More than 8000 spectators gathered in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam on the closing day to watch Brazilian team Floripa emerge as champions of the 2012 Tiger Street Football tournament
By Cesare Polenghi
The 2012 Tiger Street Football tournament saw participating teams from Vietnam, Argentina, Malaysia, Singapore, China and Thailand, in addition to the Brazilian champions.
Matches were played in a 'Street Football Cage' that measured about 30x12 meters, which was covered by a net suspended some two-and-a-half meters above the ground that guaranteed continuous play.
The event featured former Juventus and Holland midfielder Edgar Davids as ambassador, who said the tournament was a success and hopes it will inspire many in Asia to "pick up a ball, hit the streets and play football."
The Brazilian quintet, Floripa Brazilian Street Football, won the final as they beat an unlucky Malaysian side Equal FC 7-2 . The South-east Asian team saw their goalkeeper sent off for a handball outside the goalie area, though to many it seemed as if he had actually touched the ball with his shoulder.
Despite the controversy, the experienced Brazilian team delighted the thousands in the stands with some very entertaining football, and deservedly took home the trophy.
In the first semifinals, the carioca had defeated the former champions, Argentinian side Futsar, 3-2 in a hard-fought game, while Equal FC produced an amazing comeback against local side Dat Vinh Tien in the other semifinal.
Led by their captain Jamaludin Alias, the Malaysians were down 4-1 at one point, but they managed to equalize and turn the game around to win in extra-time, much to the disappointment of the local supporters.
The same kind of miracle had already happened during the group phase, when Equal FC managed to beat the Brazilians in what was surely the biggest upset of the tournament.
Jamaludin described that game as "the happiest moment" of his life, and the 36-year-old received the top-scorer accolade after netting an impressive 17 goals in the tournament.
Edmond Neo, the Director, group commercial of Asia Pacific Breweries, who was very closely involved in the organisation and the development of Tiger Street Football, was very pleased with the success of the tournament.
"Tiger Street Football has ignited the passion for street football amongst fans in Asia," said Edmond. "In fact, we are already preparing for next year's line up as we speak.
"I want to thank all players and tell the footballers in Asia: keep your passion burning, and continue to practice earnestly!"
The tournament will be back in 2013, as it brings its signature caged arena to more places around Asia, with games scheduled in Cambodia, Mongolia and Australia.