National Stadium filled to the brim for Thailand-Myanmar football final

HOSTS Singapore may not be in the SEA Games football final but the National Stadium will still be packed when Myanmar and Thailand face off for the gold medal tonight.

By yesterday afternoon, more than 24 hours before tonight's kick-off at 8.30pm, all tickets for the match at the 55,000-capacity venue had already been sold out, paving the way for a rocking atmosphere in what will be a repeat of the 1993 final.

Then, Thailand beat Myanmar 4-3 to win the gold medal - the last time the White Angels reached the final.

"I have waited for a moment like this for so long," said 35-year-old Myo Ko Ko, who has attended all five of Myanmar's matches so far at these Games.

When the SEA Games were still known as the South-east Asian Peninsular (Seap) Games, Myanmar (then known as Burma), won five consecutive golds (1965-1973) in football.

Myo added: "We were the kings of this region in football back then and I hope that we can win the final to show that we are going back to the top again.

"We will win against Thailand. We must win."

The Myanmar fans have been fervent in their support so far and were more audible than the home support when they beat Singapore 2-1 at the Jalan Besar Stadium in a Group A match on June 4.

Last Friday, ahead of the 2-1 semi-final win over Vietnam, Myanmar coach Kyi Lwin hailed the passionate support, saying: "The secret to (us reaching the semi-final) is our fan base. The supporters have been pushing us to do our best and they were the 12th man in our group matches."

Min Thi Ha, a 31-year-old construction worker, was happy to agree. He said: "We, as fans, did not expect our team to get here (to the final). But no matter what, we always support our country.

"The (fan) support is of course one of the key reasons for our success."

Thailand fan Athip Pakatang feels the final will be a day to remember for the atmosphere and he thinks the gold medal is a mere formality for the War Elephants, who have scored 21 goals and conceded just once in six matches so far.

"Thailand are different quality to Myanmar. Our players are too good and they showed it in the semi-final," explained the 46-year-old construction worker. He thinks the final will go "3-0 to Thailand".

While the Young Lions will not feature, there will be a Singaporean presence at Kallang tonight.

"I was at the Singapore v Myanmar match and I saw first hand how passionate their supporters were," said Ralph Paul, a 22-year-old student. "With Thailand playing really good football as well, I just had to get the tickets. It is going to be an amazing final with a superb atmosphere."

drajac@sph.com.sg

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