Leeds United to play two friendlies in crisis-hit Burma

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Leeds United will play two post-season friendlies in crisis-hit Burma next month.

The club have announced plans to fly to the Far East in the week after their Championship season ends for matches against a Myanmar National League All-Stars team and Burma’s national side.

The moon rises above the Uppatasanti Pagoda seen from Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018. (AP Photo/Aung Shine Oo)

The moon rises above the Uppatasanti Pagoda seen from Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018. (AP Photo/Aung Shine Oo)

Leeds, who finish their domestic term against Queens Park Rangers on May 6, will meet the MNL All Stars in Yangon three days later and contest the second friendly in Mandalay on May 11 before sending their players away for their summer break.

Read more: Leeds United post-season tour: Where is Burma and is it safe to travel there?

A large portion of United’s first-team squad are expected to make the trip, though players with forthcoming international commitments - including Sweden defender Pontus Jansson - will be omitted from head coach Paul Heckingbottom’s group.

Leeds will use the matches to work on the fitness of players in their squad who have been carrying recent injuries, at a time when other Championship sides are preparing for the play-offs.

Myanmar's State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi delivers a televised speech to the nation at the Myanmar International Convention Center in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Aung Shine Oo)

Myanmar's State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi delivers a televised speech to the nation at the Myanmar International Convention Center in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Aung Shine Oo)

The club said the trip, headlined as the AYA Bank Tour 2018, would allow them to tap into “one of the fastest growing nations in southeast Asia”. The visit to Burma is also expected to have commercial benefits for Aser and Eleven Sports, two companies owned by Leeds chairman Andrea Radrizzani.

Eleven Sports, a TV rights firm, has deals in place in the Far East, including one in Singapore. Leeds said the tour of Burma was “part of the Aser’s ongoing commitment to partnerships in

the region.”

Burma has been the scene of severe political unrest in the past 12 months with its regime accused of ethnic cleansing with the displacement of Rohingya Muslims, thousands of whom have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh.

Rohingya Muslims, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, stretch their arms out to collect food items distributed by aid agencies near Balukhali refugee camp, Bangladesh, Monday, Sept. 18, 2017.  (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)

Rohingya Muslims, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, stretch their arms out to collect food items distributed by aid agencies near Balukhali refugee camp, Bangladesh, Monday, Sept. 18, 2017. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)

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The Foreign Office advises against all but essential travel to several areas of Burma, though Yangon and Mandalay both fall outside the areas most affected by violence between government troops and militants. Burma is also classed as having a risk of Zika virus transmission.

Leeds plan to hold football clinics for local children and will also visit different cultural sites in the country.

Managing director Angus Kinnear said: “Myanmar is one of the fastest growing nations in southeast Asia and is passionate about English football. They have ambitious goals for grassroots and elite football development that we are delighted to be able to support.

Elland Road

Elland Road

“This tour gives us an opportunity to meet new fans of football who will hopefully support our journey back to the Premier League in the coming years.

“From a football perspective we welcome the opportunity for our players who have not featured much in the past six months due to injuries the chance to continue their rehabilitation. The squad are very excited for the chance to represent the club in Asia.”