Article by Mr Michael Sammons
It was set to be one of the biggest challenge for this golden generation of Thailand Tigers; a long trip to the near-mythical city of Luang Prabang, somewhere off the beaten track, to defend their deservedly won Indo-China Cup. Last year they had the undeniable advantage of a home ground and big numbers, but this time they’d need to become the first Tigers team to defend the ICC with a small touring squad.
Determined to have a real crack at it the following morning, the Tigers were out of the pub by 8pm on the Friday night, and safely tucked up in bed well before midnight, which meant they were all ready to take on their biggest threat in their quest for back-to-back titles; 4-time winners the Vietnam Swans.
Thanks to both the small field and small squad numbers for all 4 competing countries (the Cocks had pulled out early), teams were reduced to just 12-a-side on the pitch, and while this played into our hands with quality filling each possession, we knew that the better players on the opposition could remained involved longer and more frequently in the games.
The Tigers team took on a familiar look, with midfield regulars Paddy and Stuey being joined by the big bodies of Sammy C and Bane. Brownlow commanded the experienced backline which boasted Sugar, Samo and Yorkie, while Rut, Jordan, Chippie and Clokey covered an inexperienced by very multicultural forward line. With quality players Lockii, Jazza, Lettuce, Rainsford and Coxy waiting in the wings, the Tigers were a formidable outfit.
Game 1: Tigers vs Swans
The first half against the Swans was unsurprisingly fierce, with the winner going on to become deserved ICC favourites, it was already a do-or-die game. Both teams hit the ball and the man fiercely and it wasn’t long before the day earned its first casually. Playing his usual courageous style but in an unfamiliar role up forward, Rutty was running with the flight of the ball when he collided with the charging fullback from the Swans. Not many gave him a chance to stand upright again, and they were soon proven correct when the stretcher swiftly came out to cart the luckless Rutty off to the nearest hospital. The Tigers limped to the first change with a small 10 point lead over the Swans, and resolved to come out stronger in the second stanza. In a high-scoring game which belied its toughness around the contests, the Tigers managed to pull further away from their foes thanks to some inspired positional changes which saw Lockii play through the middle with Bane sitting at full-forward and Samo taking up the unfamiliar position at full-back. A good, strong performance across the board allowed the Tigers to run out comfortable winners;
Tigers 9.5.59 d Swans 5.3.33
Game 2: Tigers vs Laos
There was no rest for the Tigers with back-to-back games coming with a meeting against the home team Laos, who were packed-full with their long-time stars and rapidly improving local players. Not a game we could afford to take lightly.
After a strong opening couple of minutes which saw the Tigers kick a couple of quick goals, the Elephants hit back, and they hit back hard, with 2 goals of their own. The Tigers then steadied to see out the quarter with a slim 7 point lead and a lot of room for improvement. The Tigers showed a lot more fight, determination and skill in the second half as the Laos boys started to slow and the Tigers upped the ante. With Sammy C and Bane continuously being to big, strong and awesome for their opponents, and Lockii grabbing everything that came his way, the Tigers comfortably outscored the Elephants for the half and marched away victors and just one win away from regaining the Indo-China Cup.
Tigers 10.6.66 d Elephants 5.2.32
Game 3: Tigers vs Eagles
With just the Cambodian Eagles standing between us and the Cup, the Tigers were confident of the ultimate victory coming into the final game of the day. However, with multiple injures beginning to take their toll on the entire squad, and Cambodia previously running Vietnam to within 1 point, this was not a match to be taken lightly. Far from their best at the opening bounce, the Tigers got off to a slow start against an Eagles team that was still in with an outside chance of stealing the ICC for itself. The Cambodian mosquito fleet were causing havoc of the weary legged Tigers and whilst their size prevented them from causing too many bruises, their tenaciousness and constant efforts were messing with the Tigers disposals and timing. After a closely contested first half, Thailand held another small lead, knowing that one final strong 15 minutes would be enough to bring the trophy home. The final half saw Cambodia continue their high-intensity footy, but the extra class of the Tigers and a solid backline performance, saw the Tigers get over the line in the end.
Tigers 6.3.39 d Eagles 3.5.23
So there it is; the Thailand Tigers are again the Champions of Indochina for the forth time since 2007 and for the second straight year.
Special thanks needs to go to the following people;
Bear – As usual, doing with the big huggy Bear does best, helping out in a multitude of ways that benefits all.
Rutty – Unfortunately got himself cleaned up and spent the majority of the day on a stretcher, but is a passionate supporter of Indo-China footy and does a lot of work behind the scenes.
Jazza – Working whiteboards, organising hotels, trying to get the boys to pay for flights. It’s a thankless task, but he always shines at it.
Paddy – Taking a sabbatical from the Tigers for a while, he has guided the Tigers through a successful period, especially as he has been the most dominant player we’ve had for a long time. Enjoy Afghanistan… shouldn’t be too different…
Rob Brewer – for all his shortcomings as a Tottehnam supporter, he took some awesome photographs of the event and shares them freely with due acknowledgement (see his website for the pics – http://ardmawrphotography.zenfolio.com/)
The WAG’s who came along and ran water (Em) and took care of poor Rutty when put his body on the line for the team.
And everyone else who put in time ad effort to get the tour off the ground.