Eight sea­sons in for MNL, three teams drop out

The Myanmar Times - - Sport - KYAW ZIN HLAING kyawz­inhlaing@mm­times.com

IT was a great sea­son for the Myan­mar Na­tional League, but for three teams it was also the last. With eight sea­sons un­der its belt, the MNL will see its ranks con­tract, as Zwekapin United, Ze­yar Shwe Myay and Manaw Myay an­nounced that that they will close up shop be­fore the start of next sea­son.

The Myan­mar Na­tional League launched in 2009 with eight teams, its ranks in­creas­ing with the ad­di­tions of Zwekapin United, Rakhine United, Nay Pyi Taw FC and Manaw Myay in 2010. A sec­ond-tier league was launched in 2013, bring­ing Myan­mar’s to­tal to 24 pro­fes­sional foot­ball clubs.

But the ex­pan­sion tide may now be ebbing in Myan­mar’s do­mes­tic foot­ball league, which pri­mar­ily pri­mar­ily on pri­vate busi­nesses and moguls to self-fund re­gional teams.

Zwekapin United FC, which rep­re­sents Kayin State but plays at home in Yangon, de­clared their in­ten­tion to drop out of pro­fes­sional com­pe­ti­tion on Au­gust 22, but an­nounced that they will con­tinue to op­er­ate their youth foot­ball acad­emy.

“Our team was founded in 2010 and we’ve com­peted at the high­est level in the MNL, but we will not be able to con­tinue next sea­son. With re­gard to our play­ers, we’ll re­solve any out­stand­ing con­tracts,” said U Hla Htay, the team’s owner.

Zwekapin, which did not spec­ify a rea­son for their ter­mi­na­tion, has not seen a land­mark success since its found­ing in 2010 in ei­ther the MNL reg­u­lar sea­son, or in one of Myan­mar’s knock­out cups.

“We have not fielded a lot of na­tional team play­ers; cur­rently, only one Zwekapin player is on the na­tional squad. And the na­tional team hasn’t been very suc­cess­ful in international com­pe­ti­tions, even though we spend a lot of money on player de­vel­op­ment,” U Hla Htay said, “I joined the MNL to help im­prove our na­tional team, but we haven’t seen the kind of success we an­tic­i­pated. But we’ll con­tinue to work with the Zwekapin United youth acad­emy to help train the next gen­er­a­tion of foot­ball play­ers,” he added.

Sa­gaing-based Ze­yar Shwe Myay will drop out of the MNL, but for a dif­fer­ent rea­son – they may no longer have a place to play.

Ze­yar Shwe Myay has hosted their home games at Monywa Sta­dium since 2009 – they were one of the few MNL teams to play at home in their own state or re­gion. But the Sa­gaing Re­gion Hlut­taw re­cently passed a pro­posal from MP Daw Aung Kyi (Monywa 2; NLD) to re­turn the sta­dium to pub­lic own­er­ship – and evict the town’s team.

The sta­dium, which is owned by the govern­ment, was rented to the team on a 30-year con­tract through the MFF. It is not an typ­i­cal ar­range­ment: Nay Pyi Taw FC plays at Paung Laung Sta­dium, on a field build by pub­lic vol­un­teers, who are now also call­ing for its re­turn.

But the loss their play­ing field – and the cru­cial rev­enues from con­ces­sions stands, which fi­nanced the team’s an­nual lease pay­ments – was too much to un­der­write, and Ze­yar Shwe Myay’s own­er­ship an­nounced the team’s with­drawal on Au­gust 26.

“We can’t pre­dict what will hap­pen, or con­firm whether our team will ever com­pete again in the MNL or not. But our own­er­ship is cer­tain that we can­not un­der the cur­rent cir­cum­stances. We’ve in­vested a lot of money on the team – around K800 mil­lion each year – and now we’re not sure if we can keep go­ing,” Ze­yar Shwe Myay gen­eral man­ager U Thein Aung told The Myan­mar Times.

Per­haps the most sur­pris­ing loss is Manaw Myay. The 2016 MNL-2 sea­son cham­pi­ons, Manaw Myay is clos­ing up shop on the eve of their pro­mo­tion back to MNL-1. The team has not de­clared an of­fi­cial rea­son for re­tir­ing, and of­fi­cials did not re­spond to ques­tions posed by The Myan­mar Times.

Of­fi­cials from the Myan­mar Foot­ball fed­er­a­tion, the sport’s gov­ern­ing body, ac­knowl­edged that the loss of three teams will have wide-rang­ing ram­i­fi­ca­tions, from re­gional player de­vel­op­ment to sched­ul­ing the next sea­son.

An MFF of­fi­cial con­firmed that the Fed­er­a­tion is plan­ning on a reg­u­lar, 12-team 2017 MNL sea­son, mean­ing as many as four MNL-2 squads could be graced with pro­mo­tion to the top-tier. But as the fate of their former ri­vals shows, they’ll need deep pock­ets as well as fast breaks to stay for good.

Photo: Facebook/Manaw Myay

Manaw Myay FC play­ers rest after a pre-match practice on Au­gust 5. The team beat Sil­ver Stars, 2-0, on Au­gust 7.

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