And no. This is not a title to a porn film. At least to my knowledge.
A few weeks ago, a coworker and friend of mine, Nat, came into my office with an announcement: “There is a Buriram United game tonight and some of the teachers are going. Let me know if you want to come so we can get tickets for you!”
I hesitated for a little bit, but then I agreed to it. I generally operate on the principle that if something is a new experience (and especially if something has the potential to be a window into a part of culture I haven’t seen before), I should, by all means, participate. So I said yes!
Buriram United is a real big deal in Buriram, the Thai province where I live. They’re widely considered the best soccer team in Thailand and have won different championships that I’m not even going to pretend what they are or how much they actually matter (can you feel my apathy towards sports?). In the political turbulence and riots in 2010, the iconic Buriram jerseys even gained a place among the red shirts and yellow shirts and wearing a jersey was a political statement itself (to some people). Now, I think it’s just symbol of team and province pride.
I learned more about Buriram United while evading the advances of a Cameroonian footballer in the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh. “Oh, I know Buriram, I have played there! They are a very good team. You can come and see me play sometime. You can be my guest. Here’s a picture of me with my shirt off. Here’s a picture of my bed. I would like your phone number and email and facebook and skype, please.” Ick. No thanks.
So that’s about all I knew about Buriram up until this point.
Let me tell you, I was actually really regretting my decision to go to the game all afternoon. As I mentioned above, I incredibly apathetic when it comes to commercialized athletics. I decided to go anyway, since (I thought) my ticket was already purchased.
And so, after school, 7 of us piled into the cab of Khru Shell’s shiny new pickup truck. Inhuman squeezing into vehicles is a weekly occurrence here.
We traveled the 30 or so kilometers to Buriram proper and as we did, the sky grew increasingly darker, thunder cracked, and fat drops of rain began to fall. We considered doing a rain dance to make the rain stop.
No luck there.
We approach the stadium of Buriram United, the Thunder Castle (which has to be one of the best stadium names ever).
We had some pictures taken of ourselves (this is one of the few posts that proves my existence as a human).
We wait in line for tickets because, in fact, the tickets were not purchased like we thought they were.
I waited off to the side next to people who I’m pretty sure were scalping tickets.
Lines to get into the Thunder Castle were loooong.
Since we arrived late, we could only buy tickets for the seats without an overhang. Commence more getting wet. People were reluctant to find their seats.
The Thunder Castle’s capacity is 24,000 people. The night I went, it was announced that over 23,000 people were there. The Thunder Castle-dwellers were a diehard group – they had cheers and a fan club section and vuvuzelas and 2 drumlines (that didn’t really pay attention to each other).
That night, the Thunder Castle hosted the Jeonbok Hyundai Motors team from Korea. I had the privilege of sitting very near the Korean team’s designated fan section, which was about 9 people strong. Buriram United tried their mightiest, but they were ultimately no match for the Jeonbok Hyundai Motors. The game ended with a 2-0 score.
We took our last few minutes at the stadium to take even more pictures of ourselves next to various things that said “THUNDER CASTLE” on them.
All in all, I got totally nasty, witnessed where all of the gross sexpat white men come for their liver football fill, got to participate in a part of Buriram culture, and became a Buriram United fan. I suspect I may make another trip to the Thunder Castle.