At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, shoppers in many countries rushed to stockpile essential goods, creating a panic buying frenzy.
Curiously, toilet paper was one of the most in-demand products as people battled to ensure their personal hygiene needs would be met over an uncertain period.
Meanwhile, in Klong Toey, Bangkok, stockpiling of another kind has been taking place. Unlike those who purchased multiple rolls of toilet paper, however, it is far from certain that the buyer of several new Port FC players will ever get to use them.
The purpose of toilet paper is clear, but the purpose of many of Port’s new arrivals is not as they seek to find their place in a squad that is already bursting at the seams.
The ambition of the club president Nualphan Lamsam – better known as Madam Pang – is to build a squad that will become champions of Thailand, whatever it takes. But less is sometimes more and some of Thailand’s top young talents are risking their futures by being bought into project Pang.
When photogenic twins and Thailand U23 internationals Thitathorn and Thitawee Aksornsri became the latest signings this week, the immediate reaction from many fans was not delight at the capture of two promising defensive talents, but confusion at how this pair would fit into the team.
Thitawee is a right-back / centre-back. With Nitipong Selanon having a strong hold on the right-back position, is 22-year-old Thitawee expected to compete or provide solid back-up as well as an additional centre-back option? But Port are also well covered at centre-back, with David Rochela, Elias Dolah, Todsapol Lates and Tanaboon Kesarat all in competition at the start of 2020 before Adisorn Promrak arrived from Muang Thong United last month.
Then there is Thitathorn. He cannot be expected to slot into the left-back role when there are currently three left-backs already on the books. Kevin Deeromram is considered the first choice, while Martin Steuble is a very able back-up. 21-year-old Jaturapat Satham arrived from Chainat in the close season, expected to be one to develop, but where does Thitathorn’s arrival leave him?
Players are arriving much faster than they can leave, so there is an equal amount of congestion in midfield. If Port are to continue with their preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, there will not be room for all of Siwakorn Jakkuprasat, Go Seul-ki, Charyl Chappuis, Sansern Limwattana, Chatmongkol Thongkiri and Kanarin Thawornsak. Sansern, Chatmongkol and Kanarin are three more youngsters who have simply been stockpiled with no apparent thought as to how they will be used.
Further ahead, there is a glut of wingers, attacking midfielders, and second strikers to provide the firepower, but that makes nine players competing for four slots if we are including the likes of Chenrop Samphaodi and Tanakorn Dangthong in the conversation.
There is great strength and depth in this squad, which should be every head coach’s dream, but there is a cost to this depth as several players will find themselves out in the cold, including many young players who are likely to see their development arrested.
There is also a big question around who will be overseeing the team. Pang’s overbearing presence at the club has reached and possibly surpassed Newin levels at Buriram and recent photos at training had her very much projected as the one calling the shots, while caretaker (?) head coach Jadet Meelarp sheepishly looked on.
Rumours circulated that Jadet first heard of the signings of Thitawee and Thitathorn when a journalist broke the news to him. Worryingly, this was not surprising to many given the way things work at the club.
Port FC have a huge opportunity to win the Thai League in what looks a very open contest this year. But, unlike some of their rivals, they appear to lack strategy. Recruitment resembles a race to gobble up every available player of moderate talent or better.
It is a vulgar display of extravagance at a time when many people are hurting from the devastating economic impact of the Covid-19 crisis. There will be no shortage of suffering in the slum neighbourhood from which Port draws much of its fanbase. Nevertheless, Pang sports Gucci T-shirts in training and splashes out a reported 20 million baht (though estimates vary wildly) on players the club does not appear to need.
Some players will have to be cut loose when realization dawns that there is no room for 50-odd players when only 11 can be on the pitch at any time.
You can hoard stacks of toilet paper in your cupboard, safe in the knowledge that it will not expire and that it will not go to waste. Unfortunately, many of Port’s talents are at risk of going to waste as project Pang apparently becomes focused on filling up the shopping trolley to deny other shoppers their share just because Port can.