considered to be more of a supporter than someone who has to get up in the early hours of the morning to watch our matches through bleary eyes? It’s something that I’ll genuinely never understand. Whilst the internet has made things better than ever before, Thailand is still far away from Liverpool.

There are plenty of things to be annoyed about when it comes to the way that football fans in England are treated compared to the same fans in foreign countries. I think it’s absolutely mad, for example, that I could have watched a 3pm kick-off on Saturday in my hotel in Bangkok completely legally, whereas if I’d wanted to the same thing at home I’d have had to break the law to achieve it. Whilst I understand the arguments around access, it’s ludicrous that supporters in America were able to get much closer to the players and to watch training that fans in England are able to. Yet the one argument that I think simply has no place in a conversation around the subject is the validity of someone’s support based on where they’re from. If I’d chosen to watch the match against Tottenham I’d have been absolutely wiped out the following day, which is a problem I don’t face when I stand on the Kop for games. Let’s end the nonsense now.

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