Worrawoot has the last laugh in KL

Worrawoot has the last laugh in KL

Coach silences critics with most-wanted gold

Thai players and officials celebrate winning the men's football gold medal at the 29th SEA Games in Malaysia on Tuesday night. afp MANAN VATSYAYANA
Thai players and officials celebrate winning the men's football gold medal at the 29th SEA Games in Malaysia on Tuesday night. afp MANAN VATSYAYANA

Thailand coach Worrawoot Srimaka was quick to hit back at his critics, declaring "I did it" after his squad retained the men's football title at the 29th SEA Games in Malaysia on Tuesday night.

Malaysia goalkeeper Haziq Nadzli scored an own goal to gift Thailand a 1-0 win in the final before the capacity crowd at the Shah Alam Stadium.

Malaysian fans will be forgiven for feeling a sense of deja vu as Haziq's error mirrored that of fellow goalkeeper Kamarulzaman Hassan 16 years ago.

Thailand also won that final 1-0 at the same venue after Kamarulzaman let a harmless cross slip through his legs before deflecting it into the goal.

Haziq, 19, punched a corner into his own net after 39 minutes at a time when both sides looked evenly poised and a silence befell the home team supporters, which included Malaysia's prime minister, sports minister, football association chief and state sultan.

With Malaysia unable to make any breakthrough, Thailand celebrated their third successive _ and 16th overall _ football gold medal and simultaneously crushed the hopes of over 80,000 people in attendance and millions more watching at home.

Asked to sum up the achievement in three words, Worrawoot said: "Gu tham dai [I did it]."

His remark was apparently aimed at critics who had ruled out his team's chances of winning the gold medal in Malaysia after he announced his squad.

Worrawoot left out a couple of highly-rated players, saying he chose those who were suitable to his tactics and were fit enough to survive the rigours of a taxing schedule.

He added jokingly after Tuesday's win: "The first thing I want to do is go back to see my wife and then find those who criticised me."

Nicknamed "Yong" (tall), Worrawoot can now literally stand tall as he is the only fifth Thai to have won the SEA Games football titles both as coach and player.

Worrawoot, one of Thailand's most dangerous strikers of his generation, said: "We proved that we are true champions. We conceded only one goal -- from a penalty kick. We scored in every game."

็With the SEA Games success, he has now been dubbed "Mourin-yong" after Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho by the Thai press.

The team received a warm-welcome at Suvarnabhumi airport when they arrived yesterday.

The players will become rich thanks to bonuses from various sources.

The Football Association of Thailand (FAT) and team manager Watanya Wongopasi will each give the team two million baht.

Each player will get 200,000 baht from the National Sports Development Fund for winning the SEA Games gold medal.

The FAT has received a total of 14 million baht from private companies, which will be shared between the men and women's football and futsal teams. More financial rewards are expected to pour in from other well-wishers.

Meanwhile Malaysia coach Ong Kim Swee insisted that goalkeeper Haziq had a "bright future" despite his game-deciding mistake.

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