November 25, 2017
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Moving the Goalposts in Myanmar’s ‘Beautiful Game’

Myanmar's professional football league is a nutshell of the country itself: burgeoning with potential, still sketchy in places and with a “have” and “have not” gulf between top and bottom.

The MNL (Myanmar National League), which began in 2009 as a reinvention of the Myanmar Premier League inaugurated in 1996, is still finding its feet in professional and competitive competition.

As an emerging football market, the sport is unrivalled for popularity in Myanmar and no other sport comes close. If it follows the examples set by other Southeast Asian nations like Thailand and Malaysia in harnessing what Myanmar is missing - large and loyal fan-bases and committing to FIFA-backed youth development - the MNL could become a starting place for rising stars as well as a way to unite the country.

But sitting in the stands of the Aung San stadium in downtown Yangon watching players lug a ball back and forth about a waterlogged pitch during the rainy season recently shows that this is not yet a beautiful game. The monsoon season wreaks havoc on the non-artificial surfaces that are de rigueur in European stadiums. Myanmar’s fans would rather watch English Premier League, Spain’s La Liga, Germany’s Bundesliga, the Italian Serie A and maybe even Ligue 1 at a stretch than go and watch their own league football slog it out on the pitch.

Match violence

Marring the climax of the 2013 Myanmar National League (MNL) season, marking its fourth year in existence, the final league game of the season on between league champions Yangon United and second place Naypyitaw FC did not reach half time as disorder and destruction erupted in the stands and eventually spilled onto the pitch at the brand new 30,000-seater Wunna Theikdi stadium in Naypyitaw.

The arena was built ahead of December’s 2013 SEA Games and is planned to be the centerpiece of the games in Myanmar’s capital, staging the opening and closing ceremonies.

The fighting, although blamed on a section of drunken fans amongst the 20,000 attendees, revealed persisting problems that put question marks over the MNL’s ability to curb crowd violence to create a safe spectator environment ahead of the first international sporting event to take place in Myanmar in this new era.

Yangon fans and players claim it was solely the wrongdoing of Naypyitaw fans. The fans who tore up seats and invaded the pitch getting within “one meter” of Yangon United players were, as one player said, “jealous” of Yangon pipping their team to the post to win a third consecutive league title.

Myanmar Football Federation spokesman, Soe Moe, told AFP that 150 seats had been destroyed and a stage area damaged.

What happened at the final game held in Naypyitaw was an embarrassing display of juvenile mentality that unfortunately still permeates the league, as fighting broke out between players. One Naypyitaw player, Khine Htoo, displayed a martial arts-inspired kick at a Yangon United player’s face. He has been banned for the entirety of next season. Yangon United coaching staff were also targeted in an awkward reminder that a level of respect is desperately needed to instill professionalism in emerging leagues such as Myanmar.

Naypyitaw midfielder Zaw Lin will not be allowed to feature for the first five matches of next season as well as being fined 500,000 Kyat. Tin Zaw Moe and second-choice goalkeeper Zaw Myo Oo also face five-match bans, both with 200,000 kyat fines. The team’s technical director also faces a fine of 500,000 kyat. Yangon’s only penalized player is a rising star Kyi Lin. He faces a three-match ban and a fine of 500,000 kyat.

For the MNL’s runnerup, blind hooliganism is not the precedent a top club should be setting.

It was a sight that must have had organizers and officials with their heads in their hands after successfully annulling their ban from the World Cup 2018 russia qualifying rounds-imposed after serious crowd problems at home in Myanmar against Oman in 2010.

Remembering the golden era

It didn’t used to be like this. As Yangon United Chairman Phyo Tayza told reuters last year, “You know how cricket is for England, football is for us.” Myanmar may be football-mad but its interest is still far too limited in its own domestic league. During the Premier League season people will gather round the TV to see Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, eyes glued to the screen like insects to the streetlights.

Myanmar’s football story mirrors that of the country’s political story of the past 50 years. Once known as ‘the rice bowl of Asia’ for being the world’s largest exporter of the commodity, Myanmar became the region’s poorest and one of the world’s most isolated countries with two long consecutive militarycontrolled dictatorships. But what is not as well known is Myanmar’s past glories as a footballing powerhouse in Asia. The national side was not the minnow it is now during the 1960s and early 1970s, coming runners-up in the 1968 Asian Nations Cup.  Burma, as it was then called, was crowned football champions of the SEA Games five times between 1965 and 1973. Burma’s appearances at the Asian Games were also respectable, winning twice in 1966 and 1970.

