Leeds United chairman Andrea Radrizzani has defended the club’s plan to spend their 2018 post-season gadding about in war-torn Myanmar.
The Championship side once again invited a deluge of scorn from everybody, including Amnesty International, after they announced they’d be taking their show on the road to play two friendlies in a country currently mired in what the United Nations have branded an “ethnic cleansing” campaign against Rohingya Muslims.
🇲🇲 | Leeds United are delighted to announce the #AYABankTour18, featuring two friendly matches in Myanmar
— Leeds United (@LUFC) April 24, 2018
After weathering the immediate backlash, Radrizzani has today issued a statement via Leeds’ official website to defend the proposed jaunt, even hinting that it might prove to be a good thing for the local populace, many of whom are living under a genocidal military regime:
I believe the tour will have a positive impact on the local community in parts of the country we intend to visit. 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.
Radrizzani also mentions that he is “well aware” on the volatility in the region as he previously spent 10 years living in Asia including several visits to Myanmar, which he found to be a “warm and welcoming” place whilst he established business interests (quelle surprise) in the country.
The Italian also explained that he hopes Leeds’ trip – for which the club will not receive any direct payment – will help bring Myanmar together and heal the nation’s woes through the positive power of football, via coaching clinics for local underprivileged children.
Given that Leeds are going to be in town for about five days, we’d suggest that restoring peace and civility in Myanmar may be a slightly tall order for a middling Championship football club.
But hey, what do we know about international diplomacy?