History beckons for either Indonesia or Thailand in Southeast Asian Games gold medal match

Indonesia will be gunning for a first Southeast Asian Games men's football gold medal since 1991 -- and a maiden triumph since the tournament became an age-group competition -- in Tuesday's final against Thailand. PSSI

History will be made at Phnom Penh's Olympic Stadium on Tuesday evening, regardless of whether it is Thailand or Indonesia that prevail in the men's football final of the 32nd Southeast Asian Games.

For record champions Thailand, victory will only further enhance their domination of regional football with a record-extending 17th gold medal.

But for the Indonesians, and their long-suffering fans, a first triumph since 1991 -- and a maiden title since the tournament became an age-group competition 22 years ago -- could mean so much more.

Of course, that is not to say that it would have no significance at all for Thailand or that they are taking the SEA Games for granted, for that matter.

Yes, the War Elephants have gone on to bigger and better things.

They have an AFC Asian Cup to prepare for, having done well to reach the knockout round last time out in 2019.

They are also only one of two Southeast Asian games to have reached the final round of for the FIFA World Cup in the past two editions.

Yet, in a region where age-old rivalries and bragging rights remain the biggest priorities for many supporters, claiming SEA Games gold with the under-22 team is still a major source of pride.

And perhaps it will matter greatly to Thailand, especially after seeing fierce rivals Vietnam emerge triumphant in 2019 and last year.

With the senior side having won the past two AFF Championship titles, regaining SEA Games gold at age-group level would only reinforce the notion that the Thais are once again the undisputed kings of ASEAN football.

Not if Indonesia have anything to say about that, though.

And for the world's fourth-most populous country with over a hundred million passionate fans, Indonesian football could certainly do with a feel-good factor right now.

Six runners-up finishes at the AFF Championship, without ever laying their hands on the trophy, have earned Indonesia the unwanted tag of being the perennial bridesmaid of the region.

And just as they were preparing to be the venue of arguably their biggest-ever sporting event, the Indonesias were stripped of their rights as hosts of the upcoming FIFA U-20 World Cup - owing to issues unrelated to sport.

Over the years, there have also been international bans imposed by FIFA for breakaway domestic leagues and government interference in footballing matters.

Indonesian football and its fans have been battered and bruised and yet they continue to push on.

Still, there is only so much one can endure before ultimately feeling a sense of defeat and potentially giving up, especially if there is no reward.

Thankfully, there already is one with Indonesia also headed for next January's Asian Cup as one of four Southeast Asian representatives along with Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia.

Nonetheless, one does get the feeling that the ultimate vindication will still come in the form of silverware.

A shiny SEA Games gold medal could do just fine.