Why Milan? I asked.
“Because I’ve got this shirt at the lucky draw organized by our church before we played football.”
At about the same time as Baptist missionaries started harvesting souls in the northern Kachin state, a journalist George Scott introduced the game of football to what was sometimes known as “the Scottish colony”, the great country of Burma. Besides being a reporter for the London Evening Standard and later colonial administrator, Sir Scott of Scotland loved the game – in late XIX century he organized first football matches in the country. Young Burmese men loved football, said Scott, because it was “just like fighting.” Andrew Marshall, another great journalist and my travelling partner these days masterfully writes about Scott’s life and legacy in his book “The Trouser People”.
Fast forward to XXI century, Burma’s Kachin is unfortunately still in state of permanent troubles. Devastated by a long ethnic conflict and widespread heroin use, the land squeezed between India and China and crazy rich in natural resources remains difficult to access patchwork of territories owned by the government forces and different rebel groups.
Today, for a young lad like Brang Sengli there are not many better options than working in rice fields, wearing a football jersey donated by the Church. Smiling him and his best friend Aung Mai who loves Arsenal (like!) because of Robin Van Persie (not like!) happily posed for pictures after working in the field while some farmer girls giggled under straw hats behind their backs.