Indonesia’s fans get dream final with Malaysia
JAKARTA – Indonesia charged into an unassailable lead at the top of the Southeast Asian Games medals table Sunday as their fans were handed a dream date with arch-rivals Malaysia in the football final.
With three days of competition to go, Indonesia hit 140 golds in a bulging 355 medal tally late Saturday and reached the landmark Games’ organizers have calculated they need for their first overall win since 1997.
Thailand reclaimed second spot with 85 golds, helping them to leapfrog Vietnam, thanks to their women boxers who claimed four golds, setting up a likely scramble for the runners-up place as the Games draw to a close.
But the focus Sunday was on the hosts’ mouthwatering clash for football gold with Malaysia, after they booked a spot in final with a 2-0 win over Vietnam, while their neighbors pinched a win 1-0 win over a battling Myanmar.
Goalless at half-time, Indonesia scored twice in the second period through Papuan pair Patrich Wanggai and Titus Bonai.
Monday night’s final should harbor few fears for the visitors, who weathered the cauldron of the 90,000 capacity Gelora Bung Karno stadium in Jakarta to beat the hosts 1-0 in their last group game.
But Malaysian media Sunday raised fears over the intensity of the hostility they are likely to encounter.
An editorial in the Malaysian Star railed against the “shame” of Indonesian fans jeering Malaysia’s national anthem during the group game – a feature of this year’s Games.
“Winning is important but it isn’t everything,” it said. “Certainly there must be honor and respect. Open hatred towards your guests is totally unacceptable and a total disgrace.”
Elsewhere, the hosts’ domination of the badminton court continued as they secured four golds out of five up for grabs on Saturday.
Crowd favourite Simon Santoso’s win in the men’s singles pushed Indonesia to within a whisker of the all-important 140 gold mark but Santoso was humble after the match.
“If I am the decider for the country’s overall title, of course I feel very happy,” he told the Jakarta Post. “However, I believe all the gold medalists are heroes, not only me.”
Rachmat Gobel, an executive from Games organisers Inasoc, had said 140 golds would see them top the medals tally for the first time since they last hosted the Games in 1997.
In Palembang – which is co-hosting the Games – organizers were left red-faced after poor security in the chaotic build-up to the competition allowed thieves to steal hundreds of bicycles.
The bicycles had been reserved for athletes and officials to travel around the sprawling venue, state media reported.
The SEA Games, held once every two years, run until November 22 and see 11 nations competing for bragging rights with hundreds of gold medals up for grabs.