Burma, the Azkals and Aung San Suu Kyi!! A Ridiculous Week

I… am… knackered… In almost every sense of the word. I could sleep for a week and given everything that just happened I reckon I’d deserve it too :p

So the last few weeks as I’ve blogged about have been a little stressful to sat the least so Craig asked if I wanted to go to Burma to watch the Azkals and relax. University deadlines are at the end of the month for two papers, 7000 and 8000 words each and with a bunch of stuff I was unsure but eventually persuaded to go – needing the break to be honest. Then, a bunch of journalists were denied visas and in the end there were four groups of journalists there and me and Craig. So Craig thinks it’d be an awesome idea if we both get press accreditation and I write the match reports and he takes a load of photos from the pitch. Just beforehand he got a huge number of followers on twitter which spilled over a bit to me as well as people were desperate for news of the Azkals but didn’t have many places to go. Growing up in England I’ve been exposed to football all my life and played as a goalkeeper for my schools and local teams since I can remember. I also like playing outfield so I have a decent understanding of the game and have written a bunch of articles for loads of newspapers/magazines and some academic work too so it’s not too far a leap for me. With the Twitter followers we find out there’s internet at the stadiums the games are played at and so the crazy idea to tweet commentary (now called tweetcast) comes out and I head ot the media box to watch the game, tweet commentary and make notes for my later match report while Craig heads down to the pitch to take photos of everything.

To say our reporting went well is a slight understatement given we crashed the website we’ve write for, http://www.pinoyfootball.com twice already. With too many people going to the site than it can cope with we’ve done ok for a first professional coverage of an event like that. There’s also now a donate button on the site as not getting paid and having expenses anyone who wishes to donate to help cover the cost of such journalism can do so there while all money raised beyond what we spent (breaking even) gets donated to the Homeless World Cup and the charity I’ll be running from this year. Great news on that front as it’s promoting football development with the poorest people in Manila – using football as a way to get kids into long-term education, back with their families and sponsored or a children’s home if necessary. So check out pinoyfootball.com for the coverage there and if you like the journalism and the updates then donate what you think it’s worth – knowing that the money covers the cost (no profit) of getting there and back and that football development for the poorest (as a way to provide long-term sustainable help) is supported. The Philippines has so much potential, not just in football but as a country, and together we can make that difference to help improve the lives of those born into poverty.

So we covered every game, rushing everywhere to get quotes, articles, photos, etc. and did a decent job. Thanks to everyone who read the articles, looked at the photos, retweeted the tweetcast, etc. Was a lot of work though and running round doing everything took time. Didn’t get to do much touristy stuff in Burma except see the Golden Pagoda which was actually really lovely and the people were great – very friendly and when they spoke enough English we had good conversation. We’d heard a load of things going into Burma about them searching the laptop, not allowing cameras or computers, etc. and being really strict with everything but I thought it was really good, went went, lovely people, beautiful places. The whole military rule could do with a bit of reworking of course :p but it wasn’t as repressive as we’d heard at least which is, of course, a very good thing.

So for anyone wanting to read back and see the week in photos check out pinoyfootball for the list of articles I wrote and the great photos Craig took. A load of them were used by the daily national papers too which is really cool and kudos to Craig for that: http://pinoyfootball.com/News/afc_challenge_cup_qalifiers_myanmar2011

The football was insane and after drawing to hosts Myanmar and Palestine the Philippines needed to beat Bangladesh to qualify. With cagey starts in the other games, playing more defensively, the Philippines needed they had to go for broke in this one and they showed their quality completely controlling the play and winning 3-0. Tweetcasting was insane as retweets mentions and everything would fly by. Ian Araneta, who scored first, and Angel Guirado who scored the second and third, made the top 10 trends on Twitter once they’d scored. Amazing to see – especially as there was no live tv coverage. Smart also contacted us to set up a service where people could subscribe to the tweets I’d send out and it’d come as a text message. At 1peso/message it wasn’t too expensive and anyone out and about wanting to hear what happened could get the updates. I’m not exactly sure but it could be the first time that was ever done and so that’d mean me and Craig were officially the first ever to connect Twitter and text-messaging service with Smart which would be pretty cool. Not only would that mean we found a way to make money out of Twitter, something not even Twitter have managed to do, but I’m surprised it’s not been some sort of porn service or phone-in service as that’s what usually drives technology – given 90% of websites are porn. Everyone says necessity is the mother of invention… I think it’s something else 😀

Anyway qualifying and going absolutely crazy we managed to join the Azkals partying which was pretty cool. Some interesting stories there of course but was great fun switching between the ones who’d grown up abroad and the ones who’d grown up in the Philippines. They left the next day but we stayed as our flight was Sunday. I’m still in Kuala Lumpur actually writing this. Got another 3 hours before gotta check-in for the flight so thought I’d manage to blog a bit first as it’s been a while 😀 The latest news on Payatas FC is once I get back we’ll pick up training as we have the tournament on April 15th. The team will be a mix of Mango kids and kids living at Payatas as neither are ready yet by themselves to compete fully. Should be interesting to see though and very looking forward to it.

