(The following blog was published yesterday at The Nation. Below, however, is the originally submitted un-edited version)
(The Thai national football team – victims of bias decisions
or just a bunch of bad losers?)
Listening to the country’s children just recently, it sounds like the ‘word of the month’ isn’t ‘Liverpool’, ‘play-game’, ‘Doraemon’ or ‘copy-homework’ but instead ‘cheater’ (Khee Kong). In the classrooms, on the streets and in the alleys, the word ‘cheater’ can now be heard, throughout the day, directed at some friend who has delivered a dis-favour.
It doesn’t require a degree in child psychology to decipher that this ‘word of the month’ probably evolved from last week’s defeat to Singapore in the Asean Football Cup Final. Just last night, while bumping into a beer-chugging cigarette-puffing Thai P.E teacher acquaintance of mine, he was quick to point that “Those Singaporeans are a bunch of Chop-Suey cheats!” I can only imagine that innumerable P.E teachers all over the country have been venting their frustration and anger with such words to their young students. A truly wonderful example to set!
Thailand seems to have suddenly, quite amazingly, forgotten about many very dubious decisions which have fallen in their favour in international sporting events in the past. Excellent examples of such scenarios were witnessed in abundance at the 2000 Asian Games which were held, where else – but in Thailand.
The Singaporeans and Thais aren’t the only ones who have supposedly tried to pull a string or two. I remember the classic a few years back, with the arrival of the Laotian football team to take part in an Under-18 Competition. The home crowd grew just a little suspicious, when instead of witnessing half a team of short young chopsticks running on to the pitch, then did indeed see a troupe of macho-looking six foot guys. Then, in the family and friends enclosure, the spectators got a clear view of a squad of young women cheering away, who quite obviously appeared to be the players’ wives and girlfriends. The association authorities were just about to take strict action against such violation of the age limit, but the Laotians were so hopeless anyway that they were immediately knocked-out. As for another neighbouring country – Malaysia, well they had their complete first division football league abandoned one year, for match-fixing and bribe-taking.
The locals while bellowing ‘Cheater – Cheater’ seem to again have forgotten that once upon a time, not so long ago, that cheating was rampant here in the land’s sporting events (Of course it still is today, but it’s all a little less obvious). A classic example of rife sporting cheating was of course, in Boxing. The Thais even have an expression for such spectacular fainting performances worthy of a part in a Thai Soap Opera – ‘Lom Muay’
(Cheating Boxers – even make the Big Screen!)
Even though it is illegal, even your blind cat can inform you how much of a love the country has for gambling and that fixation for deriving some dirty cash certainly used to spill over into the boxing ring. I can personally recall the sordid incidents a few years back of a couple of burly boxing champions. Stepping into the ring, with millions of viewers and tens of thousands of gamblers glued to their television sets, the champs got off to awesome starts.
After just three rounds with their opponents wobbling on their last legs with cut blackened-eyes, there is suddenly out of nowhere, a so-called punch to the champs’ heads. Then, before you can say ‘cock-a-doodle-doo’, the beloved champions are on the deck out for the count.
With the spectators and gamblers-up-in arms, they are soon fuming furious when they witness the ‘replays’ live on the TV. Instead of there having been a ferocious Mike Tyson blow to the head, there were in fact just a couple of flicks of the hair. A few days later and the dejected former champs are pleading their innocence – from behind bars.
It is not only the local Thais who have a fanatical obsession for gambling on the boxing – a lot of the hairy-legged foreign tourists have one too (Very unfortunately…. As you you shall read!). Not so long ago, down in Pattaya, I had the not so envious opportunity to witness for myself, the goings-on both in and out of the ring. In comes this local tourist guide with a platoon of Farang boxing fans wearing their not so groovy-looking ‘Muay Thai’ shorts. Their guide is soon affording them a few valuable insight tips into which boxers are in the hottest form. After the first few bouts, the tourists are boozing away, delirious at making a bitta cash and rolling in good fortune to having met such a great tipster. Feeling the urge to make stacks of cash, the tourists are soon bidding big! Unluckily however, the tourists had failed to read up about ‘Lom Muay’, and sure enough the guide’s brilliant inside knowledge soon turns into absolute waffle and the frivolous Farangs are off home, with empty wallets. As for the dodgy guide, he has a large smirk on his face.
Cheating is everywhere and it isn’t just sports. Just yesteryear, and in some cases still today, even though you had the eye-sight of a hamster and the driving skills of a chimpanzee, it was still perfectly plausible to pass your driver’s test. Of course a handsome donation to the office’s monthly whiskey fund was much appreciated. As for the average foreigner, even today, who needs to pass his driver’s test but can’t read Thai, it is advised that he show up at the authority’s office with a lawyer. Alas, the latter will be able to point out the correct translations and perhaps a few answers too.
(Former Beauty Queen ‘Miss Joy’ – Disqualified for not – being a virgin!)
Believe-it-or-not, even the land’s beauty pageant contests have been involved in seedy scandals. A couple of years back, one dainty darling beauty champion was disqualified after it was found out that she had once been married. And married she had been. The media cottoned on to her painful plight and there she was on our TV screens for the next few nights balling her eyes out and pleading her innocence along the lines of “Yes, I got married, but my parents had forced me into it”. Sadly, however, our buxom beauty never did reclaim her crown. Under pressure to re-qualify the women, it was reported that one of the old fuddy-duddy judges stated something like “It is all very unfortunate, but the disqualification must stay in place. All the contestants, before they can participate, must be virgins”.
The most prominent location for abundant outright cheating, however, just has to be the nation’s classrooms. Anyone who has ever stepped foot in one, will have realized that the ‘brains of the future’ love nothing more than spending the entirety of their days copying their buddies’ homework. As for the students’ actual teachers, most of them just turn a blind-eye and pretend they don’t notice. The exams too are no exemption to shameless copying and Thai school children have perfectly master-minded the art of ‘cheating techniques’.
If memory serves me right, even the former prime minister’s beloved son was once booted out of his university exam, for taking in suspicious looking notes. It was even Square-face himself who once admitted that copying in exams is a social normality and the best we could hope for was to just ‘cut-down on it’’. Great words of wisdom too, from a father who caused a national outcry after his average-graded daughter quite miraculously won a place at one of Thailand’s top universities. There are lots more areas of cheating, but I guess that’s enough for this time round.
As you can well imagine, ridiculous adult behavior like this from your average Mr Somchai or Miss Somying, isn’t exactly setting decent moral standards for the new generation. What the ‘brains of the future’ really need, is to be taught that corny cheating by anyone of any race, ought not to be an acceptable every day social normality.