South­ern, Nay Pyi Taw catch MNL break

The Myanmar Times - - Sport - KYAW ZIN HLAING kyawz­inhlaing@mm­

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.

Photo: Face­book/Nay Pyi Taw FC

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.

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