Back to Burma and we had one day left. The regional director of Save the Children got talking to us at the party for the Azkals at the embassy and it turned out she was the one who hired an ex-social worker from Mango. Craig and her were talking for ages and she invited us to stay at her place. She was so kind the entire time, very interested to hear about the work and she showed us round the country a bit more. Naughtily we ran off at one point to see the house of Aung San Suu Kyi, a lady who has been imprisoned and under house arrest pretty much since she won the election for Burmese President with 80% of the vote. Not wanting that the military came in and were like, ‘Nope!’ and locked her up and took over the country – changing it’s name from Burma to Myanmar which is why there’s often a lot of confusion between the two. Since, Aung San Suu Kyi has stood for justice and democracy in Burma and is an incredible inspiration to a lot of people – she won the Nobel Peace Price in 1991 but little has changed since she won. Given the political climate with revolutions happening in North Africa and the Middle East it’ll be interesting to hear if that will spread further to other places with military dictatorships and similar regimes. Exciting times!!

But as this post is already quite long and it’s past 2am I’ll update again later instead of writing the other 5000 words to this blog post. A lot has happened but this is a neat summary of most of it. For the football side of things visit pinoyfootball.com but for updates on Payatas FC and the charity stay tuned as I’ll be writing again this week. Training will become more frequent in preparation for the tournament and we’ll have goals, kits and other things ready. The team is improving and it’ll be good to see how they do, but most important is the way football is giving the kids something positive to put their energy into, rather than drugs and other vices which are so widespread in their area. In the long-term plan everyone playing football will also receive full-time education too as many of the kids don’t get the chance to go to school. Us football fans have a great opportunity to help others through the beautiful game. Remember to donate through pinoyfootball.com if you want to support us and look at http://www.triplee.org.uk for more info on the charity side of the charity this year. For now, I’ll bid you all farewell, but in the next blog I’ll give some o the more interesting personal stories from the week. Including three more facts about the Rev. Craig Burrows, MBE 😀 During the week I hijacked his twitter account as I was using his account to tweetcast the football. For those who missed the first installment:

Fact #1 – Craig Burrows is a reverend, though I think he has broken every rule in the Seminary handbook.

Fact #2 – Craig is currently (at the time of writing) flashing the whole of Yangon, naked. Despite being on the 19th floor I think there’s some old woman staring in complete shock.

Fact #3 – Despite being a Pacifist Craig is currently launching a brutal attack on my face in order to get his Twitter account back.

More to come later as we hopefully get to cover more of the Azkals and other things. Perhaps I’ll do a few facts about the Azkals next time too 😀

Hoep you’re all well and enjoyed the coverage of the game!!!



9 thoughts on “Burma, the Azkals and Aung San Suu Kyi!! A Ridiculous Week

  1. mike limpag March 28, 2011 / 02:33

    Nice article Roy. So are you going to take a break, after taking that break from all the University stuff?

  2. Iris March 28, 2011 / 02:36

    Hi Roy, it’s amazing what you guys have done for pinoy fans and for that we thank you =) as some of us like to say, gujab! (good job)

    I’ve read up on some of your and Craig’s charity work with the kids at Payatas. Coincidentally the company i used to work for has an advocacy that supports kids. it varies from one country to another, but we always looked for avenues to help out kids.

    With that, (and the rise of football might i say), I just wanted to know if it’s possible to partner with your outfit for an activity (or fund raising) of sorts. I could float the idea to the HR manager, who’s a friend, so let me know. =)


  3. chesel March 28, 2011 / 02:42

    i enjoyed reading your post roy 🙂 and by the way, you guys did a good job back in Myanmar. Tweetcast was a success. Keep it up! 🙂

  4. Edward E. March 28, 2011 / 04:17

    Please write something about U.P. football. Are you joining the uni team?

  5. Naomi March 28, 2011 / 06:56

    Thank you for the tweetcasts and for what you have been doing for us football fans and more especially for the kids of Payatas. You guys are an inspiration. God bless you.

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  7. Jenn March 28, 2011 / 11:06

    What you guys did back in Myanmar and the other media persons (cedelf and dyan) made it possible for us to reach out to Azkals. Props for you guys.

  8. Pon March 28, 2011 / 21:25

    Good job! Keep on doing what you’re doing. It’s nice to have a writing fan in there.

  9. Vicenta Paula March 30, 2011 / 23:06

    Hi, I admire you for what you have done to help those kids. You are not pinoy but you spend time and effort to help us. Thank you

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