AFF Suzuki Cup 2012 qualifiers are underway in Yangon, Myanmar. Goal.com Asia Managing Editor, Cesare Polenghi pens his thoughts from the Burmese capital
|FROM YANGON, MYANMAR
As I walked shyly into the marble-plastered hall of the Myanmar Football Federation to finally get my permanent media pass, I was shown to the same desk where I had clandestinely worked the night before, as if that space was now reserved for their prestigious guest from Goal.com.
I was very happy to accept, and to load my body with arctic-like freezing air conditioning, in view of what was awaiting me: two hours under the scorching Burmese sun, snapping pictures of Myanmar-Timor Leste.
The plastic vest that every photographer must wear created a sort of greenhouse effect around my trunk, and while I shot picture after picture, I ended up pouring over my head half of the water bottle I had wisely smuggled in.
Be that as it may, the photographers spot behind the goal is the best place ever to watch a football game. Sandwiched between the main characters; the supporters and the players, one can feel the full energy of the match. The Timorese footballers were actually much more vocal than the home side, but to make up for Myanmar, the fans were extremely vociferous and finally exploded in a cathartic roar when local hero Kyi Lim, knocked home a perfect header.
It was a very good game, between likely the top two teams seen so far in Yangon. In the second half, after conceding on a counterattack, Myanmar took the game home, again thanks to some magic by Kyi Lim. His second goal included one of those otherworldly moments in football when time stops. After beating the offside trap and taming a ball that was lobbed over the Timorese defence, the 22-year-old was left all alone against the gigantic Emerson, the opponent’s guardian.
In what should have been a second but felt like an eternity, Kyi Lin managed to find the only possible way to score: and after a feint, he slotted the ball between the legs of the goalkeeper. It finished 2-1, and the 5,000 or so Myanmarese who braved the torrid afternoon flocked home happy, them and their team having bagged six points out of six, and half of their ticket to Bangkok.
The second match, which I unsuccessfully tried to pompously promote among the local journalists as “Indochina Clasico” saw Laos taking over their Cambodian neighbours. It was a much less exciting affair, with the Laotian managing one goal in the first half while their Angkorian cousins systematically missed all their chances for the whole ninety minutes.
The real surprise for me came after the game, when I realized that Laos’ manager, “a certain Kimura,” was none other than Kokichi Kimura, the gentleman who guided Yokohama F Marinos in 2008 and 2009. We had surely crossed paths back in the day when I was a J-League reporter, and now destiny had reunited us, of all places, in Myanmar. I decided to take the plunge and forced him to accept an interview to celebrate our encounter in this exotic land--so stay tuned for that.
After all was said and done at the Youth Training Center Stadium, yet again I could not escape the hospitality of the Myanmarese Federation’s staff. This time it was Zarny and Myo who dragged me to Chinatown for some serious BBQ and beer. We arrived on time to admire Cleverley’s goal against Newcastle on a small analog TV. It might have been the few beers I had put away, but legend narrates that I blessed the young Brit with the biggest compliment I could bestow upon a player: “That was a Del Piero moment!”
But football never stops, so I had to part with my new friends to rush back to the hotel as I planned to nurse my full tummy while watching El Clasico--meaning the real one, Barça vs Real Madrid. Afraid I would miss the kick-off I dashed through the hotel’s corridor with Messi’s speed, rushed into the room with the impetus of Sergio Ramos, threw the shoes in a corner and my bag in another with the precision of Xabi, flew over the bed as Casillas would, then I finally grabbed the remote control, and...