Vietnamese students Annie Phan and Vivian Nguyen were two faces in a sea of red cheering on for their national football team at the Bishan Stadium. Photo: SINGSOC
With free entrance to half of the sports contested and tickets priced as low as five dollars, the 28th SEA Games has been a very accessible Games indeed.
What’s more, with the Southeast Asian nations neighbouring each other; a short plane ride to Singapore was all that was needed to catch some live sporting action! We spoke to a few fans who were out and about in their national colours at some of the most gripping matches this week, and found out just how much they were enjoying the experience.
From those keen on revelling in the exciting atmosphere to those present to show support for loved ones, one overarching characteristic remained – the crowds were loud, proud, and extremely enthusiastic.
Spotted at several of Thailand’s competitions at this year’s Games were Parinya Weerawong, Sompong Kadkaew, Samart Kunsawat, all decked out in elaborate costumes inspired by the colours of their nation. Cheering their team on at the sold-out Thailand versus Vietnam football match recently, the group expressed their excitement at simply being here in person.
“The Singapore SEA Games is number one, best in [the Southeast Asian region]! There’s a big stadium, and the opening ceremony was also good,” enthused Samart, who also professed to be a fan of local football legend Fandi Ahmad.
On the other side of the stadium, Vietnamese students Annie Phan and Vivian Nguyen were just two faces in a sea of red roaring their support within the packed stand delegated to Vietnam fans. Remarking that the feeling at the stadium was “special”, Vivian said: “When you come here [to watch the match], it is stronger and more exciting!”
Thai fans Parinya Weerawong, Sompong Kadkaew, Samart Kunsawat have been incredibly vocal and passionate in their support for their country's athletes and have travelled to almost every major Games that Thailand has participated in. Photo: SINGSOC
Yu Mei Ling, a netball player from the national pool present at the nail-biting Malaysia versus Singapore netball finals held at the OCBC Arena, offered her own opinion on the atmosphere there as well: “[Watching the match] in front of the television is so different! You can only see what the cameraperson [captures on] video. Over here, you can see everything, from the pushing, to the roars from the crowd.”
Meanwhile, impressed by the positive spirit palpable from both competing sides was Mohammad Nawar Ariffin, who had crossed the Causeway just to root for his fellow citizens in their final game.
“The Malaysian netball team wants to show that they have the calibre. They are doing it for the country, not for themselves,” he affirmed.
“You can feel that these girls have vibrant inner power. They have been second to Singapore for a very long time, so they want to come back and show that they can [win it].”
But of course, the experience could not have been complete without the cheers from the rivals. Nawar praised: “I think that the Singapore supporters are so fantastic… The way that they organise, the way that netball has a special [place] in the hearts of Singaporeans. I can see that. That is very special.”
Roar of support: Malaysian fans erupt in cheers as their team scores a point in a Netball match at the OCBC Arena. Photo: SINGSOC
Some spectators, on another hand, bore a larger degree of vested interest than the rest. These included Romero Yu and his family. Having flown to Singapore to watch his daughter, swimmer Roxanne Yu, compete in her first SEA Games, the group stood out among the largely Singaporean crowd at the OCBC Aquatic Centre, waving their Philippines flags.
Nevertheless, Yu maintained: “We support all the swimmers!”
“The 11 countries are a Southeast Asian family. It’s more meaningful to compete in a friendly competition among family members,” he added.
“We have Malaysians, we have Filipinos, we have Singaporeans seated beside each other here, and it’s fun and it’s exciting.”
Fully embodying this show of camaraderie was Scotland-born Natalie Trench, who was part of the audience at the netball finals as well. Having been a Singapore resident for five years now, the netball enthusiast was there to show support for her adopted community.
“The most thrilling part of today is just the crowd in here. The crowd’s support, and all [of us] being one family!” she exclaimed.
“I just like the atmosphere here. It’s better here than it is at home!”