Two year's after its creation, Myanmar's Premier League is reportedly struggling to lure fans. "In 2009 there were big crowds, now it's half," one league club manager, who did not want to be named, told Alex Delamare of AFP. "There are maybe five or ten good players in Myanmar," he said, explaining that new investment in training facilities and relatively high player salaries will take time to translate into better performance on the pitch. Added to that, most games are played in the capital, far from the home states of many of the new teams.
Four decades ago Myanmar, also known as Burma, was a major footballing force in the region, winning five South East Asian Games between 1965 and 1973. Now the country is ranked 167th by the world football body FIFA, three places below Afghanistan. "The national team lose every match, they are not interesting ... Even in 10 years we will not be the same level as in the past," said the manager, who has worked in the game for 20 years.
According to leaked US diplomatic notes from June 2009, Myanmar's league was the brainchild of senior general Than Shwe, who ordered businessmen to found and fund the professional football teams. The US diplomats noted the league had been a "huge success" in its first month, despite ticket prices of up to $1, as much as half a day's salary for the average person but there were reports that club owners paid up to $3 a head to get people into stadiums.