YANGON - Police fired water cannon to disperse rioting Myanmar football fans who tore up seats, burned shirts and hurled stones at police after the hosts were dumped out of the SEA Games.
Monday's 0-1 loss to Indonesia devastated local fans, who filled the 50,000-capacity Thuwunna stadium in Yangon to capacity during the group stage. Trouble flared inside the stadium before full-time and then carried on after the game with furious fans setting alight police posts and billboards.
"We detained eight fans, including two who invaded the pitch in the second half," said deputy police colonel Min Aung.
Hooliganism at Myanmar's football matches is common. In August, fans destroyed the pitch at a new stadium in the capital Naypyidaw, where Indonesia will now travel to contest the semi-finals.
In 2011, Myanmar were banned from playing in World Cup qualifiers by Fifa after a home tie against Oman had to be stopped when the crowd pelted the opposition with bottles and rocks. The ban was lifted on appeal.
Television images on Monday showed distraught fans being consoled by Zaw Zaw, a tycoon and chairman of the Myanmar Football Federation.
"We had high hopes for the Myanmar team. We even planned to go to Naypyidaw today to watch the semi-final," a fan Phone Myint Khaing said yesterday.
"I'm lost for words to describe our sadness. It's heartbreaking."
Blame swiftly fell on Myanmar's South Korean coach Park Seong Hwa, as the home side failed to progress despite being level on points with Indonesia and having a better goal difference.
Park was sacked after the match, with local reports saying he admitted he was unaware of competition rules stating that head-to-head results - and not goal difference - would determine which teams progress if they are tied on points.
"I knew only after the match as Myanmar finished the group level. I would like to apologise to Myanmar," said the coach, who had previously talked up Myanmar's chances of claiming the gold.