Than Toe Aung, formerly a team captain and a prolific striker for Burma, is now coach of the women’s national football team. He spoke to DVB’s Shwe Aung on the eve of the kick-off to the SEA Games’ most anticipated tournament.
Q: What is the current condition of the Myanmar women’s football team?
A: We are satisfied with Wednesday’s friendly match results: a 5-2 victory [against a Burmese boys’ team]. The women are getting the hang of it. They have been in extensive training; now we are relaxing in the days before the matches start. Judging by Wednesday’s performance, we can say that the team is nearing optimum condition.
Q: We heard about a plan to send the team for training in South Korea, Japan and China, but it was later cancelled. What happened there?
A: Actually we trained in Osaka ahead of the ASEAN football championships, and after the tournament we went back to Japan and also to Korea to train. In fact, we had planned a trip to Australia but it was cancelled due to the expense. Instead we trained in Taunggyi. Perhaps the disadvantage is that we missed a chance to test our players against those international teams.
Q: Do you think the Burmese team will win the group stage?
A: The answer will depend on the result from the last group match – against Vietnam. We believe we can beat both the Philippines and Indonesia, so we will also be aiming for a victory over Vietnam.
Q: Burma was defeated by Vietnam in the last tournament in Rangoon. How can we defeat them this time?
A: Honestly, this will be a big challenge. We have improved a fair bit since the ASEAN championships but so has Vietnam. I think we need to score plenty of goals in the first two games, because otherwise Vietnam will win the group stage even if we manage a draw in the final match.
Q: Has anyone been injured in the lead-up to the first match [against the Philippines on Tuesday, 10 December]?
A: One of our main players, Khin Mar Tun, No 10, suffered a slight thigh injury in Wednesday’s match, but should recover before the tournament. Apart from her, everyone is fully fit.
Q: Is the line-up the same from the ASEAN championships?
A: We still have some of the players from the AFC line-up but also about four new members from the U-19 team.
Q: Who is our main threat, Thailand or Vietnam?
Q: How much support do you need from the fans?
A: We need 100 percent support for this tournament. Also, getting favour from referees, as the home team – I mean within the boundary of rules and regulations – is another advantage for us. We have always had a reputation as a decent team but have never been champions of Southeast Asia. We are ready to prove ourselves this year.