Bangladesh, Portsmouth & Thaksin

Armed guards in central Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. ©James Montague

It has been an intense few months, travelling to a dozen different countries gathering material for my next book. So far it has taken from The Netherlands to the US, France, the UK, China, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and, most interestingly, Bangladesh.

It is a cricket mad country, but I was interested in the huge number of migrant workers who leave the country to build the megastructures in the Middle East. Whilst I was there though, I managed to squeeze in some football, the 2016 KFC Independence Cup. It was a pre-season tournament of sorts. And who did I bump into? No less than Rohan Ricketts, the former Spurs and Arsenal player now famous for his globe trotting antics.

I did this report from Dhaka for the BBC World Service’s World Football show.

In the same episode I also reported from Paris. This time, it was to interview Thaksin Shinawatra, the former prime minister of Thailand. Most people in the UK also know him for being the owner of Manchester City for one season, during which he was deposed in a coup and had all his assets frozen.

I asked him about his time in English football, the coup and, of course, Leicester City (whose owners are from Thailand and whom Thaksin remains friends with.)

Finally, I also visited the south coast of England to see Portsmouth FC. In 2008 they finished in the top half of the Premier League and had just won the FA Cup. But a series of disastrous owners (one of whom they are still not sure actually exist) left the club on the brink of extinction.

The fans stepped in and it is now the largest club run by a supporters trust in the country. I went to watch their last game of the season to speak to the fans who saved the club, and to see if there is anything we can learn from them about the game in the era of rampant commercialisation. 

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