ASINGLE, rubber flip-flop; a banana peel; a handful of stadium chairs – all this and more littered the edge of the pitch in Mandalay’s Mandalar Thiri Stadium on July 4. The debris came raining down during the Myanmar vs Vietnam semifinal of this year’s AFF Women’s Championship. After the home team managed a heroic comeback and pulled ahead in the first minute of extra time, a raucous crowd of 30,000 White Angel supporters thought their championship tickets were booked. But a controversial, last-minute penalty kick tied the match at 3-3, and Myanmar would go on to lose the game in a shoot-out, 5-4.
The turning point came in the fourth and final minute of extra time, when South Korean referee Oh Hyeon Jeong awarded a shocking penalty kick to the visitors after Myanmar keeper fouled Vietnamese striker Huynh Nhu in the box.
The decision drew outrage from the home crowd, who had turned out in droves to see if the White Angels could secure a berth in the title match. Additional security was called into the stadium as disgusted fans threw trash, shoes, their own chairs and unidentifiable bits of food from the stands.
During the tumult, star striker Minh Nguyet stepped up and buried the penalty kick, scoring the equalizer – two minutes after the extra time was supposed to have ended – at 90’ (+6).
Soon after, referees were forced to halt the game for nearly half an hour as the fans rampaged, eventually causing roughly K2 million (US$1700) in damages to the stadium. Once the game was back under way, a backand-forth overtime failed to produce a winning side. The match would be decided by the shoot-out, in which Vietnamese keeper Kieu Trinh blocked Myanmar captain Sunisa Srangthasong to steal the victory.
After the game, Myanmar coach coach Roger Reijners addressed the fan reaction in positive terms.
“I would like to thank the Myanmar people,” he said. “I never saw the stands that full for a women’s game.”
His counterpart Mai Duc Chung was equally impressed.
“We were lucky in the penalty kicks,” he said. “But I’m impressed by the Myanmar people. Women’s matches need more spectators and today I’m amazed by the fans’ passion.”
Vietnam jumped out to an early lead thanks to back-to-back goals from Huynh Nhu and Tuyet Dung in the 15th and 16th minutes. But Myanmar stormed back after the break, notching their first goal in the 60th minute on a goal from Win Theingi Tun. May Thu Kyaw levelled the contest 16 minutes later, setting up a frantic final 15 minutes.
Myanmar pushed ahead in the 90th minute on a penalty kick of their own, awarded after Bui Thi Nhu’s handball. Win Theingi Tun scored her second goal of the match, and it seemed Myanmar had the come-from-behind victory in hand.
“In the second half, we got one goal back and suddenly, we were confident again,” Reijners said. “Then we got the equaliser, and we even lead the game. But … our players need to take care of details.”
He had no harsh words for the referee’s decision.
Today, the White Angels look to bounce back to face Australia’s U-20 team in the third place match. They drew 1-1 in their group stages match. Vietnam will face Thailand in the finals. – Additional Reporting Kyaw Ko Ko and Than Naing Soe
Security forces attempt to calm an incensed crowd at Mandalar Thiri stadium on July 4, after a controversial penalty sent the semifinal match between Myanmar and Vietnam into overtime.
The fans did K2 million (US$1700) worth of damage.
Myanmar’s Win Theingi Tun celebrates after seemingly putting the game away during extra time.