Sunday, August 20, 2017

Delivery for Mawlamyine

As early as 10am the heat of the concrete road sizzles and threatens to blister the skin.

Myint Kyaw (left)with Ibrahima Doumbouya, one of Southern’s new foreign signings. Photo: SMFC / FacebookMyint Kyaw (left)with Ibrahima Doumbouya, one of Southern’s new foreign signings. Photo: SMFC / Facebook

Most of the population of Yuzana Garden City in Dagon Seikkan township confine themselves indoors, peering out into the bright sunlight.

But clouds of dust are thrown up as 20-odd young men are being put through their paces, as one man’s voice resounds across the scorched earth of the nearby football field.

For the 66-year-old Myint Kyuu, club manager of Southern Myanmar FC, his focus is beyond the heat, the sweat, or the identity of the new president. He and head coach Mya Lwin must plan their escape from relegation and deliver the dream of national league football to the people of Mawlamyine next year.

If accomplished the achievement would be a crowning glory for a life lived in Myanmar football. Growing up the son of a footballer, Myint Kyuu became an Olympian before winning numerous titles as a coach and manager. The man has been a small but constant cog in the evolution of Myanmar football.

Myint Kyuu grew up watching his father Ba Juu play for the national team.

“I always looked up to my father,” said Myint Kyuu wistfully. “My brothers and sisters and I would dress up in his national team coat and pretend to be following in his footsteps, travelling abroad to compete for our nation.”

Myint Kyuu made that dream come true when he made his international debut aged 20 – in a period now known as the “Golden Age” of Myanmar football.

Playing in the era of “socialist quasi-amateurism”, he represented his country for the next seven years, including a substitute appearance at the 1972 OIympics against the Soviet Union, a game Burma lost 1-0.

As Burmese football reflected the nation and became increasingly more isolated from the global scene, Myint Kyuu retired from international duty in 1977.

Employed by the customs department, he continued to play for the Ministry of Finance & Revenue, in an era when all top-flight football was contested by rival government departments.

He stayed with the department and when top-flight football was reorganised in 1996 to form the Myanmar Premier League, Myint Kyuu took on the role of head coach until 2006. Between 1996 and 2009, Finance and Revenue won 11 of the 14 titles available.

When the Myanmar National League was formed in 2009, Myint Kyuu joined the fledgling Southern Myanmar, owned by Htay Myint, chair of Yuzana Company.

According to a telegram from the US embassy released by WikiLeaks, Htay Myint was one of the eight businessmen “chosen” to deliver the country’s first professional league and all owners were tasked with building new stadiums in their respective regions.

Southern Myanmar pose for a squad photo at their Yuzana training field.Southern Myanmar pose for a squad photo at their Yuzana training field.

Although the club represents Tanintharyi Region and Mon State, the side has remained nomadic, playing out of Yangon’s Thuwunna YTC and Aung San stadiums.

A new home for the Southerners is ready at Mawlamyine’s Yamanya Stadium. The team were due to relocate to the city they represent in the second half of this season but with the side facing relegation and all MNL-2 games played in Yangon, those plans are now on hold.

After 11 games have passed, Southern Myanmar entered the mid-season break dead last with just four points from four draws, having conceded 24 goals and scored just three.

No longer chasing titles, Myint Kyuu must work with Mya Lwin to turn the fighting spirit he insists this team possesses into results.

“If you judge improvement with medals or points then my team can show you nothing,” said Myint Kyuu who combines the administrative role of club manager with coaching duties assisting Mya Lwin.

“Everyone in this world is making good progress every day. My teams have also delivered as much as they can. I believe in my players even they have struggled to challenge our rivals and especially the foreign players,” added Myint Kyuu as he wiped sweat from his brow with a faded old towel.

After the side were relegated in 2014, the club dispensed with foreign coaching and playing staff and won as champions of MNL-2 with promotion back to the top flight at the first time of asking.

After attempting to continue that formula in the top division Mya Lwin told press that if they remained the only side without foreign playing staff, he could not keep the Southerners in the top-tier.

“Our only problem is lacking the foreign players who are used to delivering winning goals for their teams,” agreed Myint Kyuu.

Only one of the MNL-1’s nine top scorers is domestically grown.

Myint Kyuu, who has suffered from heart problems and required bypass surgery in Bangkok, says he will continue to fight for his team.

“I am old and my health is not good. I should rest.” Myint Kyuu told The Myanmar Times. “But I’ve been attached with football for my whole life. I enjoy the game and it is my life too. I’ve got work to do as long as my heart continues to beat.”

“I believe in destiny,” adds Myint Kyuu.

“I trust my players and they must trust in me. They must show skills, diligence, teamwork and confidence. They must compete with confidence in their abilities and play hard until the end.”

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