Myanmar building for the future
© AFP

Following his one-day stay in Timor-Leste at the start of the week, FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter flew to Myanmar on Tuesday to inaugurate one Goal project and lay the first stone for another.

The FIFA delegation arrived in the central region of Mandalay to open Myanmar’s Goal II project, a new football academy. Accompanied by the President of the Myanmar Football Association, Mr U Zaw Zaw, Blatter described the academy as “remarkable” before going on to say that the country could have a very active role to play in sport both in Asia and in the ASEAN zone (south-east Asia) in particular.

Football is the most popular sport in Myanmar, which has a population of over 55 million. In the 1960s and 70s the national team was one of the powerhouses of the region. Though the country has met with increasingly less success on the pitch since then, a number of FIFA development programmes have been put in place with a view to reversing its fortunes. 

Red ribbon and a plaque
“This visit by FIFA and its support are essential to the development of football in our country,” said Mr Zaw Zaw. After cutting the ribbon to open the academy and unveil the Goal project plaque, as has become customary, Blatter then toured the complex and the adjoining pitch.

From there the FIFA delegation travelled on to Yangon to lay the founding stone of the country’s Goal IV project, which involves the upgrading of the stadium at the national youth academy. As part of the project more seating will be installed, the idea being for the stadium to host elite competitions in the future.

“In unveiling these projects we have been able to see the remarkable development in infrastructures here in Myanmar,” commented the FIFA President at the press conference that followed the ceremony. “This 30,000-seater stadium is proof of the hard work being put in by the Federation.”

FIFA has been extremely active in the field of football development in Myanmar. Over the past five years a total of 11 different FIFA courses have taken place in the country.

Only last year, a grassroots course opened the doors to footballing development for young children in Myanmar. The country's FA were also one of the first participants in FIFA's PERFORMANCE programme, which assists in the field of football management.

On Wednesday Blatter had an audience with the Prime Minister Thein Sein at Nay Pyi Taw, situated in the south of the Mandalay region, and thanked him for “making pitches available for the development of football in Myanmar.”