Monday, June 22, 2009

Myanmar: Police State Doesn't Keep Soccer Fans Away

From the WSJ: Under the Police State's Watchful Eye, Fans Brave Monsoons, Vendors Hawk Betel Nuts

Public displays of emotion are uncommon in Myanmar, a secretive police state. It's technically illegal for more than five people to gather in one place, and while the rule is selectively enforced, many residents live in fear they're being watched by military intelligence.

But little of that seems to matter on game days of the Myanmar National League, the country's first professional soccer league and a rare local experiment in free expression. Launched in May, it features eight teams, players from as far as the Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Argentina, and the ever-present watchful eye of Myanmar's military machine.

More photos and interactive graphics Most player salaries range from $200 to $1,000 a month. The Man of the Match -- awarded for each game's top performer -- gets the equivalent of $500. By comparison, Spanish club Real Madrid just offered $131 million to attract Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo.