Star striker booted from na­tional team

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

MYAN­MAR’S Na­tional Team, dur­ing its prepa­ra­tion to host the Suzuki Cup in Novem­ber, has been play­ing in­ter­na­tional friendlies in Europe this month to hone its form in ad­vance of the big tour­na­ment.

But sur­pris­ing news came out of the tour yes­ter­day, when the Myan­mar Foot­ball Fed­er­a­tion de­clared that the team was dis­miss­ing mid­fielder Thiha Zaw and star striker Kyaw Ko Ko.

Though Myan­mar will con­tinue its sched­uled friendlies against club teams from the Nether­lands, Bel­gium, Cyprus and Italy, it ap­pears that the team will fight on with­out two of their best.

The MFF made the an­nounce­ment yes­ter­day morn­ing in a Face­book post to its of­fi­cial page, but did not im­me­di­ately ex­plain why the two play­ers have been re­moved.

Late last night, me­dia of­fi­cer Zaw Min Htike told The Myan­mar Times that the mat­ter was a “coach’s de­ci­sion”.

“Our coach said that these two play­ers don’t fit our team’s play­ing style,” he said. “Our head coach wants to build good team­work and form, rather than in­di­vid­ual style. He says these play­ers do not fit with his team strat­egy.”

Through­out yes­ter­day af­ter­noon, fans ex­pressed shock and out­rage on so­cial me­dia over the ap­par­ent snub­bing of Myan­mar’s most fa­mous striker. Some spec­u­lated that the de­ci­sion came af­ter fric­tion be­tween the play­ers and head coach Gerd Zeise. Since tak­ing over the team in Oc­to­ber 2015, Zeise has pre­ferred Yada­nar­bon’s Win Naing Soe over Kyaw Ko Ko.

The 23-year-old striker – who rose to na­tional promi­nence by scor­ing five goals in the 2011 South­east Asian Games – has pre­vi­ously been ac­cused of self­ish play by some com­men­ta­tors, and Zeise elected not to start him in all four of the friendlies played so far in Europe.

In those games, Myan­mar has man­aged a 1-1-2 record, with its only win com­ing by a score of 1-0 against VVV-Venlo of Nether­lands Divi­sion-2 on Septem­ber 26.

As Yan­gon United’s star goalscorer, Kyaw Ko Ko is con­sid­ered Myan­mar’s best for­ward, hav­ing burst onto the scene in 2010. In 38 CAPs for the Myan­mar Na­tional Team, he’s scored eight goals. Thiha Zaw, who plays for Ayeyawady United in the Myan­mar Na­tional League, has five CAPs and one in­ter­na­tional goal un­der his belt.

With­out the pair, pres­sure on Zeise to pro­duce a good show­ing at the Suzuki Cup will in­crease ten­fold. If he can’t find vic­tory there, he’ll face heavy doubt and crit­i­cism from the home fans.

Other strik­ers Than Paing, Win Naing Soe, Suan Lam Mang and Aung Thu will look to shoul­der the bur­den in Kyaw Ko Ko and Thiha Zaw’s ab­sence, play­ing next on Oc­to­ber 5 against Cyprus’ na­tional U-21 team. On Oc­to­ber 8, Myan­mar plays an­other Cyprus match, fac­ing off with Divi­sion-1 club Eno­sis. From there, the team heads to Italy.

They’ll be two men short, how­ever: The spurned stars elected to re­turn home af­ter re­ceiv­ing the news. They ar­rive in Yan­gon to­day at 11:45am.

Pho­tos: Face­book/MFF

Myan­mar Na­tional Team striker Kyaw Ko Ko looks on dur­ing a train­ing ses­sion. The star scorer was dis­missed from the team yes­ter­day.

Head coach Gerd Zeise re­port­edly made the de­ci­sion in an ef­fort to build a bet­ter team strat­egy.

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