FIFA President to Visit Burma

FIFA president Sepp Blatter said he will visit Burma in November, according to Burmese newspapers.

Zaw Zaw, the chairman of the Myanmar [Burma] Football Federation (MFF), met with Blatter for 20 minutes recently while attending the 60th FIFA Congress in South Africa. If Blatter visits  Burma, he will be the second FIFA president to visit the country, following former FIFA President Sir Stanley Rous who visited in 1972.

MFF has  received US $400,000 in funding from FIFA to initiate a football academy training program that cost a total $1 million to promote the development of boys’ and girls’ soccer in the country. Blatter will observe the football academy  while in the country,  according to Zaw Zaw, who was quoted by Rangoon-based newspaper Weekly Eleven.

The FIFA World Rankings place Burma’s team at 147.

Burma’s national team was dominant in Southeast Asia in 1960s and 1970s, having won the Asian Games two times, in 1966 and 1970.

Burma, however, withdrew from the qualifying rounds of the 2002 World Cup because of a lack of funds. FIFA fined Burma’s Football Association  $22,550 for pulling out of the contest and barred Burma from competing in the 2006 World Cup tournament.

Burma played its first ever World Cup qualifiers in 2007, losing 0-7 and 0-4 to China.

In 2009, junta strongman Snr-Gen Than Shwe appointed several well-connected Burmese businessmen, including Tay Za, to buy into the teams involved in Burma’s new soccer league, the Myanmar National League.

Tay Za is on the list of persons blacklisted by the US and the EU, as is MFF Chairman Zaw Zaw, who is the owner of Max Myanmar Ltd, a major import and construction company.

Several Burma analysts have said that Than Shwe’s decision to promote Burma’s new professional football league is a campaign tactic to win the hearts and minds of the football-crazy Burmese public ahead of this year’s election.

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