Former Indonesia international Ponaryo Astaman has spoken of an incredible atmosphere generated by the AFF Suzuki Cup as fans flock to see Southeast Asian nations fight for the right to be crowned regional champions.

With the draw for the 2018 edition to take place in Jakarta on May 2, Ponaryo, who made more than 60 appearances for the Garuda and played in three Suzuki Cups, was part of an Indonesian side that came so close to winning the 2004 title, only to lose in the final to Singapore.

But the competition as a whole brings back happy memories for the former midfielder, who also reached the semi-finals on his last appearance in the tournament in 2008.

“Of course it’s the spectators that make this tournament so special because in the region we have so many fans in every country – Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines – it’s always a wonderful atmosphere and this is the main point that makes it special," explained Ponaryo.

“Everyone has a crazy love of football and we can feel it, so the players are shaking. For me, the first time I was also shaking, but you enjoy the feeling and the atmosphere.

“My favourite memory was also a bad memory from 2004. We had a good team with so many rising stars, but unfortunately when we reached the final some of the key players were injured.

“So we didn’t have our best team and we lost against Singapore. But I think at that moment we had the best team in the competition.”

Indonesia’s current generation impressed in the last edition in 2016 when they finished second in their group behind Thailand, before ousting Vietnam in the semi-finals.

Up against Thailand again in the final, the Garuda won the first game 2-1 in Bogor but narrowly missed out on claiming the title for the first time after a 2-0 loss in Bangkok meant they were defeated 3-2 on aggregate.

With the competition’s new format seeing teams play two home games and two away in the group stage, the draw has even more significance, particularly given the strength of Indonesia in front of their own fans.

“I think the draw today will be exciting because for this tournament the draw is very important for all the participants,” added Ponaryo.

“The level of all the teams is very similar so the draw is the first major point of the competition. But I think this year is a good opportunity for Indonesia because we have had a long time to prepare the team.

“There was the U-23 team for the Asian Games but this side will be more of a combination between the senior and younger players. They have performed well in the last two years so this tournament is a great chance for Indonesia.”