Asian football probes ‘acts of violence’ after red cards mar SEA Games final
The Asian Football Confederation 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 Southeast Asian Games.
Indonesia defeated Thailand 5-2 in extra time on Tuesday in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh in a match that saw clashes between players and coaches of both sides.
Thailand, which has since apologized and launched its own investigation, ended the bad-tempered final with eight players on the field.
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.
A mass brawl broke out at the SEA Games final 😳pic.twitter.com/QqtYDb1Ll0
— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) May 17, 2023
“The AFC is disappointed with the disorderly incidents at the SEA Games football final,” a spokesperson for the governing body for football in Asia 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, which threaten the physical integrity of players and officials.”
Men’s football at the biennial SEA Games is played between under-23 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 Under-20 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 leveler 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 favor, 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 (his 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 Thai football association said it would punish anyone found to have been in the wrong.
“The FA of Thailand must apologize 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”.
The chairman of the Indonesian FA pointed the finger at Thailand.
“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 Under-20 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.