I was invited to attend and photograph the 12th Pattaya Beach Football Cup at Jomtien Beach in Pattaya, Thailand. If I am perfectly honest, it turned out to be something totally different from what I was expecting.
I wrongly assumed that it would be a bunch of holiday makers, who were unfit, hungover, overweight and didn’t know one end of a football pitch from the other.
How wrong could I be?
The real scenario was that many of the players were professional footballers and were here to win this cup. The mentality was serious.
The stamina and fitness was genuinely of a very high standard.
The skill levels on show were superlative. Many of the players were flown in especially for this tournament.
Twelve nations were represented including the host nation Thailand along with Cameroon, Norway, Scotland, England, Germany, Russia, France, Italy, Finland, Ireland and my assigned country Holland.
There was also a ladies competition, which pleased me, for as many of you will know, I used to work closely with women’s football in Scotland for over three years, so when I was made aware of the female game, I didn’t need much persuasion to give them some publicity.
The opening ceremony was held, presented by the officials, sponsors and local dignitaries.
The teams entered the arena carrying their national flags. Many of the players at this point had not arrived but the ceremony took place regardless and was a success.
Following the speeches and photographs, the competition got underway.
The tournament was split into two groups of six ,with the top two in each group progressing to the semi-finals.
The first match I observed was between England and Germany, which culminated in great disappointment for me. I expected the German team to be exceptionally good but alas, the English played them off the park or in this case the sand.
It goes without saying that I am a lover of German football.
England dominated before running out easy winners in the end. Maybe next year the German team will offer a greater challenge.
Still I was there to take photos and make videos, so I got on with the task.
Holland began with a win over Ireland. A respectable and close game of football but the Dutch were simply too strong for the Irish, who incidentally had a Scotsman from Peterhead in the squad.
I had a good old chinwag with the lad before the match.
Day two and beyond saw the team in orange face other opposition in the form of France, Finland, and Russia. The Russians were, like Holland, well supported. The atmosphere was electric as Russia took a two goal lead. At this point I had the Russians down as clear favourites to win this match.
Not for the first time over the course of the tournament, I was to be proven wrong.
The Dutch came back to win the match scoring four times in the process. Relief all round!
They then faced the team that had won the tournament for the previous six years – Norway.
Like all but one of their previous matches, Holland came back from a 2-0 deficit to win and earned their place in the semi-final against Thailand.
Once again my adopted nation were slow out of the traps before overcoming the host nation.
I actually enjoyed watching Thailand play. They were well prepared, displayed exceptional adeptness with a ball and had a very athletic goalkeeper, whose agility was remarkable.
In the final they met the current champions Norway once more, who had disposed of Cameroon in a rather heated affair.
So it was Holland v Norway in a repeat of last year’s finale, which of course the Norwegians won.
Could Holland defeat them twice in one week? Hundreds of people turned up hours in advance to discover who the victors would be.
Once more the Dutch fell behind early on and I wondered if this was a step too far. I mean how many times can one side come back from going behind to claim victory?
The Norwegians looked strong and once they took the lead, they settled, playing some good football. Their hearts were firmly set on winning that seventh title in a row.
However team orange were not going to lie down and accept defeat without the usual fightback. And fightback they certainly did.
Chances were missed at both ends before Holland finally equalised. Once they found the net, they began to dominate and control the game, eventually winning by a scoreline of four goals to one. A just result in my opinion. They had controlled the match with the majority of the play and took their chances in front of goal.
Norway desperately tried to come back. Even in the last minute and three goals behind, they drove forward in search of a goal. However it was not to be. Not this year.
Over the piece Holland deserved their medals and cup for they fought hard, had a never say die attitude and were completely professional from the outset.
The competition’s top scorer, a chap called Ali, hit the net 20 times for Holland. An impressive achievement.
The final match was chaotic for photographers. The presentation was a frenzied affair as Camera men and women fought for space with people standing with mobile phones or small cameras.
As a result, the images I obtained of the Dutch team receiving their trophies and medals were poor and I feel I let the guys down, through no fault of my own.
In the ladies competition, I was asked to do some photos for Planet Football, a local football academy in Pattaya.
Now this side had the smallest squad of all the teams who had entered but their five or six girls put everything into their play and went on to win the trophy with relative ease.
The ladies provided some wonderful entertainment, as these games were played in a more light hearted spirit but they engaged the crowd, who were engrossed in their matches as much as they were with the men’s.
Now you cannot have a successful football competition without players but you also require supporters.
The organisers built three stands to accommodate the fans but this was not sufficient, such was the demand to watch this tournament.
People were climbing scaffolding, which supported the floodlights. They stood behind the advertising boards, sat in the sand behind the goals or were squashed into a corner with minimalistic views.
This did not deter them however as they create a deafening blare of chants and songs. Once again it was orange clad Dutch who stole the show but other nations got behind their team, even if it was in lesser numbers. Half a dozen Finnish ladies throats must have been sore from encouraging their side.
The Russians were out in force to watch their countrymen too and of course the Thai’s, typically the ladies, could be heard screaming at any opportunity that their boys had to score.
Once again many thanks to Colin, the Dutch Manager for inviting me along and a congratulations to the organisers, who ensured the competition ran like clockwork.
My only criticism, if you could call it that – would be to increase the size of the venue to seat more people. Is that really a condemnation though? Of course not.
This is a very popular event but I know people were leaving due to lack of seating. Success breeds success and my personal feeling is that another hundred seats would not go amiss. The event has the capability of becoming even more prosperous, so what not endorse and encourage this!
I would also have a dedicated press area, especially at the presentation. Fighting for space with a proud granny or wife is not fun lol.
Following the presentation of the cups (and their were many), the Dutch team and countless supporters walked the short distance to The Tulip House, which was one of the team’s sponsors. The bar provided entertainment for the ensuing party that was quite simply – amazing.
With 90% of the people present being from Holland, it was a colourful, joyous event, with singing and dancing throughout the evening. These people know how to party and party they did!
Sadly, having been on my feet for five hours, whilst carrying a heavy bag full of camera equipment, I was ready for my bed and I departed the scene of the celebrations earlier than I would have preferred. From a photographer’s point of view, the festivities would have provided some excellent shots. Having said that, I did get a few while I was there.
I would like to end with what turned out to be a very important image for me. It was taken on the spur of the moment when I noticed a very thirsty young female player, drinking from a bottle of water but the majority of the water was not reaching her mouth. It appeared that she did not care either due to intense heat and thirst she was suffering from.
I used the image to promote my Facebook Page and at the time of writing, it has been viewed by almost 17,000 people, liked by nearly 3000 people and attracted 1000 plus page likes in less than six days.
I have no idea who the girl is but I must offer my sincerest gratitude for making a wonderful image for me.
You can see the image above. I love it and I hope you do too.
I have just found out that the top scorer Ali, mentioned above, has been interviewed by a Dutch newspaper and they have asked permission to use some images. Many thanks to both the newspaper and Ali.
Also to all the people I met who encouraged and thanked me for the photos – I offer my sincerest gratitude.