Steve Jobs would have traced the dots and found their origin in Thailand. Sergio Aguero’s last-gasp strike against Queens Park Rangers that turned the watching world on its head was just part of a butterfly effect generated by some shadowy stock accounts, politically motivated judges and probably you. Yes, I mean any of you reading this article who must have played some role in this country’s political crisis, which is more than a decade old now and still counting.
So, Sir Alex, don’t curse your luck, or referees, or Joey Barton (the OPR captain who got sent off and then gave City a numerical advantage which was exploited so cruelly – to Manchester United fans, at least – in stoppage time). Here is the list of real villains (from a Man Utd perspective) or heroes (if you are a Man Utd hater):
The journalist: His name is Prasong Lertratanawisute, if Manchester City want to do something about it in their museum. The now freelance reporter is the one who exposed Thaksin Shinawatra’s shares scandal. Both the exposure and the scandal sowed the seeds for Thailand’s political turmoil that drove Thaksin to the United Kingdom after the coup in 2006.
The judges: If the Constitution Court in 2001 had convicted Thaksin of filing false assets reports, he would have only been banned from politics for five years. What a peaceful country Thailand would have been now. But more importantly, where the Premier League is concerned, he would not have gone to England.
The yellow shirts: Many of them are Manchester United fans, but their relentless campaign against Thaksin became a strong “pretext” for the next group of naughty villains to pull off something that edged Thaksin closer to his unthinkable destiny of becoming Manchester City’s owner.
The generals: When they staged that coup, Manchester City were a team in all kinds of financial trouble and lingering in the bottom half of the league table. The club ended the 2006-2007 season in 14th spot, with 42 points and a goal difference of minus 15. The ouster of Thaksin meant the club’s luck was about to change. (Oh, Manchester United won that season’s title with 89 points and a goal difference of plus 56)
The other group of judges: Before they convicted him of malfeasance in allowing his now divorced wife to buy a plot of government-owned land while in power, Thaksin had bought Manchester City. Whether the legal trouble associated with the case prompted him to sell the club to its current Arab owners, or he had always intended to sell the club anyway, was debatable. The Ratchadapisek land case, however, seemed to at least accelerate the transfer of the club to the investors from the Abu Dhabi United Group.
The rest is history. Newfound financial clout enabled Manchester City to buy great players at will, like a kid playing fantasy football on a computer. Among them are those who were instrumental in bringing the title to the club for the first time in more than four decades – Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure, David Silva, Edin Dzeko, Mario Balotelli, Carlos Tevez and, of course, Sergio Aguero.
Some may argue that, even without Thaksin, Manchester City would have ended up in the hands of the Abu Dhabi United Group and still won this season’s title anyway. But then again, Thaksin’s involvement dictated the rhythm of what happened – the changes of managers, the purchase of new players and so on. Manchester City could have still won the title last Sunday, but surely not in that absolutely insane manner.
Football history has been made, and we bitterly divided Thais should be at least proud of it. The biggest mystery is not about why the British media failed to see the Thai connections, which look very obvious to me, but about why Thaksin does not get the recognition he deserves from the club. On the club’s website, you would expect to see his name written in gold in the “history” section, but instead they mention everyone but him. The Abu Dhabi United Group is mentioned. Even Sven Goran Eriksson, the well-known coach hired by Thaksin, is mentioned. Not a word on the man who should be damned by Sir Alex Ferguson and millions of those wearing the red shirt of Manchester United all over the world.