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