International isolation brought with it a bleak footballing abyss. Meanwhile, Japan and Korea soared in the football stakes and eventually co-hosted the FIFA World Cup in 2002. Myanmar did not even enter the qualifying stages, nor had they in any FIFA World Cup until 2010. They failed to qualify for the group stages ahead of both South Africa 2010 and next year’s tournament in Brazil.

Two years prior to transition to the quasi-civilian led government, new life was breathed into the rusty lungs of Myanmar’s domestic football scene with the creation of the Myanmar National League (MNL). Big investment and strong commitments from the Myanmar Football Federation (MFF) have brought an increasingly professional-looking league that consists of fourteen clubs from around the country.

International Football legends have paid recent visits to the football-mad country with Manchester United’s 1990s heroes Andy Cole, Lee Sharpe, Dennis Irwin and Clayton Blackmore and Liverpool’s John Barnes making charity appearances.

MUTV, Manchester United’s in-house TV channel will go live in Myanmar in a deal with SkyNet, a local broadcaster that’s also acquired the rights to show the premier league 2013-14 and the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Will an ageing legend come to a Myanmar club in the near future? It’s unlikely but if Myanmar follows the model laid before them by neighboring Thailand and Malaysia and club owners are prepared to offer vast sums of money in salaries then it’s not a distant dream.

Neither is an English Premier League Club visiting on tour. This summer has seen Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool, Sunderland, and Manchester City play in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Japan and Australia.

But more importantly the question is whether MNL clubs are focusing enough on producing homegrown players with enough quality to energize a league to rival other Asian leagues and re-invigorate a woeful national side. The country’s best ever FIFA world ranking was 97th in April 1996 but in July of this year they were placed at 163rd - one behind the Solomon Islands and just ahead of Gambia – indicating their dribbling skills were more in line with babies than David Beckham’s nifty moves.

Myanmar faces many obstacles before it can be a truly professional league. With most of the league games taking place in Yangon, some teams have never played a league game on home turf.

With 60 million people, Myanmar is in desperate need for focus on building academies thereby investing in the sustainability of the league.

“Ten to fifteen years” is how long some MNL coaches believe it will take for the league to overcome its obstacles and banish its growing pains.

Rising Stars

But what is perhaps more enviable than facilities are two rising stars with performances this year warranting a move abroad. Yangon’s 20-year old wonderkid, Kyi Lin, has recently been touted for a move abroad to the Malaysian Premier League.

Ayeyawady FC Head Coach Marjan Sekulovski says this would be “a good opportunity for him,” adding, “There a quite a few other Myanmar players who could try out abroad and it’s good for them because they will take on a lot more experience from a really professional level because if you play in Malaysia the league is an increasingly higher standard in the region in terms of coaching, technical staff, physios and other players.”

This experience could help invigorate the Myanmar field.

“If five, maybe 10 Myanmar players begin to play at this professional standard then they can really contribute to the Myanmar national team,” he says.

Another 20-year-old rising star is Kyaw Ko Ko, who fans compare to Liverpool’s Luis Suarez for both style and temperament. Sekulovski believes the young prospect is the national side’s “only really good quality striker.”

When Sekulovski first saw him play for Zeyar Swe Myay, he remembers, “in my mind, I thought what is this player doing here, why doesn’t he go to Europe, he’d have a great opportunity. If he settles his injury and little mentality problem then technically and tactically he can move to the next level. I also hope he will play for Myanmar U-23 at the SEA Games because if he’s not there it’s a big deficit in the Myanmar senior national team and they don’t have problems with selection but for U-23 there aren’t enough players, especially in the strikers’ position, to choose from.”

Others see promise. “He [Kyaw Ko Ko] is a really good player. He has a special set of skills and can use his speed,” says Serbian striker MNL 2012 top goalscorer Sasa rankovic.

Rankovic, 33, began life in Myanmar at Southern Myanmar before moving to play for fourth-place outfit Zeyar Swe Myay. “But it would be damaging to his development if he [Kyaw Ko ko] does not try to play in some other stronger league soon,” he adds.

Youth development

The MFF is picking up the pace. The federation has completed two academy projects so far. One project is in Mandalay and the other closer to Yangon in Pathein, the largest town in Ayeyawady Division.

