The game in the country has also long been dogged by mismanagement, rickety infrastructure and violence in the stands.
For Thailand, defeat meant they failed to clinch a record-extending 17th gold medal.
It will be back to the drawing board for the War Elephants, following fierce rivals Vietnam’s triumphs in 2019 and in 2021, and Indonesia’s hard-fought victory on Tuesday.
On Monday, Vietnam beat Myanmar 2-0 for their fourth straight women’s gold and eighth in total, while five-time champions Thailand thumped Cambodia 6-0. AFP
PHNOM PENH – Indonesia had one thing on their minds on Tuesday night – restoring pride to the country’s football scene following a deadly stadium disaster and humiliation at losing the right to host the Under-20 World Cup.
They did just that when they fought against all odds to beat Thailand 5-2 in a dramatic SEA Games final at Phnom Penh’s Olympic Stadium to win their first gold since 1991 in the sport, which is contested between Under-23 teams.
Ramadhan Sananta broke the deadlock for the Indonesians as early as the 20th minute when he headed into the near post off Songchai Thongcham’s knee from a brilliant long throw.
The PSM Makassar striker then made it 2-0 deep into first-half stoppage time as he took advantage of an indecisive Thai defence to lop the ball over the goalkeeper and into the back of an empty net.
The 20-year-old was overwhelmed by his emotions as he was seen covering his eyes with his arms while he was mobbed by his teammates amid the celebrations.
The Thais refused to give up and they reduced the defiicit in the 65th minute when forward Anan Yodsangwal headed in straight from a corner.
There was controversy in the end as Indonesia thought the referee blew for full time, only for him to call the players back for a free kick in the 98th minute which Yotsakorn Burapha converted with the last action in regulation.
Indonesian officials and players were already hugging and cheering on the pitch thinking the game was done.
There was also a confrontation between both benches which saw Thailand goalkeeper Soponwit Rakyart and Indonesia’s Komang Teguh Trishnanda sent off.
Shortly into extra time, Songchai got dispossessed by Irfan Jauhari in the 91st minute, who then dinked the ball over the goalkeeper to make it 3-2 for Indonesia.
Thailand’s Jonathan Khemdee also received his second yellow and the Thais could not muster anything more as the Indonesians scored again through Fajar Fathur Rachman and Achitpol Keereerom to make it 5-2.
Teerasak Poeiphimai received his marching orders at 4-2 down and Thailand ended the match with eight men.
Success on the pitch came during a dark time for Indonesian football.
In October 2022, 135 people were killed at a stadium in East Java when police fired tear gas, causing a stampede among spectators.
Tragedy was followed by ignominy when world governing body Fifa relocated the Under-20 World Cup from Indonesia to Argentina because of opposition in the Muslim-majority nation to Israel’s participation.
That meant Indonesia lost their automatic qualifying spot for the tournament.