In a first for EPLwire, Ed Hart talks to former BBC World Service journalist and UN diplomat, Sir Stamford Truffle, about his long standing love affair with Myanmar football.
EH: How did you get interested in something as arcane as Myanmar football?
SST: Well, that’s an interesting question. [Sound of tonic hitting gin] I was born to it, I suppose. My father was managing a ruby mine in Mogok and we had a small 200,000 hectare teak concession in what was then Burma.
There was also a bit of tea and few stands of rubber trees but I doubt it amounted to much more than 2,000 hectares. It was an isolated existence in those days – and although we had a wireless like most of the hill stationers – I relished the opportunity to go into the fleshpots of Mandalay.
For me that meant football, for my father it meant exotic dancing girls and a weekend of rogering down at Madame Wan’s Lucky Rabbit Club.” [Replenishes gin and tonic]
EH: Who did you support?
SST: It was always Mandalay United for me, you know. There was tremendous rivalry between Mandalay and Yangon United (Rangoon) – just as there is today – and whenever I was back in the country during the school holidays, I went whenever I could.
The team was really mixed in those days and Burma being Burma the idea of a team was always a combustible concept riven with competing factions. We had Mon, Karen, Shan, Bamars and Rakhines and sometimes they did more fighting among themselves than playing the opposition.
I remember the team manager, some frightful Scottish chap called Wetherall, who, poor bugger, was at his wit’s end trying whip the bastards into shape.”
EH: What’s your greatest memory of those times?
SST: Well, that’s easy. It would be the second round of the cup in 1942. Mandalay was playing Magway.
Against the run of play Oo Oo Wat had put Magway ahead with a near post header and then there was a pitch invasion. [Pours gin and tonic]
EH: A pitch invasion?
SST: Yes. [Lights cheroot] Would you believe it, on the biggest day in Magway’s history, the 33rd Division of the Japanese Fifteeth Army decided to invade the pitch.
The place was chaos, I don’t mind telling you. Fortunately, I managed get out before they sealed the ground.
EH: What did you do then?
SST: Luckily for us, the Nips hadn’t closed the road north, so we were able to slip out before dusk and make it up country.
The roads were terrible in those days, so we had a head start [Pours another gin and tonic]
EH: Weren’t you frightened?
SST: No, not really, I was so tight I couldn’t have cared less. However, we were dreadfully short of supplies and being Plymouth Brethren – we never drank anything else – I sent out our house boy, Tiet and Ang Sang Suu Kyi’s father, who was staying with us at the time, to nip down to the general store for some essentials. Silly buggers.
They came back with a load of Jaffa cakes and forgot the tonic water.
What you’ve got to understand was in those days, particularly with the war so close, we started the sundowners early – usually at sunrise. [Pours another gin and tonic]
EH: Have you retained you interest in Myanmar football to this day?
SST: Lord, yes. But it’s different these days with the satellite thingy and that web whatnot. We get everything now.
Indeed, thanks to Sky Television, I was watching a frightfully good Chilean cup tie the other day between Irrigación Colonica and Colo Rectal. Well, I say really good, the game was abandoned before half time because part of the stadium collapsed and the crowd had to be evacuated.
EH: What about English football?
SST: Is Nat Lofthouse still playing? He was marvellous, wasn’t he? What was it? The Lion of Venice?
EH: No, he retired in 1960 and died in 2011.
SST: Mmm. Mmm. Huh. Those were the d…
[Falls off chair unconscious]