Liverpool FC Fan No. 1

Linked to Just One person from around the World at Cady Luck Leedy

Elephans roam the area

We were spending a few days at the Floatel near Hellfire Pass on the River Kwai in Thailand, a peaceful sojourn in a place that was once hell for POWs of the Imperial Japanese Army during WWll. The Floatel was in a Mons village and we arrived there after a drive of about an hour from Kanchanaburi then another hour’s ride in a fast-moving longboat.

Our stay was memorable for many things, the novelty of our accommodation on a boat that swayed throughout the night as water buffaloes and elephants swam past, the noise from the monkeys in the trees around and the cold-water shower that came from a tank perched precariously on a wooden structure in our ‘bathroom’ – a curtained off partition in the bedroom where the outlet for the water was through the floorboards into the river.

Khun Lek Dressed for his Mountain Walk

But my memory of that time is of one person – the greatest football supporter I’ve ever met. It was January 24th, 1999, and Khun Lek, the waiter (who did all meals plus the bar), had to leave early that night because his team, Liverpool FC, was playing Manchester United FC. But this wasn’t just popping home to his house in the village. He was going to walk over two mountains to another valley, a lone walk that would take him approximately 5 hours with only the moon to light his way – and a head torch to help him catch some frogs as he walked! There was a satellite in the valley to which he was heading that was capable of receiving the programme and fans would gather there from miles around. After the game he would walk 5 hours back over the mountains to work

This was when I fully realised what football meant to the fans beyond Europe. The memory came back to me this week as UK fans protested against the hijacking of the game by the current owners of the top teams who are trying to cash in on this international support. These international fans, who don’t even speak the language of their favourite teams, be they Chelsea, Real Madrid, Juventas or Benfica, will do anything to watch a game: they have their favourite teams, they know each player and what position they play in, they know the managers, the coaches and the names of the stadia. (I gained Brownie points because I was able to add something to Khun Lek’s knowledge. I knew what The Kop stood for and the story fascinated him).

When he appeared, ready for his marathon walk, he was a sight to behold. It is cold on the mountains at night so over his clothes he wore a duvet and on his head he had a tightly bound scarf. Strapped around his forehead he had a torch to help guide his way but also, he told me, to catch some of the mountain frogs which were a delicacy in that part of the world. Underneath a striped tee shirt he wore his Liverpool strip and his Liverpool FC hat was in his backpack along with other paraphernalia for the game.

One meets many memorable characters on holiday but I can honestly say that Khun Lek was one of the most memorable – a happy, happy man and Liverpool’s No. 1 Fan – he told me so himself. And what was his hope for the future? To one day stand on The Kop and cheer his team. If I could grant his wish I would.

Photos above are of the Floatel and surroundings, a baby elephant foraging for food behind the kitchens, the accommodation, the bar, the local schoolroom (one room), a place for hanging out, and Mari and Thai friend Suchada at breakfast.

20 thoughts on “Liverpool FC Fan No. 1

    1. Thanks for liking the anecdote. Yes, it was a great holiday with my husband and our Australian friend and his Thai wife). I was reminded of it by the phrase Just one Person around the World phrase, dug out my photographs and scanned them in – much easier than scanning slides although the results aren’t as good.

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    1. Maybe I should have posted more images – of the water buffaloes maybe, swimming past our ‘restaurant’? Lucky for me I’m a football fan, though not a fanatic, an Arsenal supporter since my days of living in Highbury in London.

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  1. I hope you’ll post some of your thoughts on Kanchanaburi. I like it a lot although I’m not too keen on the main town. I had a problem with all the Japanese tourists partying on the houseboats throughout the night. I’m old enough to think that some respect is still due to those who died there. The Mons people were a delight and i would love to spend more time with them.

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  2. It is indeed a rather unusual meeting. Is it really football that can put them in such a state or is it the search for something of value in their lives, like a way to project themselves into a different life where they would actually live in the country of their favourite club.

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    1. No, they really love the game and love the attachment to a team. I’ve met lots of fans around the world and they are all the same. Fandom is a sort of lingua franca and I have seen my husband converse with Hungarians, neither understanding the other’s language, but they knew the names of the footballers and a name plus a thumbs up was a whole paragraph!

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  3. A fabulous post Mari! I don’t know whether I’m more taken by the sound of that hotel (I would love to stay somewhere like that, feeling the motion of the water and knowing elephants were just outside my door) or the dedication of Khun Lek who sounds like an amazing character 😀 As a football fan myself (Newcastle Utd) I’ve travelled to a fair few places to see them play live, but to walk 5 hours just to watch the game via satellite is much more than I can contemplate 😀

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    1. It’s great to meet such enthusiasm, especially among people who have much less than we have. My husband got one of our major teams to send shirts and scarves for the local team – they were like millionaires I was told.

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  4. Now that’s what I call dedication, Mari! An unbelievable hike to watch the match, though I do know that Liverpool have some of the most dedicated fans on the planet (my son is one, but he only has to turn the TV to the sports channel- if his partner will let him 🙂 ) We live in such different worlds, don’t we? That’s a great story and I’m wincing at the thought of cold showers.

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    1. Ah! cold showers, yes, but it was 29 or 30 degrees outside, so less shivering. I, too, have a Liverpool fan in the family and they do seem more dedicated than the others. Nick and I were both Arsenal, he was Newcastle second (his family hailed from there) and I went for the underdog – for most of the time – Portsmouth.

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