Star striker booted from national team
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.
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.