Southern, Nay Pyi Taw catch MNL break
SOUTHERN Myanmar’s fortunes next season are looking quite a bit brighter after a September 10 decision reversed their relegation for the 2017 Myanmar National League season, while Nay Pyi Taw FC received a surprise promotion into the first-tier league.
The decision was reached at a committee meeting between Myanmar Football Federation and Myanmar National League officials at Novotel Hotel on September 10. The meeting was convened following a series of surprise announcements since the end of the 2016 season that saw MNL1 teams Zwekapin United and Zeyar Shwe Myay drop out of MNL competition. Manaw Myay, the season MNL-2 champions, also disbanded, despite winning promotion to Myanmar’s premier domestic league.
Facing the loss of three squads and fears of scheduling complications for an 11-team league, MFF officials resolved to allow Southern Myanmar to remain in MNL-1, despite an 11th place finish with only 14 points in the 2016 season. MNL-2 second-place finishers GFA, as well as third-place Nay Pyi Taw, will also be promoted to the top league to maintain a 12-team schedule.
“I was so glad to hear the news that our team will have a chance to compete again next season. Last year, we gave up a lot of points and found ourselves in the relegation zone – but we won’t waste this opportunity to make sure we can stick around in the MNL,” Southerners defender Thein Soe Min told The Myanmar Times.
“Among our biggest weaknesses was the fact that we couldn’t sign foreign players in our first season as a club. But going into next season, we’ll be able to sign talented foreigners, which will help make us more competitive,” he added. Each MNL team is permitted to sign three foreign-born players, but only two can be played on the pitch at any time.
Although Zwekapin United signalled their intention to drop out of contention on August 22, team owner U Hla Htay’s comments at the September 10 committee meeting seemed to point to a possible reversal.
“Our team will compete in the next MNL. The goal of Myanmar National League football is to improve the level of play, and Zwekapin United intends to keep being a part of that effort,” U Hla Htay said.
“We have also planned to finally build a home stadium in Kayin State. I heard that Southern Myanmar and Rakhine United are also considering building home stadiums. That is good news for the MNL,” he said.
Horizon, last year’s MNL losers, will be relegated to MNL-2, however, after a 2016 campaign that saw them earn just 7 points. The re-shuffle will see 10 teams compete in the MNL2, compared to 12 last season, while MNL-1 will proceed with a normal 12-team season – barring another surprise change in fortunes.
Nay Pyi Taw FC midfielder Bo Bo Naing (riught) fights for the ball against a Pong Gan player during a January 25 match last season. Nay Pyi Taw won 4-0.