Lions lasso exnational keeper, orphaned coach
YANGON United signed exnational team goalkeeper Kyaw Zin Htet to a twoyear contract this week as the next Myanmar National League season looms. The 29-year-old arrives in Yangon from Zwekapin United, and will take over between the posts from Brazilian Luiz Fernando.
“I’ve hoped for a transfer to Yangon United since I was at Kanbawza FC [now Shan United], but there were always conflicts and other circumstances preventing it. But now I’m proud to be part of Yangon United, and to represent my hometown team,” Kyaw Zin Htet, a Yangon resident, said.
“I’m excited to get to know the Lions’ fans. I’m here to fight for them, and I’m ready to win the title,” he added.
Kyaw Zin Htet began his career at the Yangon Institute of Sports and Physical Education before playing for the Ministry of Construction from 2004 to 2007. He was selected for the national team in 2007, and earned 20 caps over the next four years representing Myanmar in the 2005 and 2007 Southeast Asian Games, where he won a silver medal, and the AFF Suzuki Cup.
The now-celebrated keeper began his MNL career in 2009 with Kanbawza FC, and was transferred in 2015 to Zwekapin United. Last year’s eighth-place finishers, Zwekapin have never won a season title or cup trophy. Representing Kayin State but based in Yangon, the club announced their intention to retire from competition on August 22, but pledged to continue operating a youth football academy.
Zwekapin United, which was founded in 2010, did not specify a reason but issued a retraction on October 14 announcing their intention to compete in the 2017 season.
Yangon United, which has won the Myanmar National League title four times in the league’s eight seasons, hasn’t been resting on their secondplace finishes in both last year’s season and the General Aung San Shield, Myanmar’s premier knockout cup. In addition to picking up Zwekapin United’s keeper, they also signed Zeyar Shwe Myay technical adviser U Nyan Win to a two-year contract.
U Nyan Win emphasised that he would also be on-hand to advise during pre-season training sessions, and will be assisting Yangon’s coaching staff with team formations and on the pitch strategy.
“I’m lucky to be joining Yangon United, one of the Myanmar National League’s oldest clubs. They’ve weathered the storm of the league’s expansion and still come out winners. I’m hungry for victory and excited to help bring the team back to the top of the table,” he said.
Zeyar Shwe Myay, one of the MNL’s founding clubs, finished the 2016 season in sixth place, but a decision by the Sagaing Region Hluttaw to return the Monywa-based team’s playing fields to public ownership evicted the team – and deprived them of crucial concession revenues. The team’s ownership announced their withdrawal from the league on August 26.
“We can’t predict what will happen, or confirm whether our team will ever compete again in the MNL or not. But our ownership is certain that we cannot under the current circumstances. We’ve invested a lot of money on the team – around K800 million each year – and now we’re not sure if we can keep going,” Zeyar Shwe Myay general manager U Thein Aung previously told The Myanmar Times.
A third team, Myitkyina’s Manaw Myay, also resigned from competition on the eve of their promotion to Myanmar’s top tier league.
The two withdrawals created an unexpected scramble, both for orphaned players and officials as well as for the league, which had seen years of sustained growth. Following a meeting with Myanmar Football Federation officials on September 10, the league confirmed that the 2017 season would proceed with a 12-team schedule, by retaining Southern Myanmar, last year’s penultimate finishers in MNL-1, and promoting Nay Pyi Taw FC, which finished third in MNL-2.
A former national league team assistant coach, U Nyan Win also currently coaches Myanmar’s youth sides – putting him in a privileged position to scout for Yangon’s next generation of talents.
U Nyan Win also spoke to Yangon’s famously enthusiastic fans, saying “I see the Lions’ fans are crazy about football. I want to urge them to support our lads both in victory and in defeat. We can all work together to help drive the team to success next season.”
Kyaw Zin Htet (left) takes part in his first training session with Yangon United on October 14.