Mon, 30 Nov, -0001
Kuala Lumpur: The AFC U-19 Championship, Myanmar is fast approaching as we move closer to October 9, the first day of the championship.
Last year's Dream Asia Award winner, Myanmar, knows all too well regarding the importance of providing youth with the exposure to international competition. Led by charismatic businessman U Zaw Zaw, the Myanmar Football Federation (MFF) won the award in recognition of the ASEAN nation's positive initiatives in the area of social responsibility.
Zaw Zaw, who is celebrating his birthday today, August 22, was recently chosen as his country's banker of the year. According to the Myanmar Times' editor-in-chief Ross Dunkley, it is his energy and drive that marks him out as his country's best, providing a real inspiration to the people of Myanmar.
But it is not only his ability to crunch numbers that has got people talking; his leadership in the arena of football has also made people stand up and take notice.
Zaw Zaw is an Executive Committee member of the Asian Football Confederation, but it is his work with the MFF that has really set his name alight. Upon receiving the 2013 AFC Dream Asia Award he said, "This award is a reflection of how we've been working hard to promote social change in society".
For Myanmar football, development was a stop-start affair. The national team held some highly impressive records in international tournaments back in the late 60's, winning the Asian Games gold medal twice in 1966 and 1970 as well coming in as runners-up for the AFC Asian Cup in 1968. The record, however, did not prolong.
Since the appointment of Zaw Zaw in 2005, he has overseen great improvements in the MFF and Myanmar football, and the successes of the past few years has led the MFF to pick up the Asean Football Federation's Association of the Year award at the AFF Awards 2013.
In an interview with a Myanmar news outlet, Mizzima, Zaw Zaw declared: "I work only because I love my country". True to his words, the banker has personally contributed a lot of his own wealth to build up Myanmar football including in the administration of the Myanmar National League, Myanmar's top football tier, which only achieved professional status in 2009. The league now boasts twelve teams.
With Myanmar hosting the AFC U-19 Championship in October, their commitment towards grassroots and youth football befits the occasion. Zaw Zaw once said in an interview: "I'm aiming for success not only for Myanmar but also for the region, in ASEAN and Asia. Youth development is important as they are after all our future."
Recently, a total of 1200 children took part in the MFF AYA Bank Football Festival 2014, which was sponsored by Ayeyarwady Bank and hosted by the MFF. The festival was aimed at popularising football and healthy lifestyles under the MFF's Grassroots Football Plans and FIFA 11 For Health Programme. In total, six Grassroots Football Festival Plans will be held this year.
Asian football's finest young players will be determined to showcase their talents at the U-19 AFC Championship, and in Myanmar they will have their best opportunity to shine.