Mekong Cup 2000 Champions
by John Casella

On Saturday, April 29th the Bangkok "Thai Stix" ball hockey warriors did battle in the 6th Annual Mekong Cup International Ball Hockey Tournament, the largest ball hockey tournament of its kind in all of Asia. This event takes place every year in the middle of springtime once the winter snows of Phuket have melted, giving way to the smooth surface of the Amari Coral Beach tennis courts and exposing the soft underbelly of Patong Beach (sounds exciting doesn't it?). This year, the tournament's historical combatants were all in attendance - Bangkok, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. Heightening the drama was the fact that in spite of engaging strong troops in past years, Bangkok had never managed to win the war for regional ball hockey supremacy.

Personally, this year's tournament was truly the most extraordinary Mekong Cup that this reporter has ever been a part of over the last 4 kicks at the can. This is not simply because we won the damn thing (although that has plenty to do with it), but also the way in which we won (pulling off the most miraculous turnaround in Mekong Cup history). The team from Thailand got off to a terribly weak start, losing the first two games by a combined score of 10-3 (i.e., Singapore 4 - Bangkok 1, and Kuala Lumpur 6 - Bangkok 2).

Any reasonable person would have completely counted us out. Fortunately, we are not reasonable people. The team didn't let its dismal morning dampen its spirits. Some chalk-talk over lunch and a poolside pep-rally helped keep the team loose for the afternoon. The Thai Stix had the advantage of the other teams' supreme over-confidence and that was just the way we wanted it. They had fallen in to our trap, which we had spent 5 years perfecting. A couple of adjustments were made in the line-up, a little communal soul searching, and the team from Bangkok was off to the races. And the scores tell the tale:

Game 3: Bangkok 2 - Kuala Lumpur 0
Game 4: Bangkok 1 - Singapore 0
FINAL: BKK 4 - KL 2

Everyone was focused and every player contributed with all they had. The Thai Stix truly played and worked together as a unit. Our founding fathers Rich Meiklejohn (now living in Sydney) and Philip Utsch (now in Seoul), despite some reservations, moved back to defense and played brilliantly. Marc Ehler, Germaine Bergeron, Keith Johnston, and Kelly Cailes made up the rest of the defensive core that thoroughly shut down opposing attackers. They were the backbone of our team and allowed only 2 goals in the three grueling afternoon games. There was not a weak link out there and guys were not afraid to throw their bodies around, blocking shots, and moving the ball like never before. The Thai Stix really took control of the play!

And Thailand's ultimate victory could only have happened with an equally strong effort from their offense. The KL and Singapore players never had time to get set up because the Bangkok forwards were always on top of them, forcing the play and creating good scoring chances. Line-mates were as follows: John "il Duce" Casella & Shane "Pchez" Gunther, John "BBB.com" Stevens & Jamie "all the way from HK" Hunter, and the threesome of Scott "Curator of the Dave Brown Museum" Murray, Jennifer "the Girl" Hall & Harold "Tuk Tuk to the Airport" Chislett. Hats off to John, Jamie & Germaine for pulling the trigger on most of the goals, but the whole offense was clicking on all cylinders. And Pat Brundson, goaltender extraordinare, was outstanding between the pipes and deservedly won the MVP award. The Mekong Cup was finally hoisted for the Thai Stix and the champagne overflowed.

Bangkok's ball hockey players have already begun the campaign to defend their title at Mekong Cup #7 (tentatively scheduled for the end of April 2001). The team plays open scrimmages on the tennis courts at the British Club (Silom Soi 18) every Thursday evening from 8:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Anyone interested in joining the fun should contact John Casella at (662) 231-8234 or jcasella@churchill-pryce.com.