Pattaya: New football Mecca?

Updated: March 29, 2016
Pattaya fans v Chonburi

Pattaya conjures up many colourful images in the mind – pro football is probably not among them.

Yet the seaside city, officially with a population of just 100,000, has seen the arrival of two brand new clubs within the past few months, putting the number to five professional teams within a one hour drive of the city centre. A little London in the making? Pattaya United, Chonburi FC and Navy are the established teams, while Internazionale Pattaya FC (Inter) and Pattaya FC are the new boys kicking around.

Though implosions are possible, these new outfits provide an opportunity for domestic and international players to make a name for themselves in the ever-changing world of Thai football.

Pattaya United are the established Pattaya club and were recently promoted back into the Premier League of Thailand (PLT). However, myriad financial, political and administrative issues meant that their participation (or continued existence) was only confirmed right at the start of the season. With the PLT eventually getting things sorted, the games are on, at least for now. With province neighbours Chonburi and Navy in the PLT also, Pattaya United can expect equal love, home and away.

The season has started relatively well for United given they are now in with the big boys, with two narrow losses (one a 2-1 loss away to rivals Chonburi in the opening fixture) and two exciting draws.

Pattaya v Bangkok United

Pattaya United scoring against Bangkok United this season

They face Sukhothai away on March 30, followed by a tough game against reigning champions Buriram at home on April 2. An international football tourist told me about the trouble his taxi driver had getting to the ground but was pleasantly surprised by the quality of football and the atmosphere at the last game (a 3-3 draw with Chiang Rai United).  Our tourist did tour South America on a bus, going to football games and even wrote a book on the experience, so he should know.

Pattaya FC is a newish team on the block made by cobbling several other teams together. Though according to local resident Berny Zimmer, a longtime supporter, Pattaya FC is the original Pattaya club. How much enthusiasm there is for the smash-up is questionable based on some Facebook posts. But then social media in Thailand can lead one down all sorts of mystifying paths. AIS Regional League 2 (the Thai 3rd tier), however, accepted the newish club into the dynamic regional fold – 11 clubs in the Bangkok-East Division. Games are at the Nongprue Stadium, venue of Pattaya United’s games. Pattaya FC’s profile is limited in many areas though the club is working on building up its internet presence. Players have contributed by winning one and narrowly losing a second this season. Potentially confusing though is the established amateur side Pattaya City FC, made up of mostly amateur expats playing in the Bangkok Casuals League.

Inter Pattaya Football Club

Inter is another newborn club. Tired of the games played on and off the pitch in the local football scene, someone decided to do something. Gaining a licence at the end of 2015, a new team started training and playing friendlies early this year.

Also competing in AIS League 2, they have won one of their first two leagues games.  Having sourced a series of sponsors and affiliates, Inter appear to have a well laid out professional plan. With a group of international players, coach and rented facilities, the team looks poised for the future. An artificial turf ground and unpaved road show some of the challenges that still exist. However, an active Facebook page does keep fans informed, with some attempts at English updates. Inter’s home games are at a neutral venue as their home ground is not approved as of writing (March 2016).

Expat fans all echo the need for more news/updates/information in English by the clubs.  Zimmer, a Pattaya resident for 23 years, has made connections with all the team owners, staff and players (the person in the know if ever there was one) and regularly attends home and away matches. His love for the game and connections keep him informed but for the rest of us, an understanding of Thai, some diligent internet searching and luck is required.

Being in a residential part of town (locally known as “The Darkside”), many expat families attend games while the bulk of tourists are limited to beaches, bars and the benign bustle. There are many German and French-speaking supporters at the games which may explain the limited English outreach. The Pattaya Mail publishes some game reports, though a week or two late.

This reporter did try to contact the three Pattaya-based clubs via Facebook, email, visiting one team’s training session and attending some games, but gained little regarding managerial responses. Business card exchanges did not work either. A Facebook “Like” for a match report on an Inter friendly by an owner was the closest acknowledgment. Expat supporters that hang around the teams do tell some interesting stories worthy of Jeffery Archer. Personalities at the helm can be volatile. One ex-chairman leads one new club, a fed-up supporter started another.

