The Football Association of Thailand have vowed "severe punishment" for anyone found guilty of playing a role in the disgraceful scenes that marred Tuesday's 32nd Southeast Asian Games men's football final.
The decider at Phnom Penh's Olympic Stadium proved to be a thrilling affair which ultimately saw Indonesia prevail over Thailand 5-2 after extra-time to win their first SEA Games gold medal since 1991, although the occasion was overshadowed by a couple of all-out brawls that took place on the touchline.
With the Thais having pulled one back after falling behind 2-0 by halftime, the game looked to be over deep into injury-time when Indonesia stormed the field in joy upon hearing the referee's whistle -- only to realise that it had not been to signal the end of the contest.
From the freekick which he had actually blown for, Thailand pulled off a dramatic equaliser which prompted wild celebrations of their own which -- for some reason -- prompted several members from the Thai camp to do so in front of the Indonesians, which led to an all-out melee.
Quite disgracefully, it appeared that the decision to charge over to the opposition dugout was led by a member of Thailand's backroom staff.
A second brawl was to follow in the first minute of extra-time after Indonesia regained the lead, which prompted their bench to repay the favour as they went over to celebrate in the faces of their opponents.
Stadium security were forced to intervene again and in the aftermath, in addition to those on the sidelines who were sent off, Thailand goalkeeper Soponwit Rakyart and Indonesia defender Komang Teguh were also given their marching orders for throwing punches at one another.
Remarkably, the Thais went on to finish the match with just seven players on the field as Jonathan Khemdee and Teerasak Poeiphimai were also sent off for offences unrelated to the fracas, while Chatmongkol Rueangthanarot was stretchered off with no more substitutions available.
It did not take long for the footage to go viral not just in the region but in various parts of the world, prompting FAT to issue an apologetic statement on Wednesday afternoon.
While initially addressing their silver-medal finish as falling below expectations, the statement went on to read: "The association would like to express its disappointment and apologise for the off-field chaos that occurred during the match.
"Images that were witnessed not just by those at the venue but by football fans all around the world has caused great damage to the Thai national football team.
"Especially, the team of staff coaches are considered personnel who must maintain the image of the Thai people. They must be aware of the maturity that needs to be shown in every minute of their duty."
An investigation will now be opened, with FAT avowing: "The association would like to inform that a committee will be set up to investigate all relevant persons to find out the facts urgent.
"There will be severe punishment with no protection for the personnel who caused damage in this incident. This process will begin immediately after the team returns to Thailand.
"The association would like to express our regret to Thai football fans, Thai people, those involved and highly affected by this event, and will send formal apology letters to other organisations who have been affected by this event."
✅ 𝐑𝐄𝐒𝐌𝐈!— FaktaBola (@FaktaSepakbola) May 17, 2023
Official Timnas Thailand yang memukul Manajer Indonesia, Sumardji di laga Final semalam menyampaikan permohonan maaf langsung kepada Bapak Sumardji.🇮🇩🇹🇭
Semoga kejadian ini tidak terulang kembali & menjadi pembelajaran untuk semua pihak.
🎥 @Chandramargatama pic.twitter.com/3GtZmrtKge
Although the ugly behaviour shown cannot be tolerated, especially given Southeast Asian football's history of football violence, there was a heartwarming moment of reconciliation as a member of Thailand's backroom staff -- allegedly one of the main antagonists -- was seen in tears and apologising profusely to the Indonesian camp back at the team hotel.
Primarily, he can be seen embracing Indonesia team manager Sumardji -- who was floored after appearing to break up a fight during the second brawl, and was seen breathless and looking worse for wear in the immediate aftermath with a cut lip.
The apology was graciously accepted by Sumardji, who put a reassuring arm over the shoulder of the Thai official, who was also captured on camera exchanging a handshake with Indonesia head coach Indra Sjafri and being consoled by assistant coach Bima Sakti.