‘They Have Talent and Love Their Motherland’

‘They Have Talent and Love for Their Motherland’

The chairman of Burma’s football federation, Zaw Zaw, center, with members of his U-19 football team, on Aug. 24 in Rangoon. (Photo: Thaw Hein Htet / The Irrawaddy) 

The chairman of Burma’s football federation, Zaw Zaw, center, with members of his U-19 football team, on Aug. 24 in Rangoon. (Photo: Thaw Hein Htet / The Irrawaddy)

Burma’s Under-19 men’s football team triumphed at a regional tournament in Brunei over the weekend, showing remarkable spirit as they ended a miserably long history of defeat. The win came on Saturday, as the team beat their Vietnamese counterparts 4-3 in the final of the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy. After the match, the chairman of the Myanmar Football Federation (MFF) Zaw Zaw, a prominent businessman, caught up with The Irrawaddy.

Question: Why do you think Burma was able to clinch the win this weekend?

Answer: Preparation was the major contributing factor. The players worked hard and the coaches taught them to act with discipline and observe fair play. Another contributor was the cooperation of football club owners, who nurtured these players in their respective football clubs or football academies before allowing them to join the tournament. The support of Burmese fans was a driving force for our players. The victory was indeed the result of a deep hunger to win, good preparation and teamwork, plus strong cooperation among the head coach, assistant coaches and team leaders.

Q: Will U-19 players be selected for the national team? What’s the plan?

A: Our main target is the Asian (AFC) U-19 Youth Championship. We won’t give the players to any other team before the championship. We plan to take a risk and play the Thai U-19 team that will compete in the Asian Games. In sports, we won’t improve if we don’t play stronger teams. We’ll leave here on the 30th of this month to play against the Thai team and train in Bangkok. Then we’ll proceed to Vietnam. We’ll compete in the Asian U-19 Youth Championship in October.

Q:Burmese people are quite happy about the victory in Brunei. How will MFF help maintain a winning record in the future?

A: In football, there are three levels for us—the Asean, Asian and international levels. Now we are going to test our strength at the Asian level, to see if we can break into the international level.

We’ll lag behind if we can’t do what other countries are doing. For example, in countries like Thailand, every football club has a football academy. Football clubs and schools jointly organize a lot of football tournaments, and brilliant players at inter-school tournaments are selected to football academies. Inter-academy football tournaments are held and outstanding players are selected for the national league. But for that, we in Burma would need facilities, financing and sponsors. If the infrastructure is built as the country sees economic growth, our football standard will improve. And once we have the infrastructure, it is also important that our football team can play 10 to 12 football matches in a year abroad. Only then will there be results.

The professional league must also guarantee a decent livelihood for football players. If the salary at the professional league is just 50,000 to 100,000 kyats (US$50-$100) per month, no parents will let their children play football because there will be no guarantee for their lives.

We need to upgrade the grassroots-level league to a national league and then a professional one. We have ideas for how to do this, but we need people with the time and money to act on these ideas. We can’t transform overnight. Just take a look at how much Thai football clubs spend—six times more than we do, while the expenses of Vietnamese clubs are five times greater than our own. Vietnamese clubs have their own football academies and each club has U-14, U-16 and U-19 teams. They have their own pitches. We have to compete with them.

We compete with other countries while we have next to nothing in resources compared with them. We have struggled. In the past, we competed in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) President’s Cup and now in the AFC Cup. To play in the Asian Champions League (ACL), we’ll need club licenses. Otherwise we won’t be able to take part in Asia’s highest competition, and we can only daydream about becoming an Asian champion.

In Thailand, a football club gets support equivalent to the assistance given to a national team by the national football federation. Their improvement therefore is very good. We were able to clinch victory only because our U-19 football players have talent and love for their motherland. We are still lacking in many things.

6 Responses to ‘They Have Talent and Love for Their Motherland’

  1. Burma Football was a fearful Asian tiger in the 1960s.
    All teams in the game were out of fear when they heard the BURMA as their opposition in the match.
    Burma beats Thailand 5-nil was a normal result in those golden days.
    Yes, Burma needs to build infrastructure, decent living standard for players, etc.
    Do not forget to change the attitude and character of people.
    The poverty caused by the dictatorial military regime had bring down the Asian champ” Burma” of 1960s to its knee. The nepotism, favoritism, bribery, corruption, gambling, match fixing, racism all played their part to bring Burmese football to its lowest level.
    Burma had to climb up almost impossible mission to become a force to reckon in the international level.
    I congratulate the under 19 players for their victory out of all the adversary against them.

  2. Military regime brought down the quality of everything in myanmar so low. Regime needs to go back to its own barrack and allow people their own businesses without interference. Boyokemar will go to hell.

  3. Hi Editor – did you not receive my comment that I wrote a few days ago?

    • Dear Shwe Min,

      Our apologies if we missed one of your comments. The regular moderator was away for a week, so many comments that we received during that time were not posted until yesterday (including several submitted by you). Please check again to see if your comment is online now, and if not, please let us now (it’s possible that some comments have been automatically sent to the spam folder by accident).

      Best regards,
      Irrawaddy comment moderator

  4. Such a happy and gay crowd; I thought, one could only see this in the Castro District in SFO. Anyway, kudos to the U19; keep the 60′s flying.

  5. Fantastic performance. Kudos to U Zaw Zaw and MNL. Our challenge now is to ensure that we translate these wins into future senior team accolades. Yes, we lack in infrastructure and developing a sustainable pipeline of players, compared to some of our neighbors. But, we are making progress with MNL teams like Yangon United, Yadanarbon, KBZ and so on. We now have U-16, U-19, Academy, Reserve club teams that play regularly in a formal manner. The pipeline has already created regional stars like Kyi Lin and Kyaw Ko Ko (he may well be the first Burmese to play in Europe!). I am really hopeful that in this decade and next we will have senior team to reckon with.
    (Meanwhile our national team wins Philippines Peace Cup beating Palestine and host Philippines. Go Myanmar)

    Yes Shwe Moe, someone in SFO is drooling….

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