Hopeful football fans descended on Phnom Penh’s Wat Botum Park ahead of the 7pm kick-off of Wednesday’s Group A qualifier between Cambodia and Indonesia.
The sun was still beating down as the seats set out to cater to fans wanting to watch the Southeast Asian Games in public spaces quickly filled.
“We have a hard match ahead against Indonesia,” said student Thim Cheata ahead of the game. She came to watch Cambodia’s men's U-22 team take on Indonesia with a group of friends.
As football fans continued to flood into the park ahead of the match, music entertained the crowds to a spectacular show of light, with food vendors filling the edge of the public space. The atmosphere was electric by the 7pm kick-off as thousands of people stood in front of the large screen.
Cheers erupted as the whistle blew to mark the start of the match, which would decide who made it through to the semi-final stages of the competition. As the ball was pounded up and down the pitch, cries of “Cambodia” rang heavy in the air.
However, silence swept throughout the crowd when Indonesia scored their first goal. But the tides were soon to turn, and frenzy erupted when Cambodia smashed the ball into the back of Indonesia’s net, equalizing the score ahead of halftime.
An emotional second half followed, with the crowd chanting each time Cambodia took control of the ball. But the host nation was unable to secure success, with moans rippling through the park when a second goal went to Indonesia.
Despite Indonesia defeating Cambodia 2-1, spirits remained high among fans. “I’m sad that we did not win but I am still proud of Cambodia and happy I came to watch them tonight,” said Chan Lina, 22, who came to watch with his two brothers.
“It has been a lot of fun watching the game here and it has been good to support my country with so many people. When Cambodia scored the goal the atmosphere was very exciting, I will remember this forever,” added student Keo Soneat, 18, who has watched Cambodia play every football match.