Exiled, But No Regrets For Myanmar Footballer Two Years After Protest
Faizan Hashmi Published November 16, 2023 | 11:50 AM
Tokyo, (APP - UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 16th Nov, 2023) Refugee goalkeeper Pyae Lyan Aung fears for his safety if he returns home to Myanmar but he says he has no regrets about raising an anti-junta salute before a game two years ago.
The former Myanmar international flashed the three-fingered gesture, a popular symbol of protest against the country's 2021 military coup, as his team lined up to face Japan in a World Cup qualifier in Chiba, near Tokyo.
"Everyone wants to be a top player, but sacrificing that is nothing compared to what is happening in the country," the 27-year-old told AFP.
"I can't accept this unjust coup happening in Myanmar, and I think I did the right thing for a citizen to do."
Pyae Lyan Aung was a substitute and tv cameras captured him making the Hunger Games-inspired salute on the sidelines.
But when team officials warned them not to in the days leading up to the game, they began to have second thoughts.
"That day when we were eating lunch, I asked my teammates who was going to do it but they had all started to go their own way," he said.
"They were saying that things could be bad for them and their families when they got back home, so they had decided not to do it.
"But even if no one else was going to do it, I had decided to do it myself."
- Life in Japan -
Japan granted Pyae Lyan Aung refugee status three months after the game and he was offered a one-year professional contract to play futsal -- an indoor version of football -- by local team Yokohama SCC.
He says he wanted to play but his "heart wasn't in it".
"Things in Myanmar were getting worse and worse," he said.
"I wanted to go home but I didn't know when that was going to be possible. I had a lot of stress and I couldn't train."
He does not plan to watch Myanmar's World Cup qualifier against Japan on TV, and thinks the current team are "the kind of people who didn't budge when innocent civilians in the country are being slaughtered".
Pyae Lyan Aung says he has adapted better to life in Japan but he never expected to be there for so long.
What he wants most is for the world to know what is happening in his home country.
"Myanmar needs a lot of help right now," he said.
"Many innocent civilians are being killed."