Completed in 2011 at a total cost of US$750,000, the Pathein Football Academy is a promising step forward. The building itself has two stories with bedrooms, dining hall, training rooms, classrooms, offices, common room and instructors’ quarters.

$250,000 was donated by the Asian Football Confederation and the remaining $500,000 donated by the Ayeyawady Foundation, a charity founded by MFF President Zaw Zaw whose company Max Myanmar Construction Co. Ltd completed the two-year project.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter, a friend of Zaw Zaw, opened the Mandalay academy in 2011 during an inspection of the FIFA Goal Projects in the country.

In Mandalay, the FIFA Goal Project 2 had a total budget of US$1.49 million for a fully-fledged Football Academy for 10-16 year olds from rural areas with Goal contributing $400,000 to the project. Tay Za’s Htoo Trading Company was paid $848,727 for construction of the project.

A third Goal Project was introduced in March of last year to provide the Mandalay youth academy project with daily training sessions, full-board accommodation and education for 60 young players at U-15 level.

In September 2012, FIFA approved Goal Project 5 to establish a Football Academy in Yangon which will cater to the young talent in the country’s largest city at U10, U12, U14 level and to help the development of young talent for the future U17 national team. The academy building at the National Football Training Centre is set to include dormitories, offices, classrooms, cafeteria and a gym.

Zaw Zaw is often cited as the driving force behind Myanmar’s major football developments. Having close relationships with the government he has worked hard at changing his image of being close with the former military junta with his philanthropic pursuits in both football and his charity organization, the Ayeyawaddy Foundation.

He told Mizzima Business Weekly in July of his love of the MFF job, “Since the very beginning, I have worked as the MFF chairman not because I want money. I work only because I love my country. The football federation needs to spend several million of US dollars. I have to almost solely contribute my own money to the funding [of the MFF].”

MFF general secretary Tin Aung said that since Zaw Zaw began working as the chairman of the MFF, Myanmar’s football sector has achieved better international status whilst also receiving many opportunities to cooperate with FIFA.

“U Zaw Zaw wants Myanmar’s football sector to improve. Myanmar’s football sector has markedly improved during his tenure. So, even FIFA has to praise it,” said Tin Aung.

Last year’s Myanmar Cup winning coach Sekulovski of Ayeyawaddy FC says, “The MFF president and the people around him are doing really great things to promote the sport. Only in the last fifteen months they have brought three or four international tournaments here to Myanmar. The president has a big respect for the AFC Cup (Asian Football Confederation Cup) and the AFC Federation as well as with FIFA where he has a good relationship with Sepp Blatter.”

But so far only Yangon, Naypyitaw and Yadarnabon have their own academies, whilst the teams lower down the table are yet to invest.

Ayeyawady’s Sekulovski calls the clubs’ lack of investment in the youth system “a big problem.”

Yangon United’s Ivory Coast star striker, Adama Kone, spent time in Thailand before coming to Myanmar, most recently at Thai Premier League outfit FC Phuket. Coming from one of Africa’s best football nations he knows just how important youth development is in order to produce better players and attract bigger clubs from abroad.

“I think they should have more academies,” he says, “because it is important to have good coaches teaching players when they are young. Like in Ivory Coast they have so many academies and across Africa. At Yangon United there are many young players but there is no academy building.”

Zwekapin FC Technical Director, Toni Jakimoski, thinks club owners need to think beyond immediate results. “They must build an academy. This is the most important for changing the mindset and style of play. Because us foreigners give them the knowledge and they give us the money, this is the point, they must also be thinking about beyond that, for sustainability, because this country is so rich in potential. I’ve been explaining to the boss that it’s good if you spend the money on one complex. If you’re building players in your own school its good because these talents will be thinking this is my club, I was born as a player in this club, if he has the good progress tomorrow you can sell this player and put the money back into the academy to make new stars. But he [the owner] says okay, okay, I don’t like this, this not my job. He’s only focused on the moment.”

MNL-2 club GFA’s CEO, Ti Ti, is more optimistic about the country focus on youth development.

“Because of our MFF President, through his grace and through his help in Myanmar a lot of young people now have opportunities. They can earn the money and they can survive and they become a professional. Our nation has recently moved towards democracy so it is young people who need to be motivated and controlled from drugs and all these things so that’s why the nation has a strong interest in the sport to take on board all these changes.”

