Thai FA apologises for final brawls
Four red cards mar Indonesia's victory
published : 18 May 2023 at 06:36
newspaper section: Sports
writer: Bangkok Post and AFP
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) said on Wednesday that it was investigating "acts of violence" after two mass brawls and four red cards marred the men's final of the SEA Games in Cambodia.
Indonesia defeated Thailand 5-2 in extra time on Tuesday at Phnom Penh's Olympic Stadium in a match that saw clashes between players and coaches of both sides.
Thailand, who have since apologised and launched their own investigation, ended the bad-tempered final with seven players on the field.
Three War Elephants players were dismissed and the other could not continue due to injury after the team had used up their substitutes.
One of those sent off was goalkeeper Soponwit Rakyart after he ran half the length of the pitch to deliver a diving punch to an Indonesian opponent.
"The AFC is disappointed with the disorderly incidents at the SEA Games football final," said a spokesperson for the governing body for football in Asia.
"The AFC underlines the importance of fair play, mutual respect and sportsmanship, and takes a zero tolerance approach towards all such acts of violence, which threaten the physical integrity of players and officials."
Men's football at the biennial SEA Games is played between U22 sides.
The final had been billed as a chance for Indonesia to restore some pride to its football following a deadly stadium disaster and the loss of hosting the U20 World Cup.
But the game will be remembered for the scenes that began in the 97th minute when Thailand -- who had been 2-0 down -- scored to make it 2-2 and force extra time.
Thai officials celebrated their late leveller by running over to the Indonesia bench, prompting the first melee.
When Indonesia took the lead back early in extra time, their officials returned the favour, with even more incendiary results.
Sumardji, a member of the team staff who like many Indonesians goes by one name, told TVOne that their players "returned the provocation and I chased them and shouted 'Don't!'"
"But suddenly I got hit here [mouth] and I fell down."
Kicks were landed as well as punches. Both teams had a player sent off, and members of their coaching staff were also dismissed.
As the Thai team's discipline crumbled, another two of their players were sent off during extra time for second yellow cards.
The Football Association of Thailand (FAT) said the incident, seen by spectators in the stadium and fans around the world, caused damage to the reputation of Thai football.
It said it would punish anyone found to have been in the wrong.
"The FA of Thailand must apologise for the clash on the touchline," it said in a statement, adding it would "set up a committee to investigate those involved as soon as possible and will take decisive measures".
Thailand coach Issara Sritaro apologised for losing the final and admitted that he failed to control his players.
"Both sides are glad when they score but we need to control ourselves and we weren't able to control everyone," he said.
"It is an important lesson for me and the players."
Thailand defender Jonathan Khemdee said: "It's the final and both teams wanted to win the game. The referee should have done better to control the game.
"I feel really sad with the situation and also sad that Thailand did not win the SEA Games title."
The chairman of the Indonesian FA pointed the finger at Thailand.
'We got provoked'
"Sometimes we got provoked and then we fell into it," Erick Thohir told Metro TV.
"I warned earlier that this is a provocation, they wanted us to lose.
"We were beaten, trampled on and cheated."
The chaos and their role in it overshadowed the achievements of Indonesia's young team, and what it means to football in the country.
In October, a stadium disaster killed more than 130 people in East Java. And in May, Fifa relocated the U20 World Cup from Indonesia to Argentina because of opposition in the Muslim-majority nation to Israel's participation.
President Joko Widodo said he was "very happy" that his country won gold.
"This is something we had been waiting for 32 years, to be the champion in Southeast Asia," Widodo told reporters, according to a statement by the presidential palace.
Indonesia won the men's football gold medal for the first time since 1991.
It is the country's only third gold medal in the event since the Games were launched in 1959.
The other victories came in 1987 on home soil and in 1991 in the Philippines.
Thailand remain the most successful nation in the men's football competition with 16 titles. But the War Elephants have failed to win gold for three consecutive Games with their last title coming in 2017.
- sea games