RANGOON — Burma’s U-23 footballers went down 1-0 to Indonesia at the SEA Games men’s football competition in Rangoon on Monday night, a result that sees the hosts out of the tournament.
Indonesia progressed to the semi-finals on the head-to-head rule, despite having an inferior goal difference to Burma’s men’s team, after both countries finished joint-second in their group, one point behind Thailand on seven points.
Speaking after the match, Burma coach Park Sung Hwa said that he thought a 1-0 loss would be enough for the home country to progress, seemingly misunderstanding that the head-to-head stipulation, which dictates that in the event of teams finishing level on points, the result of the match between the sides decides who progresses, rather than goal difference. Burma went into the game with +5 goal difference, compared with Indonesia’s -2.
“I didn’t know it in advance and therefore made some mistakes with formation and tactics,” the coach said in a post match press conference, his remarks delivered in Korean and translated to Burmese and in turn to English.
The mix-up and Burma’s exit from the competition seems likely to mark the end of Park’s tenure, after a match in which a first half penalty—coolly-taken by Indonesia’s Alfin Ismail Tuasalamony after a John Aldridge-style staccato run-up—turned out to be enough for Indonesia to progress.
For much of the game the away team looked the more likely to score, though both sides had chances before the referee blew for time after 95 minutes of play.
Burma was mostly restricted to long range efforts in the second half as the favored hosts tried to claw back Indonesia’s lead. However, for the most part the Burmese snatched at their shots, skying several efforts high and wide.
Clearly missing injured midfielder Kyi Lin, who limped out of the Saturday 1-1 draw with Thailand, and star striker Kyaw Ko Ko, who was left on the substitutes bench, the Burmese towards the end were reduced to pinging hopeful long balls into the Indonesian box, which the away team’s defense dealt with comfortably.
One spectacular 79th minute volley by Burma’s number 9 Kaung Si Thu was the high point of the host’s second half—a dipping rasper fired from the edge of the D, which dropped inches wide of the Indonesian goal with the ‘keeper a spectator.
Indonesia however had chances to wrap the game up before the end, with Bayu Gatra Sanggiawan dragging wide in the 78th minute, despite having a clear sight of the Burmese goal inside the penalty area after a well-worked move down the left.
Otherwise, while the Indonesians regularly got in behind the Burmese defense when they attacked down the left, the final pass by the visitors was left wanting.
The match was marred by the sending-off of Burma’s Ye Lin Aung with normal time set to expire, as the home team’s frustrations grew.
By the end, the tension spilled from pitch to stand, with the ref having to remove a rock lobbed onto the pitch—seemingly by an irate Burmese supporter—as the game drew to a close and it became apparent that the hosts were not going to find an equalizer.
After the game angry Burmese fans ripped up stadium seats and hurled them pitchside—or as close as they could get, given the fence, moat and running track separating the playing surface from the stands.
Violence spilled outside the stadium, with riot police called in to control the angry spectators who took their anger at the Burma team’s elimination to the streets outside Rangoon’s Thuwanna Stadium, a reprise of some of the recent bouts of football hooliganism that Burma has become known for.
Anger also spread to cyberspace, with a hacker group briefly taking down the SEA Games website, which was back up a few minutes later.
A message posted on the hacked page read “Hello, Seagame 2013. Hacked By Blink Hacker Group We don’t want to deface your site. But, today’s football match’s results brought us here. Please take legal action (at least a complain) against the vietnam referee for his deeds.”
Blink Hacker Group’s previous targets include state television station MRTV-4, various Burmese government ministries and local newspaper websites.
By Thursday morning Burma had slipped to third in the overall SEA Games medals table. With Thailand seemingly unassailable at the top with 59 gold medals, the hosts are left in a three way battle with Vietnam and Indonesia for second, third and fourth places in the medals ranking.
BY SIMON ROUGHNEEN AND SANAY LINShow