Burmese Nights and Arsenal delights…
Ah! Back to the grindstone, cold weather, pissy rain and Guinness farts. Holidays turn to a distant memory far too quickly these days. A distant memory, but an unforgettable one, nonetheless.
Burma (Myanmar) was everything I’d hoped and more! If you get the opportunity to go to a country that has only recently opened up to outsiders then, do it!
Now, I’m not going to sit here and go through my photos and regale you with my stories, or my routes travelled and the price of drink (but, it’s cheap). Don’t worry, there’s some football in here too. In fact, very quickly after arrival, football came to the fore very quickly, being welcomed by hordes of Chelsea kit wearing taxi men trying to hawk their cars. I nearly puked. The Premier League is huge over there.
Then, on the first evening in Yangon, me and my better half went for a walk to investigate the area, and before too long we came across, more football, and our first contact of Arsenal on our trip:
The coolest backdrop I’ve ever seen to a game of street football…actually to a game of barefoot street football and, as you can see, there’s a smattering of Arsenal jerseys in there.
Go on the Gunners. One of them, (he must’ve been the rich one), had the full away kit, well, the full imitation away kit, with name and number on the back, scribbled in marker. I let a roar at him “Go on Podolski”, (I don’t know why, but most of the people I see with the away kit, have Poldi on the back). He stopped in his tracks. He ran closer. Then roared back, “No way….I’m Giroud” (turned and pointed at the scribbled number and indeed the scribbled Giroud across his shoulder).
He posed for a photo, and then scampered off, and immediately trying to do flicks and tricks, to show off in front of the Westerners (he was definitely the rich one, he had runners too but boy was he proud of his Arsenal kit.)
We found many similar scenes around the country, and many a passionate supporter. It was so refreshing. Like most things in the country, it’s all new to them. Everything is a shiny brand-spanking new toy for them, and they all embrace everything with such awe, excitement and passion. Refreshing, and infectious.
You see, Burma were under the rule of a military junta since 1962, (Ipswich Town were league champions) and only recently broke away from that when Aung San Suu Chi won a general election, thus slowly pushing the country to democracy and freedom.
In April of 2013, the first newspaper in 50 years (non-government) went to press. They were finally getting a glimpse of the outside world.
Today, less than 11 months later, it is amazing to see newspapers carrying reports from the Premier League, and not just the big games either, even reporting on say a Norwich v Fulham match, and gaining a lot of column space to boot too. Hilarious really, and amazing at just how quickly a country as a whole is attracted to the game, considering they had so much more to learn about, read about and watch that was new to them.
To put it into context, Burma is one of the poorest countries in the world. 164th out of 185 countries to be precise. The average annual wage is £819 annually (Yes, per year, Wayne Rooney will make that going for a shite). Even with these unbelievable figures, they have just signed up for another three years of Premier League Football TV rights, at a whopping £25m.
In comparison to the money in the country, this figure is astronomical, but also compared to their current TV deal, it is even more humungous. Currently they are paying £200,000. That’s an increase to the level of 12,400% (and we think the ticket increases are excessive). These figures obviously show that the powers that be realise that the passion and love is so great for the game that one way or another they will make their money back.
Before I go on, I must apologise for my excessive use of the word “refreshing”. The reason being is the power of the people’s innocence, their joy at just seeing a game, seeing their team, win or lose. They are like children, all of them, boys, children, men. It just brought back so many memories of how we all saw football once, memories of youth innocence. Football without critique, football without dissection or shitty analysis, just plain love of the football, and their team – “Refreshing.” Everywhere we’d go, there’d be games like the photo above (which is Arsenal v Chelsea by the way), and at night time from shack you’d see a fluorescent glow and huddles of people sitting in silence, mouths open, watching a tiny TV with The Premier League on it.
Even more amazing was when I went looking for somewhere showing the Liverpool v Arsenal match, to no avail, as I was in a very remote part of the country. Until I’d given up, decided to get a beer and a snack. While doing this, I went to the toilet and found this scene in the back room:
The monks were in on the act…and they had a TV…brilliant! Until I saw the score, and discovered they were all either Liverpool or Chelsea supporting monks. It was already 5-0. I was stunned. They laughed when I told them I supported Arsenal, then excitedly told me/mocked me, by letting me know “18 minutes, four goal. No send off. No goal Suarez. Hahahaha.” Well needless to say they shut me up (in a lovely, friendly way), alas I couldn’t even vent my dismay or frustration by letting out a few clenched fisted “fucks or aaaaarrrgghs”. They were monks for fuck sake.
On the few occasions I managed to find some Wi-Fi, I’d immediately log in to Twitter to see what was going on, and I must say that from a distance, in comparison to these sweet and peaceful people, we, well I mean some of our fans are a disgrace. I followed our FA Cup game the following Saturday on Twitter, and I must say it was embarrassing (and we were winning ffs). Some of the shite we argue about really is ridiculous.
I felt like throwing my phone against the wall, and then some of our support, have the neck, to give out about pesky foreign fanbase. They could learn a thing or two from some of them I say.
One problem I did have though was when I went to take a shower in one of the hotels we stayed in:
A pair of Cristiano Ronaldo flip-flops. I nearly puked again. Until the better half said “at least you can stand on the c##ts head while you walk around”, good on her; she despises Madrid, she’s Basque.
So, I returned from my holiday, all sweet and innocent again, just loving pure football again. I hadn’t been force fed 24 hour bullshit by Sky, I hadn’t had to scroll through endless lines of abuse and arguing and point scoring on Twitter for a few weeks.
That innocent feeling continued as my return coincided with the return of Dennis Bergkamp, for his statue unveiling. You see, no other player makes me feel soft and fluffy and gooey, or makes me think of the good old days, more than Dennis. A true class act, a family man, never in the papers for spit-roasting 14-year-old strippers at 5am outside McClunky’s, a loyal player (as Arsene Wenger said, a dying trait in the modern game), and a man who was willing to sign a one-year rolling contract as he was over 30, which was fair for him, and fair for the club. I say, if it was good enough for God, then it should be good enough for the so called ‘players’ now.
Alas, my innocent Utopia was quickly tossed into the modern day bin, with the announcement of Wayne Rooney’s new contract. £300k a week. I’m sorry, but it’s wrong. Plain and simple. While that stocking of shit pockets that, as he ages and slows down, it’s the poor fans who’ll have to pay for it, not the commercial deals we hear about. It should be those deals that cover it, but alas it doesn’t work that way in the new ‘Modern Game’.
You may say “ah, fuck them, it’s only Utd”. Well, if it starts there, then we all know it won’t take long to spread. Like we see, their season ticket holders being held to ransom, being forced into buying the 2nd leg tickets or be banned from going to the derby, – a joke. It is the stuff like this that is killing the game for me, and most, I truly believe. Jaysus, bring me back to Burma, for seven months of sunshine, £819 a year, and the pure joy and innocence of The Game.
Until the future,
PS – just one question. Is Roberto Soldado really David Bentley? Seriously! Next time you see him, have a close look.