Thai and Myanmarese fans set stadium alight

Thai and Myanmarese fans set stadium alight
There is no question on who their No. 1 fan is.

It was said to be a sellout, although there were big pockets of empty seats at the National Stadium for the SEA Games Under-23 football final between Myanmar and Thailand.

But, other than the opening ceremony, last night's match saw the biggest crowd for a single event at the Games, and it turned into a loud, frenzied and colourful spectacle in the stands of the 55,000-capacity arena, with the Myanmar fans contributing so much even though their favourites were being picked apart by the rampant Thais out on the pitch.

From the moment the gates opened late in the afternoon, they trickled into the Sports Hub, the constant steady stream growing in numbers as the minutes ticked down to the 8.30pm kick-off.

And both sets of fans, officially numbering 31,143 in total, knew the drill - be loud.

"We Myanmar fans have been the loudest among all the other countries," said 28-year-old Htin Ko Myint, who was queueing up to enter the stadium with his friends.

"We did not expect our team to be in the final in the first place.

"But we always support our country. We love our country, and we're going to show it."

The Myanmar fans were 20,000 strong and they were constantly loud.

Little wonder, because the last time they were in the SEA Games football final was in 1993.

Just AS they did in the semi-final against Vietnam, they sang together, hugged, clapped, shouted and screamed for their footballers, hoping to inspire them to victory.

Not once did they take a seat. They stood throughout the 90 minutes.

The Thai fans were equally impressive, as if they had to match how their young players were slickly playing the pass and move game Singapore are so desperately trying to instil here.

Led by superfan Bancha "Mr Thailand" Khamthong, the smaller group still managed to roar Chanathip Songkrasin and Co on.

Teerathun Ratanaporn, a 32-year-old fan, said: "Thailand play the best football in the region.

"And we are some of the best and most colourful fans here at this SEA Games.

"We are defending champions, we have a very good team, but that doesn't mean we think we are 100 per cent certain of gold.

"We felt it would be a tough game, but we just do what fans do - support our team."

Even after Thailand's Tanaboon Kesarat lashed home the opener on 54 minutes, the noise did not subside.

The Myanmar fans just got even louder.

Chananan Pombubpha made it two 10 minutes later, and Pinyo Inpinit added yet another in the 78th minute.

Even then, with each passing minute, the Myanmar faithful remained on their feet.

At full-time, it was hard to spot which group of fans were celebrating victory, because it just became a riot of song and colour.

"We did well today, I'm so proud to be Burmese despite losing," said Aung Than Thiri, 44.

"We played some counter-attacking football and were committed, and silver to Thailand is nothing to be sad about."

Thai fan Boribun Channarong said: "Football is all about the fans.

"We sang, they (Myanmar fans) sang, and it was all so amazing to be a part of.

"This is football at its best."

And, surely, that is what the beautiful game is all about.

This article was first published on June 16, 2015.
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