A riot broke out at Thuwunna Stadium on Monday night after Myanmar lost 1-0 to Indonesia in the men’s football last group match and got knocked out of the tournament.
The football match was the most anticipated event during the 27th SEA Games and Myanmar fans had high expectations that their side would reach the semi-final.
The team had already won against Cambodia and East Timor in earlier matches and tied 1-1 with Thailand. They needed a win or a draw to proceed to the semi-finals.
Myanmar team’s coach, Park Sung Hwa from South Korea, has received the bulk of the blame for his choices of players for the lineup and substitution, which was missing many of Myanmar’s star players.
“I felt very disappointed to see the player lineup at the start of the match. Why didn’t he use Kyaw Ko Ko at the start of the match? I want to say that we lost because of the coach’s wrongful decisions in choosing the players for the lineup and substitution,” said veteran sports columnist Chit Win Maung.
Myanmar’s team had a total of seven points and needed either a draw or a win to proceed in the tournament. However, after the match Park Sung Hwa told a press conference that he was unaware of the head-to-head rule and he had expected Myanmar to proceed even after loosing.
He apologised and said he took full responsibility for the disappointing result. Moe Wai, media officer of the Myanmar U-23 team, confirmed that Park Sung Hwa had subsequently been sacked.
“His single decision destroyed the hopes of the 60 million fans in Myanmar,” added Chit Win Maung.
The disgruntled crowds started throwing water bags and shoes onto the pitch and tearing up seats as the Myanmar team was unable score in the closing minutes of the game. Three men also ran onto the pitch and were detained by security guards.
After the match ended, angry fans set fire to their Myanmar team t-shirts and tickets outside the stadium’s gate. Some even destroyed the SEA Games billboards featuring the players in front of the Thuwanna stadium, and began throwing stones at security and traffic police.
The police in return launched a crack-down on trouble makers using water hoses from fire engines. The number of angry fans soon increased forcing the police to retreat, regroup with more men and finally force the crowds to disperse.
The riot ended around 11:45pm and the police say they have arrested some of the troublemakers.
“The angry mobs put fire to their clothes and billboards. We will arrest those who committed crimes and to release who didn’t commit crimes. We have released the men who entered the playground. I don’t think this kind of incident should happen. It shows that Myanmar has not matured,” said a police officer.
Some football lovers however voiced their disappointment saying that the the SEA Games is over for them if Myanmar is no longer in the football tournament.
“For nearly all of us football is a national sport. Now that our football team is out of the SEA Games, our interest on the SEA Games is over,” said a salesman who was at the Myanmar-Indonesia match.