War Elephants, Southern Tigers and Neymar: The moments that shook Southeast Asia's best stadiums
THUNDER CASTLE (THAILAND)
There aren’t many venues in world football that have their own song so it’s fair to say that had ‘Thunder Castle Rock’ already been written back in 2012, it would have been blaring out late into the Buriram evening as the club recorded one of its most famous victories.
In their first season since the name change to Buriram United, the regional outfit that would soon take Thai football by storm had earned the right to participate in its maiden Asian Champions League (ACL) campaign where it was drawn in a group containing Chinese powerhouse Guangzhou Evergrande, Korean giants Jeonbuk and Kashiwa Reysol, with the J.League side its first opponent.
In front of 15,000 fans at the Thunder Castle, which had only opened less than a year earlier, Jirawat Makarom and Asqar Jadigerov had Buriram in a shock 2-0 lead at the break only for the J.League side to peg them back midway through the second half.
With time ticking down a delightful short passing sequence released a flying Jirawat who smashed his second past the visiting keeper to cap a remarkable 3-2 win as Buriram became the first Southeast Asia side to defeat a J.League team in the modern ACL era.
LARKIN STADIUM (MALAYSIA)
With Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) undefeated at their compact home stadium since the 2013 season it’s hard to know just what has been the most memorable of a list of victories that if lined up a metre apart would reach all the way to Singapore.
Amidst a string of domestic successes and with the historic 2015 AFC Cup title being won in a one-off fixture in Tajikistan, it’s arguable that the most famed clash at the venue didn’t even involve a Malaysian side, let alone JDT.
Unusually the stadium in the southern state of Johor holds perhaps even fonder memories for Japanese football fans than it does for locals given that it was there in 1997 that Japan qualified for their first ever FIFA World Cup.
Drawn to face Iran in a one-off playoff, Larkin was selected as the neutral venue and in the most dramatic of circumstances Masayuki Okano scored a 118th minute 'Golden Goal' to secure Japan’s ticket to France ’98 as he completed the 3-2 victory.
Still to this day the venue is something of a mecca for Japanese football fans with even the JFA president making a visit back to the ground in late 2015 to remember what was a pivotal moment in Japan’s rise to the top of Asian football.