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Myanmar

‘Show humanity, Leeds’: Rohingya Football Club official urges English club to cancel their tour of Myanmar

Club secretary Mohammed Faruk wants the English club to instead play his own team of refugees in Kuala Lumpur

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 April, 2018, 9:01am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 April, 2018, 10:54pm

A Rohingya football official has called on English club Leeds United to cancel their controversial postseason tour of Myanmar and play against his team instead.

Mohammed Faruk, secretary of the Kuala Lumpur-based Rohingya Football Club, urged the former English champions to “show humanity” by withdrawing from their two-match tour of the Southeast Asian country, which the United Nations has accused of ethnically cleansing the Rohingya people from Rakhine state.

“As secretary of Rohingya Football Club, we urge Leeds to have a friendly match with us instead of playing with Myanmar teams and show some humanity,” said Faruk. “Otherwise, cancel the tour. By cancelling the tour, [Myanmar] will learn a lesson.

Asked if he was upset when the tour was announced last week, Faruk said: “Yes, of course. Because [Leeds] will be dealing with people who don’t know how to respect humanity.”

Leeds managing director Angus Kinnear announced in Yangon on April 24 that the Championship side would play a Myanmar League All Stars team on May 9 and the country’s national team on May 11.

Italian businessman Andrea Radrizzani, who last year became Leeds’ full owner, has defended the tour, even saying the visit would help raise awareness of the situation in Myanmar.

“I have spent over 10 years living in Asia and Myanmar is a country I have visited on many occasions,” Radrizzani was quoted as saying. “I am aware of the serious issues within the country but I also know that it is a beautiful place filled with incredibly warm and welcoming people.

“This was a carefully considered decision and we knew it would be controversial, but this is about people not governments. It has never been my intention, nor that of the club, to get involved in a political debate in Myanmar. 

“However, if because of the tour we further highlight the ongoing serious issues in certain areas of the country, then maybe that is a positive thing.”

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh from Rakhine state over the past eight months, claiming they were being oppressed by the Myanmar military and Buddhist militias.

The United Nations has described the treatment of Rohingya in the northern Rakhine state as “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing” with villages burned to the ground and countless Rohingya men, women and children being killed.

Pulitzer-worthy: searing images of Rohingya refugees

The Myanmar government does not recognise the Rohingya as citizens, while the Bangladesh government says they belong to Myanmar.

More than 150,000 Rohingya Muslims live as refugees in Malaysia, including 24-year-old Faruk who fled Rakhine when he was 14. He formed Rohingya FC in 2015 and organises regular matches for the team against local Malaysian and overseas opposition. Faruk says that it is the only official Rohingya football team in the world.

The squad have been invited to take part in the Conifa World Cup for people who have been displaced at the end of the year in Japan.