Ivan Kolev, the current Yangon United FC coach who previously managed the Myanmar national team told Fifa.com at the end of last year: “If I compare Myanmar’s football now to the situation six years ago during my spell as national team coach, I can say that the country has made huge progress in terms of infrastructure and technical development. They have understood that the only way to move forward is through a dedicated grassroots program.”

According to Fifa.com, since 2001 FIFA has invested more than US$2 million in Myanmar’s football development through the implementation of the four Goal projects. To produce more Kyaw Ko Kos and Kyi Lins it is projects such as these that the country must focus on, not as a token piece but as the bedrock of the national team, if not solely for the MNL’s benefit.

Club investment

Business tycoon U Tay Za, owner of Htoo Group, created Yangon United FC as one of the founding MNL clubs. The club’s shirt sponsor Air Bagan, one of Myanmar’s leading domestic and regional airlines, is one of his Tay Za’s airlines. His son, Phyo Tay Za, is the club’s chairman. Since 2009, he has pumped a considerable amount of money into improving the image and facilities of Yangon’s sole representative in the Myanmar National League (MNL).

Yangon United has added glamour to the league and in some respects is the envy of many in the league with its training facilities that include its own private ground with an artificial asphalt layered pitch at the Yangon United Sports Complex. Add to the mix a well kitted out private gym and outdoor swimming pool.

Kanbawza Bank, one the largest banks in Myanmar, owns KBZ FC who have remained one of the more successful clubs in Myanmar since they founded in 2005.

They have since been attracting some of the best foreign imports and local talent rivaling Yangon. Their coach, P.N.Sivaji is the former Head Coach of Singapore. The club’s home ground Taunggyi Stadium  at the town of Taunggyi, near Inle Lake in central Myanmar still only has a 7,000 capacity and no academy.

At the grounds  

For the time being Myanmar’s football clubs attract few supporters despite the sport having such strong following throughout the country. The reasons blamed for low turnout are the relatively high ticket prices, and games being played mostly midweek and in the searing afternoon heat. The average attendance in the MNL is only 1,000 in Yangon and 5,000 in Mandalay.

One of the FIFA Goal Projects was to create international standard stands at the Thuwana Sports Stadium. The budget for the project was $655,396 financed jointly by FIFA and FAP (FIFA’s Financial Assistance Program) with Guangdong Province Dong Fang Import and Export Company contracted for the renovations.

Although the stadium’s capacity is 50,000 it is often nearly empty during the MNL season. Myanmar’s next biggest stadium is the ageing former national venue Aung San Stadium blackened with mould in Yangon’s city centre. If refurbishment is not on the agenda this ground could quickly become a worn-out relic.

Like Thuwana it is often near empty during league games despite its 40,000 capacity. The ground is often said to be extremely difficult to play on especially in the rainy season. Yangon United’s Bulgarian coach Ivan Kolev after one game compared it to playing “water-polo, not football.”

FOREIGN PLAYERS

Macedonian football agent, Dragan Jakovleski, 28, looks after eleven foreign players and two foreign coaches in the MNL.

“Amongst SEA countries, Myanmar’s football ranking is not so bad,” he says, noting that “year after year they are going up, but they need to work harder and try to invest more money in the league in order to build on this to keep going higher up.”

Attracting foreign players to an emerging league can boost local fan interest and bring about further international recognition of the league. But how much is this restricted by the current Asian Football Confederation imposed limit of three foreign players and one Asian player?

Jakovleski sees more room for foreigners in club’s squad would be beneficial for both immediate results and providing enough experience for local players to learn from.

“Maybe it would be a good idea to have a total of five or six foreigners in the squad, but in the line-up can only be just four, and two foreigners can replace just foreigners on the pitch,” he says.

“The MNL must have foreigners. I don’t think it is time yet in the MNL to cut out foreigners…just increase the limit by one or two more because with this decision, it is good for the motivation of local players for learning from their experience to improve,” he added.

Foreign players receive around $3,000-5,000 per month, according to the agent.

Leandro Duarte arrived three years ago and now plays up-front for Ayeyawady FC. “The league gets stronger every year, players of various countries are playing in Myanmar now. This helps in improving the quality of football,” he says.

Finding the right balance of experienced international arrivals and strong local talent is key to teams across emerging footballing countries. Asian countries have signed some of the biggest football names in world football but more for set-piece shirt-selling opportunities that don’t necessarily improve the league or its potential.

