Myan­mar wins run­ner-up at AFL Asia Champs

The Myanmar Times - - Sport - RJ VOGT rj.vogt@mm­

MUD sprayed and men col­lided, and after 30 min­utes of bat­tling through a tor­ren­tial down­pour, the tour­na­ment was over: Myan­mar’s Fight­ing Cocks watched as the Bali Geckos erupted into cheers, cel­e­brat­ing a 5.5.35 to 1.4.10 win in the AFL Asia Cham­pi­onships Di­vi­sion Two Grand Fi­nal in Ho Chi Minh City on Oc­to­ber 15.

It was the first Grand Fi­nal vic­tory for Bali, who have had a club for nearly 17 years, and the first Grand Fi­nal ap­pear­ance for Myan­mar, play­ing in their sec­ond-ever Asia Cham­pi­onships. De­spite the loss, club cap­tain An­drew Ro­manin said the week­end’s tour­na­ment was the finest show­ing ever for the young footy club.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the play­ing group and club,” Ro­manin said. “While we didn’t get the win on the day, we’ll be all the bet­ter for the ex­pe­ri­ence and we look for­ward to go­ing one bet­ter next year.”

The boys were the talk of the tour­na­ment lead­ing up to the Grand Fi­nal, as they fin­ished 2-1 in the group stage with sunny wins over Hong Kong B (9.3.57 to 1.2.8) and hosts Viet­nam. Their only loss came to archri­vals Laos, who took ad­van­tage of a hor­rific first-half in­jury to Cocks club pres­i­dent and star for­ward Henry Cox to pum­mel the Tai Kyet, 4.3.27 to 0.1.1.

Cox went after a loose ball at the same time as a Laos player: The en­su­ing head clash knocked him out cold for four min­utes and brought play to a halt as medics tended to his in­jury. He would later re­turn from the hos­pi­tal with a mi­nor con­cus­sion and sev­eral stitches, sur­prised to dis­cover that the Cocks had qual­i­fied for the semi-fi­nals after a dom­i­nant 8.3.51 to 2.0.12 win against the host­ing Viet­nam Swans B team.

“I didn’t re­ally re­mem­ber the game against Laos,” Cox said sheep­ishly.

The point dif­fer­en­tial against Viet­nam proved large enough to score Myan­mar a spot in the semi-fi­nals over Laos de­spite hav­ing lost the head-to-head match up, and a mo­ti­vated Cocks squad rose to the oc­ca­sion against the Cam­bo­dia Ea­gles.

Just three months ago, the Cocks dropped a road con­test against the Ph­nom Penh-based club 10.6.66 to 6.4.40, but as clouds gath­ered over Ho Chi Minh City, Myan­mar looked de­ter­mined to make their first trip to the semi-fi­nals a suc­cess­ful one. Thanks to a stun­ning four-goal game from for­ward Jhie Gough and a few lucky breaks – in­clud­ing two Cam­bo­dian mis­cues off the posts from in close – the Cocks pulled away in the sec­ond half to a 7.1.43 to 3.8.26 fin­ish.

The win set up a cham­pi­onship re­match against Bali, who beat Myan­mar on home pitch ear­lier this year. As wind picked up and heavy rain poured down over the pitch, an ap­par­ent mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion saw Myan­mar start­ing 14 play­ers to Bali’s 12. Bali had played all of its matches at 12 a side based on mu­tual agree­ment, but Myan­mar’s coach­ing staff said that the Geckos had not con­firmed player num­bers in ad­vance.

Bali had its way after a tense dis­cus­sion in the mud, and the Cocks were forced to shift into a 12-man for­ma­tion they had not used all day. With a ban­daged Cox look­ing on from the sidelines, the Tai Kyet started strong but be­gan to fal­ter after half­time. Bali cap­i­talised on the ex­tra space on the field, spread­ing its play­ers out wide and find­ing open men in the pock­ets.

De­spite the crush­ing de­feat, play­ers were in high spir­its after the tour­na­ment. Myan­mar’s three lo­cal play­ers in par­tic­u­lar had good form, as Han Tun Aung scored two goals on the day and won the an­nual “Fastest Man In Asia” foot race com­pe­ti­tion by an es­ti­mated 10 me­tres. After blow­ing away the com­pe­ti­tion he cel­e­brated Usain Bolt-style, tug­ging his jersey as he ran to his team­mates.

The In­dochina Cup in Yan­gon next month will give the Cocks a chance to re­deem their loss in Viet­nam and con­tinue their progress as an AFL Asia club.

Full­back Phil Ger­main summed up the tour­na­ment: “The thing that got me was Bali has been to 16 Asia Champs and only just won the first Grand Fi­nal. We have been to two Asian Champs and made Grand Fi­nal in our sec­ond at­tempt.” THE Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion of Thai­land yes­ter­day said it will meet clubs to ex­plain its de­ci­sion to scrap the sea­son with three matches to go fol­low­ing the death of rev­ered King Bhu­mi­bol Adulyadej.

The king died on Oc­to­ber 20 aged 88, spark­ing an­guish among an ador­ing pub­lic and a pro­longed of­fi­cial mourn­ing pe­riod that will see all forms of en­ter­tain­ment – in­clud­ing sports events – “toned down” as a mark of re­spect.

The FAT swiftly can­celled the re­main­der of the sea­son and said league rank­ings on Oc­to­ber 14 will de­ter­mine the cham­pi­ons and rel­e­ga­tion can­di­dates.

Mean­while, cup fi­nals will be de­cided by a draw.

But that sparked com­plaints from rel­e­gated clubs – in­clud­ing Thai Premier League out­fits Chainat Horn­bill FC and Army United – with a fight­ing chance of league sur­vival with three rounds to go.

They were handed a life­line when the FAT said it would meet them fol­low­ing com­plaints.

“The FAT in­vites foot­ball clubs’ chair­men, rep­re­sen­ta­tives and spon­sors to hear the ex­pla­na­tion,” over the de­ci­sion on Oc­to­ber 17, the body said in state­ment on its Face­book page.

Chainat and Army United have com­plained at their “un­fair rel­e­ga­tion with three matches and nine points to play for”, ac­cord­ing to lead­ing daily news­pa­per Siam Sport.

Both were on 30 points as of Oc­to­ber 14, with five other clubs math­e­mat­i­cally able to slip into the drop zone.

At the top, league big boys SCG Muangth­ong United were gifted the TPL ti­tle, although they were just five points ahead of sec­ond-placed Bangkok United.

An in­ter­na­tional friendly with Iran on Novem­ber has been can­celled, while Thai­land wants to shift a Novem­ber 15 home World Cup qual­i­fier to Aus­tralia.

Photo: Sup­plied

A crowd of Fight­ing Cocks fight for a mark against Laos at the AFL Asia Cham­pi­onships.

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