The men’s football tournament at the Southeast Asian Games has long been a proving ground for some of the region’s best and brightest youngsters.
Many of ASEAN's most prominent stars, such as Thailand’s Chanathip Songkrasin or Vietnam’s Nguyen Quang Hai, made their name with excellent performances in this competition.
However, the tournament is not simply used for youth development, as medalling at the competition is also seen as a prestigious achievement.
This year’s tournament will be hosted in Cambodia and open to players born in 2001 or after.
Join Main Stand as we give you the stars of tomorrow to keep an eye on at the 32nd SEA Games.
Vietnam - Le Van Do
Defending champions Vietnam come into this tournament with much to prove, hoping to take back the regional crown after losing the AFF Cup 2022 finals to Thailand at the beginning of this year.
One of Vietnam’s returning contingent from their last SEA Games triumph is Le Van Do. After making a big impression at the last tournament, Van Do was snapped up by newly promoted Hanoi Police FC, who are looking to make a splash in their first season back in the Vietnamese top flight.
Capable on either flank, Van Do is more ‘natural’ on the right wing but has been deployed on the left for his club side so far this season. He may take up a wing-back position in Philippe Troussier’s 3-4-3 system and could be an important attacking outlet for the team.
Thailand - Channarong Promsrikaew
After just missing out on the gold medal in the last edition, Thailand will be looking to make amends and go all the way for the first time since 2017. One player who will be crucial to their efforts is Channarong Promsrikaew, who will be the side’s main threat going forward.
Channarong is a regular in Chonburi FC in the Thai League and spent the 2021-22 season on loan at Spanish fourth-tier side Union Adarve. He debuted for the senior team in 2022, and had his breakthrough moment at the King’s Cup, where the trio of Suphanat Mueanta, Supachok Sarachat and himself shined in a 2-1 win over Trinidad and Tobago.
Capable on either wing or through the middle as an attacking midfielder, Channarong has always excelled with his dribbling and playmaking abilities. After adding physicality and directness to his game due to his stint in Europe, he looks like a formidable force who could finally rise to regional prominence with a good showing at this tournament.
Malaysia - Azam Azmi
Malaysia will again send a slightly weakened squad to the tournament, as domestic giants Johor Darul Ta’zim won’t be releasing their stars for the tournament. However, there is still plenty of talent in the Harimau Malaya lineup, and Azam Azmi may take up the mantle as team leader.
Since breaking through to Terengganu’s first team in 2020, the right back has become a key player for the side, being a reliable and energetic option on the flank.
Despite being only 21 years old, Azmi is already a regular for his club side, having played every minute of every game in the Malaysian Super League this season. He has also racked up 6 caps for the senior national team; an impressive feat given that he has to compete with stalwarts such as Matthew Davies, Dion Cools, and Syahmi Safari for his spot.
Given his vast experience at club and international levels, he could emerge as a leader for Malaysia in this tournament.
Indonesia - Marselino Ferdinan
After losing their chance to host and compete in the U20 World Cup, Indonesia’s youngsters will look to atone and come home with SEA Games Gold for the first time in their history.
There is no doubt that their star player is Marselino Ferdinan, the 2004-born attacking midfielder who recently earned a move to K.M.S.K Denize in Belgium.
Despite being one of the youngest players in last year's edition - playing with players who were five years older than him in some cases - he netted two goals as Indonesia went on to take the Bronze medal. He was also awarded the Young Player of the Tournament award at the recent AFF Cup tournament.
With 12 senior caps under his belt at 18, Ferdinan is certainly a generational talent for the Garuda and hopes to end the side’s regional trophy drought next month.
Cambodia - Sieng Chanthea
This SEA Games campaign couldn’t have come at a better time for hosts Cambodia.
The Angkor Warriors’ senior team made a major splash at the 2022 AFF Cup, playing out their best-ever campaign in the competition and coming within just a few points of qualification to the semi-finals.
One player who had a key role in that run was striker Sieng Chenthea. Despite being only 20 years old, Chanthea is no stranger to carrying his country’s hopes on his shoulders. He has been a senior international since he was 17 and already has 26 international caps under his belt.
The striker now finds himself at the helm of an extremely exciting generation for the Angkor Warriors and is coached by Japanese legend Keisuke Honda. Given what this group has already achieved, a first-ever medal at the tournament suddenly seems realistic.