In Battlegrounds Asia, we look into the history and lore of the stadiums that will host the Lion City Sailors’ second foray into the AFC Champions League (ACL), Asia’s top-tier club competition.
In the third part of this series, we dive headfirst into the Thammasat Stadium where the Sailors will battle Bangkok United.
Located in the city of Rangsit, Pathum Thani, some 40 kilometres north of the busy Thai capital of Bangkok, is the rustic-looking Thammasat Stadium.
Located within a school
Roughly half the size of the Rajamangala Stadium – the biggest football stadium in Thailand – the Thammasat Stadium has a capacity of 25,000 spectators.
Opened in 1998, the stadium first opened its doors to that year’s Asian Games, hosting four group-stage matches of its women’s football tournament.
Interestingly located within the Thammasat University’s Rangsit campus, the stadium comes under the purview of the school and as such it regularly hosts sporting and other events of the university.
Since the turn of the millennium, four Thai League clubs have called the stadium home, most recently Bangkok United – who feature in Group F of the 2023/24 Asian Football Confederation Champions League alongside the Lion City Sailors, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and Hong Kong’s Kitchee SC – who have been hosting their matches at the venue since 2016.
In terms of appearance, the Thammasat Stadium resembles a scaled-down version of the Rajamangala, except that it has a roof covering its two side tribunes.
And perhaps what sets the Thammasat aside from other Thai stadiums are the remarkable floodlights – with the architects opting for steel material instead of the typical concrete pylons. And as such, the base of each pylon seems to grip the exterior of the stadium when viewed from outside and they lean over the tribunes that properly illuminates the pitch area.
The Thammasat Stadium is also known as the True Stadium for commercial purposes, as they are owned by True Corporation who runs TrueMove H – one of Thailand’s biggest mobile providers.
The venue for regional tournaments
With the great lighting and decent facilities, it has been a venue that has proven favourable to organisers of international fixtures.
In January 2020 before Covid-19 wreaked havoc on the world, the Thammasat Stadium was one of four venues chosen to host the 2020 AFC Under-23 Championship that were held in Thailand.
A total of 12 matches ranging from group-stage affairs all the way to the semi-finals was played there – including South Korea’s 2-1 quarter-final win over Jordan that witnessed current Korean star forward Cho Gue-sung netting the opening goal on the night.
The best-attended match of that tournament was the quarter-final affair between Thailand and Saudi Arabia. The hosts were chasing a historic place in the last four but succumbed to a 78th-minute penalty to bow out in front of 14,958 fans.
The stadium was then used again for four matches of 2022 ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Championship that involved the Thailand national team – most notably the second leg of the final that welcomed dignitaries like FIFA president Gianni Infantino. Thailand defeated Vietnam 1-0 to prevail 3-2 on aggregate to claim a record-breaking seventh AFF triumph.
The attendance of 19,306 that night is the Thammasat Stadium’s all-time attendance record.
In June this year, it was also used for nine matches of the 2023 AFC Under-17 Asian Cup.
The stadium is also occasionally used for entertainment events. Earlier this March, it hosted Thai Channel 3’s 53rd Anniversary Beloved Festival that saw fans indulging in a night of fun and entertainment with a celebrity football match and performances from Thai superstars like Mario Maurer, Bella Ranee and Yaya Urassaya.
Next January, K-Pop group NCT 127 is scheduled to host a two-day concert at the venue as part of their world tour.
But football remains the heart and soul of the Thammasat Stadium and on Wednesday, it will for the first time play host to a Singaporean club in the ACL.
It was supposed to host PEA FC’s ACL qualifying play-off against the now-defunct Singapore Armed Forces FC in 2009, but the pitch was deemed unplayable and the match was switched to Rajamangala.
Fans of the Sailors will relish screaming and creating a ruckus from the stadium’s South Stand as the club looks to take one step further to fulfilling our aspirations of becoming the first Singaporean club to qualify for the ACL’s Round of 16.