PHNOM PENH – Thai football chiefs apologised on Wednesday (May 17) and promised “severe punishments” for wrongdoers after brawls marred the South East Asia Games soccer final against Indonesia in Cambodia.
Indonesia won the under-23 match 5-2 on Tuesday after extra time, by which time Thailand had been reduced to eight players and the Indonesians to 10 in the wake of four red cards and two all-in brawls.
The Thailand Football Association said the incidents at Phnom Penh’s Olympic Stadium had damaged the image of the national team and singled out the involvement of their coaching staff for particular criticism.
“The association would like to express its disappointment and apologise for the chaotic incident that occurred off pitch,” the TFA said in a statement.
“Especially the staff and coach who representative all Thais, during every minute of their duty, they must maintain their calm emotions under high pressure.
“There will be a committee to investigate all those involved and there will be punishment, there will be no protection to those involved. The investigation will begin immediately when the team returns home.”
The first brawl was sparked when the referee blew his whistle close to full time and Indonesia’s players and coaches celebrated thinking they had won the game 2-1.
The whistle was in fact for a free kick, from which Yotsakorn Burapha scored an equaliser which triggered violent clashes between the two benches.
That sent the match into extra time but Indonesia were soon back in front, sparking another flurry of shoves, punches and kicks between coaches and players from both sides which stadium security were forced to break up.
Indonesia coach Indra Sjafri was in no mood to hold grudges after leading his country to the SEA Games gold medal for the first time since 1991, a feat celebrated by President Joko Widodo.
“The tension of the match was high,” he told MetroTV.
“Let there not be blame on one another. This was a marvellous final.”
Football enjoys a massive following in Indonesia but the game has endured a miserable eight months since a stadium disaster killed 135 people in the town of Malang last October.
That was followed by FIFA stripping the nation of the right to stage this year’s under-20 soccer World Cup in a row over the participation of Israel.
“Let this be the momentum of the resurrection of Indonesian football,” Sjafri said.
Keo Sareth, secretary general of the Football Federation of Cambodia (FFC), was equally forgiving of the ugly scenes.
“We have no problem with them and as the hosts, we have completely and successfully hosted the match,” he said.
“Problems occurred on the pitch will be handled by match officials and they are doing a report to send to Asian Football Confederation (AFC), so they may face penalties in regards to code of ethics and disciplinary.”
The AFC, in a statement to Reuters, said it was investigating the incident.
“The AFC is disappointed with the disorderly incidents at the SEA Games football final,” a spokesperson said.
“The AFC underlines the importance of fair play, mutual respect and sportsmanship, and takes a zero tolerance approach towards all such acts of violence…”