Jakarta, Indonesia (AFP):
Several thousand people lined the streets in Jakarta on Friday, chanting, lighting flares and waving flags to welcome the triumphant Indonesian football team home from the Southeast Asian Games.
Indonesia defeated Thailand 5-2 in extra time in the men’s final in Phnom Penh on Tuesday that saw four players sent off and two mass brawls.
The Asian Football Confederation and Thai football officials have vowed to investigate the violent scenes between the two sides. Thailand ended the final with eight players on the field.
Putting the controversy to one side, the Indonesian squad paraded through central Jakarta in an open-top bus branded with the word “CHAMPIONS”.
The win was Indonesia’s first football gold at the regional Games in 32 years.
Fans, including schoolchildren, noisily saluted their heroes from the roadside and pedestrian bridges. Workers poured out of office buildings.
“Today is a very special day for all of us,” said Dito Ariotedjo, the sports minister.
“The day when we stand tall with red and white pride in our hearts.”
Speaking at Gelora Bung Karno Stadium, Indonesian FA head Erick Thohir said he hoped the win would be the start of a “mental revolution” for Indonesian football.
The gold comes after a turbulent few months for football in Indonesia.
In October, 135 people were killed at a stadium in East Java after police fired tear gas, causing a stampede among spectators.
Shortly after that, the world governing body FIFA relocated the Under-20 World Cup from Indonesia to Argentina because of opposition by the nation to Israel’s participation.