Sunday, August 20, 2017

From the Gold Coast to the Golden Land

Eric Williams is the manager of Yangon United Football Club, the most successful team in the history of the fledgling Myanmar National League (MNL), formed in 2009.

Eric Williams speaks during an interview. Photo: Matt RoebuckEric Williams speaks during an interview. Photo: Matt Roebuck

His work and accomplishments with both the club’s first team as well as players that have advanced from the club’s youth academy makes him arguably the most important positive influence on the standard of Myanmar football over the past five years.

Yet due to the relative lack of interest in the MNL, most football fans are still more likely to be familiar with his sons.

His eldest, Rhys Williams, 25, is captain of Middlesborough FC, centre back for the Australian national side and, had he not suffered a serious achilles injury last January, a player who would now likely be a feature of Premier League football at Swansea FC.

Rhys’s younger twin brothers, Ryan and Aryn, 20, are also on the professional circuit.

Ryan is under contract as a junior winger at Premier League outfit Fulham FC, currently on a season long loan at Oxford United and recently represented the Socceroos in the FIFA Under-20s World Cup.

Aryn Williams was until the end of last season playing his football with Championship side Burnley FC but when his contract ran out he opted against accepting an offer from Swindon Town in favour of returning home to Australia. He now plays for Floreat Athena in the Football West Premier League.

I meet Eric as he stands in front of a whiteboard at Yangon United’s training facility. His players have just been through their recovery session and he’s now performing the debrief relating to their disappointing efforts on March 7.

The team that had stuck five past Malaysian champions Kelatan in AFC Cup plays only a week before had failed to score against Chin State’s GFA United, a winless team languishing at the bottom of the MNL.

He speaks through an interpreter, Myo Min Tun, but Eric can never be quite sure how much of the message has been understood.

“Sometimes I only say a couple of words and it takes forever to translate … though I worry more when I speak for a long time and it translates as a single sentence,” Williams said.

This year’s team features a Macedonian, two Brazilians and a Japanese footballer, further complicating the language barrier.

It’s only 9am but the training session, held in the morning to avoid the heat, is over and we move on to a café for an all-day breakfast.

10 19 20
10 10 22
10 6 21
Ayeyawady United
10 5 15
Rakhine United
10 0 14
Magwe FC
10 -2 13
Zwekapin United
10 -4 13
Nay Pyi Taw FC
10 -8 9
10 -6 8
10 -6 7
Chin United
10 -7 7
10 -7 6
Last Updated - 1 April 2017
Manaw Myay
22 51 52
22 21 49
Nay Pyi Taw FC
22 33 48
Mahar United
22 31 48
Myawady FC
22 23 36
Mawyawadi FC
22 1 35
City Stars
22 1 28
University FC
22 -17 23
Dagon FC
22 -11 20
Pong Gan
22 -37 12
United of Thanlyin
22 -47 11
Silver Stars
22 -49 10
Last Updated - 28 August 2016