In the early 1990s, England’s Gary Lineker joined Japanese club Nagoya Grampus Eight, to only make 18 appearances. Liverpool legend robbie Fowler played thirteen times in the Thai Premier League for Muangthong FC between 2011 and 2012.

But it is the Chinese league that has struggled with big name foreign imports. recently former Chelsea strikers Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka both moved to Shanghai Shenua but the moves were heralded as a failed sporting experiment.

Myanmar’s football imports are generally more experienced journeyman players who’ve circulated amongst other similar emerging leagues, with the longest staying in for three years and others a matter of months.  

How instrumental foreign players are to the fortunes of MNL clubs has been varied. Some clubs that had not signed any foreigners struggled this season but Southern Myanmar surprised many when they escaped relegation despite having no foreign players at all except English coach, Ken Worden.

“The year we started we brought in five foreign players and won nothing and this year with no foreign players we’ve managed to avoid relegation and beat some bigger teams than ourselves,” says Worden, the Southern Myanmar coach.

Rakhine United is another team that has suffered after not taking any international arrivals until too late. They have now been relegated to the MNL-2.

Rakhine United’s Portuguese forward, Nimes Pina, a 30-year-old striker, says, “The fact it that having foreigners in the team is very important, it counts very much.”

A foreign injection of talent helped. “Rakhine United started without foreigners and they made only one point,” he said. “After me and Benson came things improved, we’re the only two foreigners, sometimes we play against teams who have four foreigners.”

Pina started life at Sporting Lisbon’s academy and in one game played against a 16-year-old Cristiano ronaldo. Pina went on the play in a mixture of countries from Moldova to Cyprus.

In the top ten highest scoring players in the league this season only second placed Soe Min Oo from KBZ FC is a Myanmar national. Brazilian striker Cesar Augusto has netted 19 times for Yangon United.

Two other Brazilians, KBZ’s Nunes and Ayeyawady’s Leandro Duarte, made it into the top six.

For Ayeyawady coach Marjan Jekulovski, foreign players are not the primal concern of his club. What he feels needs more consideration in the transfer windows is tracking the better Myanmar nationals.

“For foreigners, if you have more money, you can get better quality, if you have less money, you will need to create this quality. Everything is about money in football. But for me the most important thing is the development and improvement of the Myanmar national players is if they are at better level, foreigners must be much better,” he says.

He believes this season Myanmar players have performed better than any previous year across the board.

Despite the Myanmar National League “becoming stronger every year,” Jekulovski still thinks good foreign players are still put off coming to Myanmar.

“The problem is that there hasn’t been too much good quality foreign players coming so far. Here they don’t have the possibility to take better money, so they go to Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and then players who are nearer the end of their careers come to Myanmar. In a way it is a problem that many players who come here are over 30 or around that age. I think after the next two seasons there will be better financial conditions and a better quality of player will start coming. It is impossible to find big quality foreign players who like to come here, this is
their last station to stop at in Asia,” he says.

Promoted club GFA’s CEO admits, “The reason we must take the foreigners is mainly to help our team. So sometimes all the young people will play but we need the foreign players with much experience to help them, next season we will take two.”

PROMOTION & RELEGATION

The 2013 season is the first to include a promotionrelegation system between MNL-1 and MNL-2. It is this increasing level of genuine competitiveness that gives the country an edge over other emerging Asian leagues.

Two MNL-2 clubs, GFA and Chin United will now enter the top flight after clinching first and second place. GFA, or Gospel For Asia, is a Christian-focused club, as is Chin United.

GFA CEO, Ti Ti, says, “When we say GFA is a Christian club we don’t mean this is a kind of extreme religious club, rather it is based on the views of the Christians. We also have a lot of Buddhists and other religions but as you ask me, when we say Christian, it doesn’t mean an extreme religious message but we mean most of the players are based on the Christian views as are the people who are involved in this team.”

GFA is largely made up of young players and this youth-focused mentality is driven by the club’s vision for helping young people who live in poverty.

“Most of our players are youths. They are mainly from the mountain areas, Chin state, Kayah, Karen states, from areas where they have difficulties in living, where people are poor and not able to come to Yangon, so we go and get them from these very far-away places.

We collect them and train them up. So football gives them a new hope.”

