Football Fever – Kho Pha Ngan, Thailand

Football Fever
Kho Pha Ngan, Thailand

F.A. Cup build-up, first got an inkling of what was going on way back in April. Made a mental note to try and be by a T.V.

Beginning of May, and I roll up at some bungalows on Kho Pha Ngan. I know who’s playing now. Things are slow on this side of the island, only five or six of us staying here. Not much to do all day but read and swim, but now we had something to focus on: F.A. Cup final day.

For a few days beforehand people were getting noticeably more excited. The two Scots had even started taking less valium. Got the month’s T.V. guide, keep checking which side it’s on, what time it starts. They even tease us with previews on some of the other channels.

Take my seat nice and early, it’s dark by 7pm and I’m bored so I get my double cushion on my seat and take my position in front of the TV. Hold back on ordering food, pace myself, wait for some eating companions to arrive. Make do with a coffee.

At 7.30 the Scots roll up. The tension’s building now, they tell me – “Been waiting for the game all day, may as well wait up here.”

Shock!… horror!… find out the game has a build-up hour starting at 8pm. We had a rough plan to watch an hour of The Truman Show movie first. House meeting, we are the only guests so we have total control over the TV It’s decided we’ll watch all of the build-up, no messing about, GIVE US FOOTBALL!

And order beer, Thai chicken curry, fried rice and chips. Everyone orders the same, have been doing for days now. Much to the amusement of the staff.

The two Irish guys take up positions on my flank side, it’s complete. “There was an Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman watching the F.A. Cup Final…”

Been watching a blue screen that reads

F.A. Cup Final Build-up – 8pm
F.A. Cup Final Live – 9pm

Minutes tick by. We are not even in the build-up yet. Annoying elevator music plays. Jamie the Scot keeps flicking the channels over. “I canny handle the music mon.”

Finally the build-up starts, and it’s vintage footage of 1966 Wembley, England winning the World Cup.

“What the focks this got to do with the F.A. Cup?” a thick Glaswegian accent says. Apparently this is not just any F.A. Cup final, it’s one of the last games to be played at Wembley. The anticipation is incredible.

The bar where we are watching the TV is on a sort of veranda overlooking the sea, surrounded by palm trees. Quite a setting. About half an hour ago the wind kicked up. Plastic tarpaulin sheets are suspended from the side; they are in the down position now. Giving some protection from the wind, they bulge inwards and flap at a vicious rate. We turn the volume up.

I move my chair closer to the TV. I’m sitting in puddles of water; there’s driving rain now! We had been told of an impending storm, but that wasn’t until Monday. Today is Saturday.

We watch all the best goals, all the famous people who have played at Wembley. Crowds of fans inside and outside the stadium, it even looked quite a nice day in London. Now it’s 15 minutes till kick-off, some lady comes on, stands in the centre circle and starts singing.

“It’s Anther Turner.”

“I canny handle this.” Willy the other Scot turns the volume down. He thinks it’s the national anthem. Scottish independence and all that. I apoligise to him and say, “Remember Braveheart.”

Turns out to be some song called “Abide by Me.” Well, we were doing all the abiding we could, glued to the TV, less than 5 minutes to go.

BAM!

We are bathed in darkness, there’s been a power cut. I’m sure the last thing I saw was the ref about to blow the whistle.

“It’s a fucking wind up, Jeremy Beadle is about to come out.”

“And I’ll fucking hit him.” Glaswegian accent. Been living for this for days, and to have it so cruelly snatched away – “A real kick in the bollocks, god you are a sick bastard.”

Had power cuts before. They can last anywhere from 5 minutes to one hour or longer. But this little setup has its own generator. Papa disappears into the darkness on a moped to turn the generator on.

Maybe only two minutes had passed. It seemed like hours though. “Better not have been any goals.” All the lights flicker; the TV glows – “Yes, Yes” – darkness.

Happens again. Power surge –

BAM!

The lights are on. Everyone has that squinting look of having just been woken up. It takes us a moment to realise that there’s no TV. We all heard the crack, which turns out to have been the fuse in the satellite box.

We are screwed. This is an island in the tropics; a TV repairman is a least three days away. The only other satellite TV is in Tongsala, only about half an hour away.
“Now if Rangers had been playing I’d have stolen a car and gone there,” Willy the Glaswegian says.

After satisfying himself that nothing could be done with the receiver, the one remaining staff member entertains us with The Best Of UB40, volume one. End of party music if I’ve ever heard it.

“I’m going to bed. Enjoy the second half.” Graham and his Irish sense of humour. It was 9.30pm.

Points of Reference

  1. I traveled to Kho Pha Ngan by coach from Bangkok. It leaves every day at 7pm and arrives via ferry, at about 2pm the next day.
  2. I stayed at Loy Fa bungalows on the west side of the island (much more peaceful, away from the full-moon parties). You can get a double bungalow with bathroom, shower (cold water) and sunset views from your own hammock, for $5 a night.
  3. The bungalows’ owners will rent you Honda Dream mopeds for $5 a day to explore the island. And organise fishing trips. If you catch anything they will prepare it, free, for the evening meal!

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