New an­gels get their wings

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

AFTER Myan­mar na­tional team coach Gerd Zeise booted star striker Kyaw Ko Ko and mid­fielder Thiha Zaw off the squad two weeks ago, the team will re­turn from a tour in Europe to­day two men short of a full ros­ter.

Not for long – Zeise has se­lected 23-year-old Kaung Sett Naing to re­place Kyaw Ko Ko in the at­tack­ing po­si­tion, as well as Shan United’s vet­eran cap­tain Win Min Htut to fill in for Thiha Zaw.

The two play­ers will have just over five weeks to meet their new team­mates and learn Zeise’s sys­tem ahead of Novem­ber’s AFF Suzuki Cup, hosted in Myan­mar, Malaysia and Viet­nam.

“This is my dream,” said Kaung Sett Naing. “I al­ways wanted to be a na­tional team player. Now my dream has come.”

The young striker plays in Thai­land for the Sa­mut Sakhon club. Any­one who fol­lowed the 28th South­east Asia Games in 2015 may re­mem­ber him for his sparkling play on the U-23 team, which would go on to win sil­ver.

Since join­ing the Thai divi­sion-2 team, the prod­uct of Yan­gon United’s youth academy has lived up to high ex­pec­ta­tions, notch­ing two goals in six games for Sa­mut Sakhon. But his best play has long been in the Myan­mar kit, which he has worn to rep­re­sent the na­tional U-19, U-21 and U-23 squads.

Kaung Sett Naing will be tasked with fill­ing the huge hole left by Kyaw Ko Ko, a ver­i­fied star in his own right who com­mands a loyal fol­low­ing of Yan­gon United faith­ful. But Myan­mar’s new­est White An­gel gives no sign of ner­vous­ness.

“I’m al­ways ready when the na­tional team calls me,” he said. “In Thai­land, I’ve been train­ing as hard as I can.”

Though Myan­mar will have to wait for Thai­land’s sea­son to come to a close be­fore Kaung Sett Naing can join the team, Shan United cap­tain Win Min Htut is ex­pected to meet with his new team­mates in the next few days. At 36 years old, the vet­eran leader will lend ex­pe­ri­ence and poise to the young side.

“Win Min Htut is an amaz­ing player,” said Shan United head coach Soe Myat Min. “There’s not many like him – he par­tic­i­pated in all of our team matches last sea­son. Didn’t miss a sin­gle game. His ex­pe­ri­ence will be a big sup­port for the na­tional team.”

It won’t be his first time rep­re­sent­ing the Golden Land, hav­ing first ap­peared with the na­tional team in 2005. He has since earned 30 caps, in­clud­ing the 2015 World Cup qual­i­fier against South Korea.

After a one-year hia­tus, he’ll pull the Myan­mar jersey on to be­come the team’s old­est player. There’ll be some fa­mil­iar faces in the locker room, as Shan United’s Yan Naing Oo, Zaw Lin and Hein Thiha Zaw are al­ready on the team.

Pho­tos: Face­book/Shan United and Sa­mut Sakhon

Win Min Htut (left) and Kaung Sett Naing (right) will re­place Kyaw Ko Ko and Thiha Zaw on the na­tional team.

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