Thailand beat Singapore 4-2 to claim Asia Oceania Floorball Confederation Cup
The Singapore A team may have lost their men’s Asia-Oceania Floorball Confederation Cup (AOFC) title to Thailand on Sunday but were comforted by the fact that the gulf in quality between both sides is getting smaller.
Following convincing 9-1 and 11-7 defeats in 2022, the latter at November’s World Floorball Championships, the Republic battled their regional rivals to a narrow 4-3 loss at May’s Cambodia SEA Games group stage before Sunday’s 4-2 defeat.
Singapore, the defending AOFC champions, last beat Thailand in the 2019 AOFC final. But the Thais had sent a developmental and inexperienced squad then, which resulted in a resounding 19-1 rout.
This is the third edition of the biennial AOFC. Thailand won the inaugural competition in 2017 and the 2021 edition was cancelled because of Covid-19.
Singapore A head coach Sonia Chia said: “Today we managed to close up the gap and hopefully we can push through and overcome that barrier.
“We can definitely do better. This is one of the best teams we have in terms of dynamics and we have a good mix of young and senior players.”
She had taken over as the national team’s head coach only in May, after the Phnom Penh SEA Games. She believes a new training methodology can help the team win the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in February 2024 as well as the World Championships AOFC qualifiers in May 2024.
At Our Tampines Hub, about 800 spectators were treated to a fiery contest as sticks clashed and players passionately protested against refereeing decisions.
In an entertaining first period, Singapore A twice went ahead but were pegged back immediately after. Muhammad Fattah Barin gave the hosts the lead inside 65 seconds before Surapong Sangmongkhol equalised for Thailand.
The home side regained their advantage through Azhari Saputra Mustafa but Veerasak Pimpa restored parity.
The local crowd’s hopes were dashed 25 seconds into the second period when Jeerayut Yaemyim gave the visitors a 3-2 lead that they never relinquished.
If not for the heroics of Singapore A goalkeeper Jared Tan, who was awarded man-of-the-match, the margin at the final whistle would have been much wider.
Tan said: “I think throughout the whole match, we felt that we were always in the game. After you get going you don’t really feel the pressure anymore. I don’t really think about the result per se but more about the process.”
While Singapore A piled on the pressure in the third period, two sin-bin offences in the closing minutes, which left the hosts a man down for two minutes each time, allowed Thailand to put the result beyond doubt via Tnakit Kayairit’s long-range strike in the 57th minute.
Singapore A captain Suria R said: “When we were losing 3-2, all we wanted to do was score the equaliser so we can slowly catch up.
“In the third period we took a lot of shots but we didn’t make it count. And I think once we got the two penalties that was it. I thought the boys fought really hard and played a good game.”
Thailand head coach Kenneth Koh, who is a Singaporean, added: “I think we’ve established that Singapore versus Thailand is an Asian derby and every time we get a chance to face each other I look forward to it.
“It’s always nice to come back home, but I have to stay professional and fulfill my duty as Thailand’s head coach as best I can.
“We enjoyed the win tonight. We’ll probably celebrate for a couple of days and then it’s back to the drawing board.”
In the third-place play-off, Singapore B clinched bronze after defeating South Korea 3-1.