Attending football games in Pattaya is a great experience, especially with over 2,000 “friends” there with you (or 400 for League Two matches). Several supporters describe the quality of PLT games as German 3rd division (occasionally 2nd) or English League 1 (occasionally Championship), while the League 2 games are definitely of regional standard.

Supporters’ enthusiasm is infectious. The Pattaya United Ultras are great fans keeping the rhythm going throughout the match, postgame salutes to the fans by the players a quirk of the Asian game. Seeing players standing in front of chanting supporters after a game for the first time is unique. Travel in loud VIP busses is also possible for supporters.  A mixed crowd of males and females, young and old, locals and expats, brings colour to the spectacle.  Pattaya FC also have Thai “pretties” to ensure some excitement, one way or another.

After a stumbling start, the Thai 2016 football calendar is set to be a busy one in Pattaya. Fans are sure to enjoy the ride.


Getting to the grounds: Most games are played at Nongprue Central Sports Stadium, locatable on Google Maps.

From Pattaya city centre:

By car: From the #7 Highway onto Sukhumvit (heading south), turn off onto Soi Siam Country Club Road, drive for about 5km then you will come to a traffic light with a 711, TescoLotus Mini, Honda Showroom and Police outpost at the intersection. Turn right and after about 0.5km or so you will see a bright revolving advertisement board on a roundabout, turn left and within 200m you are there. The roundabout is important because that is where you can get motorbike taxis back to town. Motorbike taxis are available off Sukhumvit Road opposite Pattaya Klang on the Numchai side (look for the footbridge across Sukhumvit) for about 60 baht (US$1.60).

Public transport: Taxis can get you there for about 200-300 baht from most malls or hotels; ask for Nongprue Municipality Government Office (or Police Station), which is about 100m from the ground and on the same road (Nongmaikean Road). Parking is on Wat Suttawas ground.

Cost: League 2 games are between 60-80 baht, while PLT games are 120-200 baht depending on seating area. Behind the goals is where the most vocal supporters are, particularly the stand behind the ticket booth. Tickets go on sale on game day from about one hour before kick-off.

Refreshments: Available outside the ground with the many vendors selling Thai snacks (sausages, meatballs, grilled squid, etc.), and drinks, including beer. Bottles are not allowed into the grounds but I have seen guys with cups of beer in the stands. Most vendors provide cups.

Merchandise: Shirts and other supporters’ knick-knacks are sold at the ground also. Away fans use the entrance on Wat Suttawas. There is usually some signage on game day.

Inter Pattaya use Plant Football’s second ground which is near Horse Shoe Point. Drive about 8km along Soi Siam Country Club Road to Lake Mabaprachan (just past Shenanigans) and look for the signs to Horse Shoe Point and you will see the Inter sign (about 1.5 x 1m big). The last bit of road is unpaved as of March 2016 (think driving into someone’s garden).

Images: Pattaya United Facebook page


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Thai Regional League, Thai FA Cup, Thai League Cup, AFC Champions League, AFC

ThaiGoals, Thailand Soccer, Thai Football, Premier League of Thailand, Thai Fixtures

Thailand National Team, Thai Grounds, Thai Division One, Thai Regional League, Thai FA Cup, Thai League Cup

ThaiGoals, Thailand Soccer, Thai Football, Premier League of Thailand, Thai Fixtures
Thai Regional League, Thai FA Cup, Thai League Cup, AFC Champions League, AFC
Thai Goals, Thailand National Team, Thai Grounds, Thai Division One, Thai Regional League, Thai FA Cup, Thai League Cup< ThaiGoals, Thailand Soccer, Thai Football, Premier League of Thailand, Thai Fixtures ThaiGoals, Thailand Soccer, Thai Football, Premier League of Thailand, Thai Fixtures
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