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Burma and FIFA: A Match Made in…

by Joshua Kurlantzick
March 22, 2011

A couple walks below a welcome board for FIFA President Sepp Blatter outside the Myanmar Football Federation in Yangon March 14, 2011.

A couple walks below a welcome board for FIFA President Sepp Blatter outside the Myanmar Football Federation in Yangon March 14, 2011. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters)

Over on the Financial Times’ Beyond Brics blog, Southeast Asia correspondent Tim Johnston reports that FIFA president Sepp Blatter recently made a two-day visit to Burma, at the invitation of Zaw Zaw, a businessman known for his close ties to the ruling military. Zaw Zaw, as Johnston notes, is banned from traveling to the U.S. and to the European Union because of his close ties to the brutal government. Still, the generals – and nearly everyone else in Burma – want their football. British Premier League teams are followed, as well as possible in a country where news can be still be hard to get, and even the Burmese soccer league, which won’t make anyone forget about Chelsea or Barca, attracts real support.

Still, should the most prominent football association executive in the world – and a man who reportedly believes he could win the Nobel Peace Prize for using soccer to bridge global divides — be stopping by to essentially bless the regime and its cronies? Well, within FIFA, Blatter is known for running a dictatorial shop, for mercurial decision-making that flies in the face of all wisdom (a World Cup in sun-baked Qatar in the summer?), and for surviving endless allegations of corruption.  Sound familiar?

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