Thai Football Chiefs Apologise after Four Red Cards Mar Final

Players and officials react as a fight breaks out on the sidelines of the men's football final match between Thailand and Indonesia during the 32nd Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) in Phnom Penh on May 16, 2023. Photo by Nhac NGUYEN / AFP

Phnom Penh, Cambodia -- Thailand's football association apologised and vowed to investigate on Wednesday after the Southeast Asian Games men's final against Indonesia was marred by two mass brawls and four red cards.

Thailand lost 5-2 after extra time on Tuesday, ending the game in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh with eight players on the field.

One of those sent off was Thai goalkeeper Soponwit Rakyart after he ran half the length of the pitch to join in the second skirmish between the sides, delivering a diving punch to an opponent.

"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".

Men's football at the biennial regional event 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 which 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 (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 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."

Thai coach Issara Sritaro apologised for losing the final -- but not for the unsavoury scenes.

"Both sides are glad when they score but we need to control ourselves and we weren't able to control everyone," he said.

Windsor John, secretary general of the Asian Football Confederation, told AFP it was up to the SEA Games Federation to take any further action.

"I believe the match officials did their best to control the situation," he added.

- Indonesian pride -

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.

© Agence France-Presse

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