Monday, August 21, 2017

Myanmar Football make approach to Karen refugee

The Myanmar Football Federation announced via social media yesterday that it has approached 18-year-old Karen refugee Kler Heh – who plays his football for English League One (third tier) side Sheffield United – about the possibility of representing Myanmar at the international level.

Kler Heh plays football for his club side Sheffield United. Photo: Kler Heh/FacebookKler Heh plays football for his club side Sheffield United. Photo: Kler Heh/Facebook

The winger was born to Karen refugees Kaw Moo Heh and Moe Heh in a Thai refugee camp in October 1996 before being resettled with five other family members, in Sheffield aged 10, as part of the United Nations Gateway Protection Programme.

The Facebook post said that Kler Heh, who now holds a British passport, “will decide on whether to represent Myanmar and reply [to the Federation] within a few days.

Myanmar Football Fans, a Myanmar-language website which interviewed the player last March – just after he signed terms on a one-year professional deal with United – say that when asked about his future Kler Heh was positive about his potential to represent Myanmar at the international-level despite never having set foot in the country.

However he noted that under the present system that would mean that he would need to relinquish his British passport.

FIFA eligibility rules dictate that for the “Acquisition of a new nationality”, a player must not only be granted citizenship of that nation but also fulfil one of four criteria: be born on the territory of the relevant association; have a parent or grandparent who was born in that territory; or have lived continuously for at least five years, after reaching the age of 18 on the relevant association’s territory.

As one commentator on the social media post noted, although Britain has a system of dual nationality, Myanmar does not. Also, as a refugee, whether taking Myanmar nationality would affect his status within the UK will no doubt be a matter of investigation for the young player.

However since Kler Heh has been on the Sheffield side’s books since the age of 14, Football Association chair Greg Dyke’s new plans for quotas on overseas players should not be a worry as Kler Heh should still count as “homegrown talent”.

The 18-year-old is considered primarily as a winger but told Myanmar Football Fans that he could be utilised around the pitch.

The announcement from the Facebook page also seemed to indicate that Myanmar’s Serbian coach Raddy Avramovi who utilised naturalised players in his time as coach of Singapore may have been a driver of the Federation’s approach to Kler Heh.

Standing just 5 foot 6 inches tall, Kler Heh does not offer an alternative body profile to a Myanmar national side already lacking in height, but should he make it on to the pitch this season, the highly physical and combative lower leagues of English football will provide ample experience in adapting his style to contend with physically stronger players.

Myanmar’s possession of a coach who speaks English – and played in England – will also help him. When asked in March by Myanmar Football Fans whether he spoke the Karen, Myanmar or Thai languages, Kler Heh only said he spoke Karen.

That may have put Myanmar at an advantage over Thailand, as Thai media outlet Sanook reported on July 26 that Thai manager Kiatisuk Senamaung – who spent a year at Sheffield United’s neighbour’s Huddersfield Town – is also interested in the young player’s status and eligibility.

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