The former Liverpool and England player John Barnes added star power to a youth football training clinic last week, and admitted he was impressed with what he saw.
“The quality of the boys here are the same as English or even Brazilian boys. If they are trained systematically, they will grow in the future and become outstanding players,” Mr Barnes said during a press conference at the Myanmar Football Federation (MFF) on September 19.
The four day clinics are sponsored by Digicel as part of its youth development programme. Working as Digicel’s brand ambassador and coach, Mr Barnes arrived on September 17 to instruct 70 young coaches and players who have been selected from the national MFF U-12 Digicel Cup 2012.
Despite liking what he saw, Mr Barnes highlighted the urgent need to improve training and infrastructure to properly develop the youngsters.
“Yesterday I watched how the Myanmar under twelve players performed. They are very disciplined and very eager to learn. They have a lot of skill and quality, so they should be continually trained in terms of discipline, tactics, and togetherness,” he said.
“With that kind of attitude, they have an equal chance to grow as the boys in England if they are given good training.”
Jamaican born Mr Barnes made his name as part of Kenny Dalglish’s Liverpool side 25 years ago as a midfielder. Renowned for a skillful left foot, he helped Liverpool secure their 17th League title during the record-equaling 29 game unbeaten run from the start of the 1987-88 season.
Liverpool FC hails the influence of Mr Barnes: “just as the No 7 shirt will always be associated with Kenny Dalglish, the No 10 will forever belong to Barnes.”
He was also capped 79 times for England before moving into coaching, first with Celtic FC and the Jamaican national team before he worked for Digicel.
Digicel, a mobile telecommunications company based in Jamaica, has expanded to 31 countries, including Myanmar, and is strongly involved in youth sports development programmes. They started youth football training in the Caribbean, and has expanded to Africa as well as Southeast Asia.
“Football in the Caribbean is similar to football in South East Asia. In South East Asia, Myanmar will be very successful in the future,” Mr Barnes said.
In Myanmar Digicel has agreed a three-year contract with MFF, sponsoring the 2013 AFC U-22 qualifiers, the Myanmar men & women national teams, the MNL knockout competition 2012, as well as youth development programs for U-12, 14 and 16, and the Myanmar referees federation.
“A lot of positive things have happened since Digicel came in. we want to support Myanmar football at all levels. We want to help restore the glory Myanmar football had in 1960s,” Ms Vanessa Slowey, chief executive officer of Digicel Asia Pacific said.
“Digicel’s support and sponsorship will have a big role to play in youth development and John Barnes is the ideal man given his football skills and technique,” Ms Vanessa added.