In Myanmar, Soccer Offers Relief
But is it just an opiate for the masses?
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 23, 2009 11:04 AM CDT
In this May 16, 2009 image, Myanmar children walk by police trucks deployed near Thuwunna soccer stadium in western Yangon, where a local soccer tournament was taking place.   (AP Photo/Khin Maung Win)
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(Newser) – Myanmar has had something to cheer about lately, the Wall Street Journal reports. In a country where gatherings of more than five people are officially illegal and free speech is nonexistent, the Myanmar National League has been drawing huge crowds of screaming fans. Launched in May, it’s the country’s first pro soccer league, and fans love it. But critics say it’s just a junta ploy to distract the masses.

The league’s executive committee is littered with government officials and people with ties to the military, and the owner of Yangon United is blacklisted in the US. But the pitch has been a mostly politics-free zone. “We know that the army has control,” says one Argentine player. “But we just come here and talk about football.”