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My Saturday was spent catching the football match between Myanmar and Thailand at Thuwana Stadium, as part of the 27th SEA games. It has been 44 years since Myanmar plays host to an international sporting event of such scale. The game was especially exciting as the two neighbouring countries’ teams were evenly matched. As a Myanmar national, I was rooting for the home team.

Spirits were high among the locals and the main road was partially blocked to facilitate the huge crowd. The stadium was packed with close to 30,000 spectators all geared up in SEA games and team Myanmar merchandises. As you approached the stadium by foot, you could already soak in the sheer excitement and the national pride.

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As I stepped into the ring, I was faced with the blinding stadium lights. I could not help but beam in pride at the impressive infrastructure and the set-up. Before the start of the match, the commentator requested the spectators to stand up for the national anthem of Myanmar. It was the defining moment for me. After being away from the motherland for more than a decade, this experience had definitely reassured me that Myanmar is truly the place I call home.

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Watching a sports game is only fun if you have someone to cheer for. To majority of the 30,000 spectators and myself, it was a no-brainer.The whole stadium was cheering for every little moves of the local players – every corner kicks, every hand balls, every time the ball was at the opponent’s danger zone, every time the goal keeper saved the shot and so on.

Chris McCandless (Into the Wild) wrote that ‘Happiness is not real unless shared’, which embodied the whole sporting experience at Thuwana stadium. The crowd went wild when the Myanmar team scored the first goal of the game during the first half. There were many exchanges of high-fives and hugs among the crowd, and strangers became instant friends through this shared experience. The football enthusiasts went berserk and the crowd broke out into another wave of national anthem.

Thailand made a comeback during the second half, and the final score was 1-1 resulting in a draw.

Photo by : Myat Su & Grace

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