Keen and energetic recruits are needed. “Our dream is not to spend money to throw away but to have a team of young people in a modern way, in a sporting way, in an ambitious way, we’re able to help them. The young people can have a lot of fun in the sport.”

Chin United FC, another Christian club representing Chin State (western Myanmar), will play in the MNL next season.

Soccer on your mobile

Zeyar Wai Phyo, Cofounder of Myanmar+, a mobile-apps and web development start-up and Soccer Myanmar, one of most popular football news sources in the country. It can now boast 57,000 followers on Facebook and 15,716,312 unique visits since 2009.

How did soccer Myanmar start?

Back in 2008 there was nothing like it. The Internet was still very slow and not a lot of people were using it. Also at the time there were not a lot of Burmese websites. The problem is that a lot of people like to read about it [football]. Burmese people really love the English Premier League, they are crazy fans for Man United, Chelsea, Arsenal. People are mostly passionate about this league. They really like to able to read about it in Burmese because on the Internet they don’t really like to read it in English and maybe if they aren’t so fluent in English they cannot have this connection.

At the time there was zero online writing about Myanmar sports. If you wanted to read about it you had to look at a small section in the newspaper, just a little bit about it. Back then there were a quite a few sports journals but there would only be on one page, a small article about something and only now with the SEA games coming up they have more pictures and articles.

The MNL hadn’t started yet we didn’t know about it yet but we wanted to write about European football so in preparation for the MNL we hired some journalists to get it going and people really liked it.

Who writes the articles?

Right now, we have more freelancers than previously when we had more permanent writers. It started with me and my friend Moe Wai, he left to work for the Ayeyawady Foundation. But we started this as a hobby.

Are you surprised at how well it has done?

(laughs) Yes, we’ve been really surprised and we really didn’t expect it to get this huge. Because Burmese people really like to read local news but they’re much in consensus over the local league. For the Premier League, it’s a different story.

On the premier league they fight online and this generates a lot of traffic and interesting debate. This is another success of the website is that we give them the opportunity to comment. But at the same time, we are very busy to moderate the comments after that we integrated the Facebook comments and we leave them, they do their own.

We only started with shared hosting which was really cheap like only $50 a year. But it crashed. So we needed to upgrade to a server for about $200 a month so the traffic’s really huge.

Zeyar Wai Phyo is now focusing on start-up media and tech company Myanmar +.  The Soccer Myanmar app is now available on HTC One smartphones.

CONTROVERSY

Back in 2010, when The Guardian newspaper published the U.S. government leaked cables, Myanmar and football were the subjects of one piece of intelligence. According to a leaked cable from the U.S. Embassy in Yangon, General Than Shwe was supposedly considering making a US$1billion dollar bid for Manchester United. The cable reported that he had been urged by his grandson to make a bid for the premier league club. “One well-connected source reports that the grandson wanted Than Shwe to offer $1bn for Manchester United,” said the June 2009 cable to Washington. “The senior general thought that sort of expenditure could look bad, so he opted to create for Burma a league of its own.”

In an interview with reuters, Phyo Tayza “denied that former dictator Than Shwe had ordered the tycoons to create the league to satisfy the whims of a soccer-loving grandson.”

SNAPSHOT OF AYEYAWADY FC

MARJAN: “Myanmar players have naturally strong stamina, good endurance and agility but the problem is they don’t work systematically, they need time to improve this. Also technical skills are at a good level. But the biggest problem for Myanmar players is the tactical elements of performance. Because they started to play football at a professional level too late and sometimes it’s difficult to adjust them to that tactical style. Also, a little problem is mentality. The MNL is only four years as a professional outfit and its needs more time to improve and develop this mentality of professionalism. The neighboring countries needed maybe 10 years to improve and develop these areas of the game. Now they’re at a respectable level. The MNL is still in its infancy. Especially with a lot of the young generation, they need to ensure this is taught at academy level and this will help a lot.”

“The big problem for my team is facilities. Especially in the rainy season, the ground field is flooded and I believe in the last six months my team has had only six training sessions in the last two months on an actual clear training field. Sometimes we use one very old and very dangerous gym like a training gym. In the last two weeks, we tried to find some training field near Y.T.C stadium and go there but this was too late.”

This article first appeared in the September 19 edition of M-ZINE+.


M-ZINE+ is a business weekly available in print in Yangon through Innwa Bookstore and through online subscription at www.mzineplus.com

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