Thailand team receive heroes' welcome in Bangkok
Tens of thousands of people thronged the streets of Bangkok on Sunday as Thailand made a triumphant return to the capital after winning the AFF Suzuki Cup for a record-equalling fourth time.
Thailand broke a 12-year drought in ASEAN's leading football competition with a 4-3 aggregate victory (2-0, 2-3) over Malaysia at Bukit Jalil National Stadium in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday.
Players and officials travelled by open-top bus from Don Muang airport to the National Stadium in downtown Bangkok through streets lined by flag-waving, chanting supporters.
Bridges and overpasses were jam-packed with fans and the specially liveried AFF Suzuki Cup bus proclaiming Thailand "Champions of ASEAN" slowed to a crawl as it made its way through Victory Monument and Bangkok's main shopping thoroughfare at Siam Square as fans closed in for a closer look at their heroes.
The parade was broadcast live by a number of television channels and fans swamped Twitter and other social networks with pictures of the amazing scenes.
Thai-Swiss midfielder Charyl Chappuis, who scored the decisive goal on Saturday, was blown away by the reception for the team.
"It is amazing, unbelievable," he said from the open-top bus shortly after it left Don Muang. "It is a lot crazier than when I won the FIFA Under-17 World Cup with Switzerland."
Thailand coach Kiatisuk "Zico" Senamuang, the architect of the team's successful campaign, kept a low profile for most of the journey into town but lifted the AFF Suzuki Cup aloft to huge cheers as the bus entered the National Stadium complex which houses the headquarters of the Football Association of Thailand.
Kiatisuk, the best footballer of his generation who won more than 100 caps and scored over 60 goals for his country, became the first person to win the ASEAN Football Championship as a player and coach.
"This group of players is even better than the team I played for," said Kiatisuk, who featured in the 1996, 2000 and 2002 winning sides. "They have everything required to achieve more success."
Kiatisuk also enjoyed success on the personal front with his father having promised to quit smoking if his and the country's favourite son brought back the AFF Suzuki Cup to Thailand.