Updated: Jun 5, 2019
People worldwide can attest that football “is more than just a game; it’s a lifestyle.” In countries around the world, football (American Soccer) is played in the streets, on school grounds, in stadiums, and wherever someone can pick up an old newspaper and crunch it into a paper ball.
More than 2 billion people watched the World Cup Final this passed year. It’s hard to believe that a fourth of our world’s population watched a single sporting event. The statistic undeniably shows why football is the mother of all sports.
Thailand is no different. Football is the most popular sport to play and to watch. It doesn’t mean Thais are necessarily talented players, but it is clear they find as much joy in ‘the beautiful game’ as everywhere else in the world.
You’ll see people playing with a ball wherever you are in the country, from the Chiang Rai mountains in Northern Thailand to the paradise beaches on stunning islands. All ages play. Whether they are young elementary school players learning basic skills, or experienced adults who need to stretch for hours before standing on two feet and kicking a ball. There are many organized leagues to choose from- youth leagues, indoor leagues, adult Sunday leagues, weekend tournaments, and more.
As a foreign teacher, the best way to get touches on the ball is to play after school. The school fields are open til sunset and you best be sure, students will be there playing til they no longer can play anymore. It’s a good opportunity to get competitive with the students that often cause you headaches in the classroom.
Thailand has a national league called the Thai League 1, which is comprised of 18 teams. The league is in its 23rd season. The 2019 season began in mid February and will finish at the end of October. Buriram United, a team located 3 hours East of Bangkok, are the 2018 defending champions. Locals are die-hard fans and often travel long distances to support their team at important away matches. The matches are always aired on local TV, and often on national TV too.
Europe is just stronger
Although the Thai League 1 has talented players, it doesn’t compare to the quality of play in Europe. The players in Europe are simply more talented. The likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United, PSG, and Juventus have the history, experience, finances, and infrastructure to attract the best players of the world. These teams can rip apart a Thai league 1 team. Because the European leagues are the best, they also attract the most fans. Thai’s prefer watching the EPL (The English Premier League). There is one team that Thai’s are most loyal to: Liverpool Football Club in England.
The Liverpool Faithful
It’s quite fascinating to learn that many Thais are faithful to the European giant Liverpool, a top team in England. Liverpool’s growth in Thailand is staggering.
Thailand is the Number 1 country in the world on Facebook following Liverpool with 3 million followers, around 10% of Thailand’s population, and 10 times larger than the city of Liverpool itself.
It all started when the official Liverpool media began replying to comments in Thai on their official Twitter and Facebook pages. Thais were in disbelieve when Liverpool, an English team hundreds of thousands of miles away, were replying to their comments in their native language. They instantly felt connected with the club and haven’t doubted their loyalty ever since.
"The passion for Liverpool Football Club in Thailand is unbelievable and since we started creating localised content, the appetite for news about LFC has become insatiable. Said Jeerawan Duangnam Herriot, Liverpool’s Thai website editor and social media manager. “In October 2012, Thailand was ranked the fourth biggest country in the world for Liverpool on Facebook, behind the UK, Indonesia and Malaysia.”
Not only are the fans loyal to Liverpool, they are highly engaged. The engagement numbers for fans on Facebook in Thailand is higher than other engagement from fans of other football teams.
Thailand fans are wholeheartedly dedicated to the team. They tune into watch every game, wear their jerseys, and engage online. It is something the country has bonded over. It is now part of Thailand’s identity.
As a foreign teacher, it is obvious Liverpool is the most popular team. It bleeds into the classroom. Ask your students about their favorite sports team. I assure you, 80% of them will answer Liverpool.
Liverpool has had an incredible season. They finished 2nd in the English Premier league, the strongest league in the world. They are competing for the biggest prize in European soccer, winner of the Champions League tournament. The game will be played against Tottenham Hotspurs, another English Premier Leaguue team, on June 1st in Madrid. Tune in to watch Thailand’s favorite team make history!
If you're interested in teaching in Thailand, check out Journey to Teach Abroad's Programs and make your way to teaching football focused lessons this year!
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