It’s not just expats who benefit from joining a sports team. Thai locals get something out of it, too. Ekk Jampa, 28, is a native to Chiang Mai and says that since he joined the Ultimate Frisbee team in 2006, his English has improved tremendously just by playing alongside foreigners for so many years.
“My English was not like this back then,” he says. “And some people on the team would make fun of me all the time for it.” A team member sitting in the sidelines cuts in: “Oh, Ekk, we still make fun of you.” Ekk smiles and brushes him off. “It’s a really good community of farang here,” he adds.
Ultimate Frisbee is a high-intensity co-ed sport that combines skill, speed, and most importantly, fun. There’s minimal contact, which makes it a pleasant game for all. A unique facet about these players is that they support a grassroots organisation called Urban Light that works with at-risk teenage boys to help them avoid the kinds of vulnerabilities that might otherwise push them down the path of male prostitution.
Aw Kuntamarat, 23, works for the organisation and invites the boys there to play with the team. “It’s nice to provide a healthy community for them so they can make new friends,” she says. “What they get here is encouragement, to feel accepted for who they are and to start believing in themselves.”