KUALA LUMPUR: Fans roared their hearts out but Malaysia went down fighting in the SEA Games football gold medal match, missing out on “the mother of all medals” as a determined Thailand held on to a first-half 1-0 lead until the end.
The sporting Malaysian fans cheered the winners at the final whistle.
It was not quite the sweet ending to the Games that Malaysians had hoped for, but it could not overshadow the national contingent’s historic achievement.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak tweeted that he was proud with the fighting spirit shown by the players despite losing. “Do not despair, we will increase our efforts!”
As at 10pm yesterday, Malaysia had made its best-ever haul of 140 gold medals, well ahead of the 111 the last time the country hosted the Games in 2001.
Golds from badminton, cycling and field hockey, among many others, took the tally to nearly 30 medals ahead of the target set to match its performance 16 years ago.
Earlier, the atmosphere at the Shah Alam Stadium for the football final was electric as thousands of fans turned out to cheer the Malaysian football team.
The stadium gates opened at 4pm and it was filled to its capacity by 8pm.
There was a small number of Thai fans, made up mainly of officials and athletes from the SEA Games contingent.
Several hundred fans came to the stadium at the last minute, hoping to buy tickets that were sold out on Monday.
The SEA Games Organising Committee decided to sell the tickets only at the stadium, with none made available online owing to an “outdated ticketing system”.
In videos that went viral on social media, fans were seen climbing over fences on Monday, demanding that ticket counters be opened.
The Football Association of Malaysia clarified that it was not responsible for the sale of tickets for the SEA Games football and futsal matches.
At the stadium yesterday, there was also confusion among fans who were not sure which gate to enter as not all the gates were open.
There were many Jalur Gemilang waved and fans were cheering for the Malaysian team, which came onto the field at 8.15pm.
Many VIPs were seen trickling into the stadium minutes before kick-off.
The gathered fans certainly raised the roof as they sang the Negara Ku, chanted “Malaysia, Malaysia!” and sang other patriotic songs to spur on the national team.
A fan from Ampang, 17-year-old Amir Danial, said he had attended many football finals but the match for the SEA Games was one he did not want to miss.
“It feels really good to see Malaysians of all races coming to support the national team,” said Amir.
Finnish Roote Pajunen, who is studying at Asia Pacific University in Bukit Jalil, said the atmosphere at the stadium was “just lovely”.
“It is fantastic to see thousands of people come as early as 4pm to support the Malaysian team.
“I came along with the Malaysian students to watch the match. I am happy to see that people from all walks of life are here to watch the match,” said the aspiring software engineer.See our full coverage of SEA Games 2017