Monday, September 25, 2017

Singin’ in the rain

The scorer of Ayeyawady’s winning goal and man of the match in this year’s General Aung San Shield final has been fined 20 months’ salary for a television interview he gave after the game.

Kyaw Min Oo speaks to media the at the Shield final. Photo: AUFC/FacebookKyaw Min Oo speaks to media the at the Shield final. Photo: AUFC/Facebook

Kyaw Min Oo, a star of the Myanmar side that visited the U20 World Cup who has since gone on to join the senior squad, was fined K20 million for “damaging the dignity of the club”, said a statement released by Ayeyawady FC on October 12.

Employment lawyers have slammed the fine as an illegal attempt at intimidation.

After the final of the country’s senior football knockout cup, where Kyaw Min Oo’s 77th-minute finish saw Ayeyawady qualify for international competition next season, the player gave an interview to Hyper Sports in which he voiced his displeasure over conditions at the club’s facilities.

“Before the Aung San Shield [final] I couldn’t sleep in my own bed so I had to join a senior player in his room … I don’t need air-con in my room, I’m just glad when it isn’t leaking,” said Kyaw Min Oo.

“Come see my bedroom, my ceiling is leaking and my sports shoes are floating,” added the player, who claimed repeated complaints to team officials had been ignored. The player also hinted he had began looking for a new team.

When asked yesterday whether they disputed Kyaw Min Oo’s claims, Aung Kyaw, Ayeyawady’s media officer, referred The Myanmar Times to the club’s earlier statements – which make no denial as to the content of the young star’s statement.

Kyaw Min Oo spent 2010-2013 developing through the Myanmar Football Federation’s academy system before being bought by Ayeyawady for K8 million at the start of the 2014 season.

In their October 12 statement, the club seemed to complain that although since that time they have paid the player his monthly salary of K1 million, he had been unavailable for selection due to international commitments.

“Though we paid for him and paid the entirety of his salary, he only played three games in 2014 and was only available for the second half of 2015,” read the statement produced in the Myanmar language and posted to the club’s Facebook page.

The size of the fine suggests that Ayeyawady are keen to recoup that money spent on Kyaw Min Oo, whose contract with the club expires in December.

At the time of the initial October 12 statement, Kyaw Min Oo was in Bangkok with the Myanmar national team. As the side trained to face Laos on October 13, Kyaw Min Oo was forced to take time out to issue an apology through a national team spokesperson.

According to a follow-up statement made by Ayeyawady on October 13, Kyaw Min Oo contacted the chief operating officer of the Myanmar National League to retract his comments.

“I would like to apologise for what I accidentally said,” the statement quoted Kyaw Min Oo as saying.

“I had no intent to harm the team and I am really sorry for my careless mistake. I regret what I said about the living conditions in the apartment provided by the team. I just want to play football when I return home, when I will issue a formal apology.”

In light of these remarks made by Kyaw Min Oo, the club added to its October 13 statement that they “would like to inform Kyaw Min Oo’s fans, Ayeyawady FC’s fans and all fans of Myanmar football that the team’s officials will negotiate a settlement over the penalty if the player apologises”.

Whether it was the player’s retraction or the backlash from fans on social media that influenced the club’s decision to “negotiate” is a point of conjecture.

“The punishment for slapping a referee is only K1.5 million [referring to the action taken against Zwekapin United owner Hla Htay for striking a referee in 2014]. Slap the owner of the club for 13 strike! I will pay the K20 million they ask for,” said Lin Kyaw in the comments section of the original post.Others suggested it was time players’ egos were reigned in.

“I applaud this decision. Too many players become conceited when they make a little bit of a name for themselves. I agree with the club’s action, other players will dare not breach the rules in future. The spirit of Myanmar’s sport will not improve without strict rules,” said Oo Zaw Win.

However, a large number of comments centred on the fairness and legality, or lack thereof, of the punishment, which Ayeyawady claimed to be in line with, “articles 11, 12, 15, 16 and appendix (1) (d) of the terms and conditions included in the employment contract between Ayeyawady United FC and professional footballers”.

Speaking to The Myanmar Times, a lawyer and member of the Labour and Employers arbitration council, Maung Maung Win, disputed the legality of such a penalty.

“[The club] cannot levy such a fine because they do not have the authority to act. They cannot remove an individual’s salary. Any fine levied … cannot affect the individual’s living,” he said. Tin Than Oo, a legal and business adviser, agreed.

“To fine a worker in a manner not commensurate with his salary is illegal. Such a fine is an attempt to intimidate any worker from speaking out about health issues or failing facilities.

“Whether [the player] has broken the terms of his agreement or not, a fine larger than an individual’s salary is unfair,” he said.

Aung Kyaw confirmed to The Myanmar Times that Kyaw Min Oo had yesterday morning returned to training with his club side in Yangon ahead of the team’s away trip to Taunggyi against KBZ FC. Aung Kyaw was unable to confirm any the date or details of any planned meeting between the player and the club.

A range of opinions came flooding in to Ayeyarwady United's Facebook page after htier October 12 and 13 statements. Here are a selection:

"You scored the winning goal and snatched the Aung San Shield. Man, you are paid K12 million a year but the fine is K20 million. I think your club does not honour you. I respect you as you told the truth on behalf of us." – Phyo Gyi

"This is not a fine for indiscipline but just telling about the roof's leak. Ayeyarwady's officials ... you should be ashamed of yourself for this. Or else kill yourself." – Hlaing Min

"I'd like to know if the word of Kyaw Min Oo is true or not. He said that the club did not mend the roof when ti leaked rain on his bed ... please, the club, response on that case!" – Bawa thamar lay Kyanaw

"The punishment is too expensive for a Myanmar player. If the club must punish him for his comments, it would be better to cut his two months salary." – Wai Yan Lin

"I would like to ask the team's officials 'do you dare to take action like that if a foreign player told like that.' It seems that the team officials want to oppress players 'don't complain ... just live where we arranged'. This is like dictatorship." – Saw Lin Yaung

"The fine is not fair. International clubs calculate a fine proportionally to the player's income. It doesn't mean I'm defending Kyaw Min Oo but he is a good player." – Yelin Yelin

Additional reporting by Kyaw Zin Hlaing and Zaw Zaw Twe. Translation by Thiri Tun Min

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