Burma has become the very first country in Asia to be chosen by football’s world governing body for a health-related program aimed at the country’s youth.
Sponsored by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) in cooperation with the Ministries of Health, Education and Sport, the “FIFA 11 for Health” program will be implemented in 2013 in Burmese schools.
According to Zaw Zaw, the president of the Myanmar Football Federation and an executive member of the Asia Football Confederation, the purpose of the new project is to improve children’s health.
“Children in our country will enjoy playing football, and this exercise will act as a medicine for their overall health,” he said.
FIFA’s chief medical officer, Dr. Jerry Dovark, said that the world body is aware of the current transition in Burma, and would like the people of the country to have the right opportunities.
“Football is an excellent platform due to its popularity and the fact that children can avoid unhealthy habits,” said Dovark.
“ You jump into fast food and soft drinks, and soon you’ll lose interest in physical activities,” he said. “Then, in 20 years, you’ll see a population that is overweight, and has high rates of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.”
About 300 school teachers and doctors in Rangoon are currently training for the football program. It is hope that in the future, some 3,000 to 6,000 will participate.
In March 2011, FIFA President Sepp Blatter visited Mandalay and Rangoon to open football academies and to lay the foundation stone for upgrading the stadium at the national youth academy.
Burma is currently ranked 155th in the world in football terms, ahead of Southeast Asian rivals Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.