Indonesia in frenzy over ASEAN Cup

JAKARTA - Indonesia are ranked 127th in the world and Philippines 23 places below them but that did not stop success-hungry locals from turning Thursday's ASEAN Cup clash into a frenzied sell-out with an atmosphere worthy of a major final.

One man sold all his chickens to travel to the game while thousands were denied tickets when they went on sale for the game at Jakarta's 70,000-capacity national stadium.

Thursday's match, which Indonesia won 1-0, was a semi-final first leg in the ASEAN Cup, a two-yearly tournament for the national teams of South-East Asia which attracts little interest outside the region.

Controversial Uruguay-born striker Cristian Gonzales, who has been involved in a series of spats since moving to Indonesia seven years ago and is nicknamed "Loco" (the Crazy One), headed the only goal.

Tens of thousands of thrilled Indonesians turned the inside and outside of Jakarta's main stadium crimson, their national team's colour, as a football-mad nation starved of international success exhausted the ticket supply.

Gus Jumali, with his bald head and belly painted red, sold his chickens to be able to afford the trip from Pasuruan in Java island to see the match, local website VIVAnews reported.

GIANT SCREENS

Organisers put up giant screens outside to cater for those who could not get tickets and the crowd blew trumpets and sang the country's "Garuda" football chant.

Coached by Austrian Alfred Riedl, Indonesia's run has revived hopes for many Indonesians constantly disappointed by poor performances.

"This time Indonesia must win, we haven't had a victory in a long time. I mean come on, we have more people (than the Philippines). What's so hard in finding 11 good players?" an Indonesian man queuing outside the stadium told local Metro TV before the game.

A Facebook account for the team has gathered almost 300,000 fans, and many travelled to the match by air or sea from an archipelago of 17,000 islands.

Indonesia is the world's fourth most populous country with around 240 million people but has played only once at the World Cup, in 1938.

The country entered the race to host the 2022 World Cup but pulled out due to lack of government support.

The team's struggles in the past decade have been blamed on bad management, poor funding and a lack of depth of quality players, with one fan so frustated in a match in January that he ran onto the pitch to try to score a goal for the team.

In October, they lost 7-1 at home to World Cup semi-finalists Uruguay in a friendly.

Despite being by far the biggest country in the region, Indonesia has never won the ASEAN Cup, with the titles being shared between Thailand and Singapore (three each) and Vietnam (one) since it was started in 1996.


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