Thailand's embassy supported the fans travelling to Verona, printed special t-shirts for them to wear and even organised a Thai dinner to celebrate the team
Verona, Italy, September 30, 2014 – Thailand left Italy on Tuesday morning after losing four of the first five matches, but the impression the team and their fans have made in Verona will remain.
Local fans were curious as to what to expect from Thailand when the first round draw was made in Parma, as they realised that no-one could quote the name of a famous player from that part of Asia.
The team's debut was an almost impossible task against the reigning world champions, Russia. With the likes of Koseleva, Gamova and Goncharova in the Europeans’ team, the Asians expectedly stood little chance and lost in straight sets. What came unexpected was the team’s fighting spirit coupled with passionate support in the stands from dozens of travelling fans. Dressed in their nation’s colours and costume, they cheered at every opportunity and sang their hearts out all match.
The fans arrived not only in numbers, but also prepared to support their team, shouting, singing, dancing, waving flags and banners non-stop during all five of their matches at ParaOlimpia. Some fans displayed a frame with the official portrait of the King of Thailand, Bhumibol Adulyadej, while others cheered with a traditional mask on their face
“I come from Cuneo, which is 400 km away from Verona. You know, I came especially to visit my team. I love them, they’re special and they are our pride,” one fan explained in a high pitch voice while simultaneously going mad for her team as they fought for a point. “People are coming from all over northern Italy and my friend is coming from Hamburg. She took the plane to come over here after taking a week’s holiday from work. We came here with the consulate.”
Mrs Penprapa Vongkovit, minister of the Royal Thai Embassy in Roma, explained the excursion. “We organised a special deal for our citizens living abroad. Our beautiful homeland is far away and this is the moment to stay united and stand tall, be passionate and to show people how Thailand’s people are.”
“We didn’t come here only to see a couple of games. Since we knew that Thailand were due to play in Italy, we arranged a full range of initiatives through our consulates around Italy and Europe. We organised their trips to Verona and also hotels if they needed one," Vongkovit added.
The embassy even printed special t-shirts for the occasion, offered support if there was any trouble the fans might have in order to come to Verona and organised a Thai dinner in a temporarily converted Italian restaurant in the outskirts of Verona, where supporters brought food and had a party to celebrate the team. “We provided also a consulate mobile unit in Verona, where our citizens in Italy can come and do all the things they need to do normally in Rome. It’s a great occasion for everybody, as a sport-nation and as a nation.”
The support to their team never declined, even as Thailand missed their last chance to make it to the second round losing to Kazakhstan on Sunday. “Thai people, just like our players, are small. You can see that. But they have a great heart,” Vongkovit said. USA coach Karch Kiraly had used similar words to describe the Asian team after the Americans beat them on Saturday.
The second round will kick off at PalaOlimpia in Verona with the clash between Serbia and the Netherlands at 17:00, followed by the match between Brazil and Kazakhstan at 20:00 on Wednesday.