Burma has ended a barren, trophy-less stretch with a surprising triumph in the Merdeka Cup, an annual event to celebrate Malaysian independence. With goals from Kyaw Thu Ra and Soe Myat Min, the Burmese side “dazzled” before 30,000, according to the Malaysia Star, and defeated Indonesia 2–1 in the final. They logged one victory and two draws in the group stage of the event, which also included the hosts and Thailand.
Burma—which competes as Myanmar—had not lifted a trophy since the Merdeka Cup in 1971. Since, the team has gone into decline along with the nation’s fortunes under military dictatorship. At one point, according to author Andrew Marshall (see our review of The Trouser People), the country ran out of footballs.
Government mouthpiece New Light of Myanmar reported that returning team members were garlanded Wednesday night en route between the Rangoon airport and Karaweik Palace, a concrete replica of a barge that once transported Burmese kings. NLOM followed bureaucratic custom by giving prominent notice to the dignitaries who feted the arriving conquerors, along with their complete titles:
The victorious Myanmar National Team was accorded a rousing welcome at Yangon International Airport by Chairman of Myanmar Olympic Committee Minister for Sports Brig-Gen Thura Aye Myint and MOC members, Chairperson of the Work Committee for Myanmar Women’s Sports Federation Daw Aye Aye and members, Director-General U Thaung Htaik of the Sports and Physical Education Department, presidents of various sports federations, artistes of Motion Picture and Music Organizations and football fans.
In other headlines from the new Burmese capital of Nay Pyi Taw, Senior General Than Shwe—chairman of the Burmese leadership council—Prime Minister Soe Win and Foreign Minister U Nyan Win sent “felicitations” to Malaysia on the Aug 31 anniversary.