Swat Cats 1 - 1 Buriram United @ The King's Stadium

In case you hadn't heard (been living in a bunker, cut your ears off or had your head in the sand), Nakhon Ratchasima Mazda FC had rather a big game against local Thai Premier League rivals Buriram United on Saturday 11th July at The King's Stadium in the first ever Premier League Isan derby between the two best supported clubs in South East Asia. It turned out to be the largest football attendance in Thai Premier League history, with the stadium announcing a (way) more than capacity crowd of a staggering 34,689.

Sarawut Masuk scored in the 17th minute to put Swat Cats up against the reigning champions, before Sittichok Kannoo equalised for Buriram in the second half, with just over 10 minutes to go. 

The previous highest attendance record for the Thai Premier League was in May last year, when Buriram hosted Muangthong United in front of 33,325 attendances at the Thunder Castle Stadium.

With Swat Cats visiting Buriram for the next round of the FA Cup on Wednesday 29th July, and with the away leg of the Premier League to be played in November, it is highly possible that we could see this record broken later in the season.

The match itself had the atmosphere of a carnival, with thousands of people arriving at the stadium throughout the day and all the seats being filled up more than an hour before the match. The stadium has a maximum capacity of 23,000 - 25,000, so latecomers made do with cramming in on the sides and even sitting up on the structures edges, anywhere to get a view of the pitch! It had the feel of a rock concert, with giant flags, MC's on microphones getting the crowd going and probably 40,000 (plus) fans cheering their teams on. It was classic 'safety third' and it may be that higher football authorities end up looking into how so many fans were allowed to enter the stadium.

For a full match report and some quality footy thoughts, check out the Swat Cats English website

After a positive result, Swat Cats' German midfielder Björn Lindemann is not getting carried away and insists Nakhon Ratchasima are still a long way from Buriram's level.

"The most important thing this year is still to stay in this league," the former Army United and Suphanburi man said. "It's a tough league and although we managed to draw with the best team, last week we lost 2-0 to Saraburi who are at the bottom."

"Hopefully, we can finish in at least 10th or 11th place. Next season, we will need more quality and experience to make a bigger impact."

He added about the crowd: "The fans were amazing. Every professional footballer plays the game to experience this kind of atmosphere. The people in the city absolutely love the club and they help us a lot. But it was strange to see the crowd was about 35,000 when the stadium should only hold around 25,000."

Talking of Korat's chances of challenging their Isan rivals, who are currently top of the league, he concluded: " As a club, we can do better but it takes time," he said. "Buriram have worked very hard and maintained a good level of quality for the last three years. With the support they have, Nakhon Ratchasima have a good opportunity to develop but there is a long way to go."

"We need better facilities and a more professional approach if we are to challenge Buriram in the future."

Swat Cats now lie in 10th with 18 points from 14 games and play their next league game away to Port in Bangkok on Wednesday 15th July.

For a time lapse video of the stadium filling up, check out this Facebook page

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