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Kyrgyzstan: Fear of Myanmar Fury Disrupts Football

Kyrgyzstan has cited the possibility of public unrest over unfolding developments in Myanmar in its decision to cancel a football match against the southeast Asian nation scheduled for September 5.

Football authorities said they agreed with concerns that unrest might break out between fans in the wake of a mounting international outcry over human rights abuses against Muslims in Myanmar. The game was due to be played in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek.

“We do not need victims. Football isn’t politics, it isn’t religion. We support the decision of the government, because fans and other people could get hurt,” said Semetei Sultanov, president of Kyrgyzstan’s football federation.

Sultanov initially speculated that the decision to scrap the encounter might cost Kyrgyzstan its points in the Group A qualify match for the AFC Asian Cup 2019. But the Asian Football Confederation later stated it was postponing the match “to protect safety and security,” which it said “can never be compromised.”

The AFC may have thrown Kyrgyzstan a lifeline since loss of the points, or even heavier sanctions, could have spelled the end to its hopes of qualifying for the Asia’s premier national team competition in 2019.

Kyrgyzstan has never qualified for the AFC Asian Cup although its prospects this time around are considered as good as any time in the past.

Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims have long been oppressed by the military in their home nation, but the violence meted out against this long-suffering minority has escalated in recent weeks. The United Nations estimates that almost 90,000 Rohingya have been forced to cross into Bangladesh since the most recent outbreak of violence late last month.

The sense of grievance over the situation has been particularly strongly displayed in parts of the former Soviet world, including in Russia’s republic of Chechnya. Social media in Kyrgyzstan has likewise resounded to calls for solidarity with fellow Muslims. 

Kyrgyzstan: Fear of Myanmar Fury Disrupts Football

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