Bozenenkov and Zonin – unforgettable icons in Myanmar-Russia friendship history

Article in marking the 75th Anniversary of the Myanmar-Russia Diplomatic Ties


A Sports Fan

We should not forget Soviet (Russian) coaches Bozenenkov and Zonin of the past Myanmar national football team for their efforts to give guidance so as to revitalize the Myanmar football arena on the occasion of the 75th Anniversary of Myanmar-Russia diplomatic relations.
The government assigned foreign coaches starting from 1954 to improve Myanmar’s football standard and for Myanmar’s national football team to secure victories in international tournaments. England’s Alex Weir was hired in April 1954, one month ahead of the second Asian Cup.
Afterwards, Yugoslavian coaches Milorad Mitrović and Marko Valok, Hungarian coach Kalmar, and Soviet (Russian) coaches Mikhail Bozenenkov and Zonin were also hired for the Myanmar national football team and the Myanmar Tatmadaw selected football team.
Coach Alex Weir of England emphasized the fitness of players from the Myanmar national football team but helped the team secure the bronze medal in the Philippines’ Asian Cup in 1954. It was the first-ever prize for the Myanmar national football team in international tournaments.
After revoking the contract with Alex Weir of England, Milorad Mitrović from Yugoslavia was hired in 1957. In his tenure, the Myanmar national football team secured nothing victory in international tournaments.
The Myanmar Tatmadaw also hired a Yugoslavian coach Marko Valok for Tatmadaw’s selected football teams from 1959 to 1963. Marco emphasized discipline over the players and gave training on modern football techniques and fitness to the footballers.
The first-ever Soviet football coach who arrived in Myanmar was Bozenenkov. He served as the coach of the Myanmar national football team from 6 August 1961 to 17 March 1965. Bozenenkov was a top football player in the Soviet Union as well as an ex-player of ice hockey sport. After taking retirement from life as an athlete, he attended the football coaching course in which he passed at the high level.
Mikhail Bozenenkov took responsibility for giving training to Myanmar national football team bound for the 1961 Southeast Asian Peninsular Games and sent Myanmar team to the final of the football tournament. In the final match, Myanmar was defeated by Malaysia and consoled with the silver medal only.
Actually, Bozenenkov could train Myanmar footballers from the golden era of Myanmar football sport to have their skills brighter. Myanmar veteran footballer Maung Maung of the golden era of Myanmar football sport recounted his experiences related to the coach.
“Yugoslavian Mr Marko Valok who was a coach for the Myanmar Tatmadaw football team gave training to me to become a qualified footballer. Soviet football coach Bozenenkov polished me to become a skilful footballer. He was a doctorate holder in sports in the Soviet Union and participated in the Russian national football team. So, he was perfect. Among foreign football coaches who arrived in Myanmar, Bozenenkov was the best, I think. Mr Bozenenkov was skilful in football manoeuvres in the football sport,” he said.
Likewise, Myanmar national football team’s goalkeeper Khin Maung Tun possessed brilliant skills under the training of Bozenenkov and was selected as an Asian selected footballer.

Khin Maung Tun took training on saving the volley kicks which came from various angles, saving the balls kicked from 25 yards distance in the back position at the goal mouth, sending the ball to his team players and saving the balls in the diving positions under the football techniques of coach Bozenenkov.
As a result, Myanmar’s selected goalkeeper Khin Maung Tun showed off his wonderful skills in the football matches in 1964 and 1965. He saved the kicks in the best positions and warned and gave suggestions to his companion players on how to take a position in advance for preventing attacks from the opponent team. He became a skilful keeper to cut the routes of footballs to be kicked by the opponent team in front of the goal mouth and dared to hinder and block the kicks. According to the advancement of football sports, the goalkeeper must have the skills not only to save the balls between the two posts but also to command his players for the defensive line and serve the last defender position.
Actually, Khin Maung Tun was versatile in his profession. Although he was chosen as Myanmar’s selected volleyball player several times, Bozenenkov took him to football sport, more suitable for his profession. So, he gave up on the life of Myanmar’s selected volleyball player.
After Soviet Coach Bozenenkov and Hungarian Coach Kalmar who contributed to training for the Myanmar national team returned to their respective countries due to the completion of their assignments, another coach from Soviet Union German Semyonovich Zonin came to the Myanmar team.
Zonin was born in Kazam of Ukraine in 1926. Since childhood, he had been playing at the youth football teams and stepped up his career as a player and then coach at football clubs in Leningrad City. He attained a degree from the Leningrad Institute of Physical Culture in 1953 when he was 27. After that, he attained an MA degree in sports and an honorary coach degree. In 1964, he served as a lecturer at the football department of the Leningrad Institute of Physical Culture.
The Myanmar Sports and Physical Education Committee hired him to take responsibility as a coach for the Myanmar national football team from September 1964 to September 1968. In his tenure, Zonin could post a milestone for the Myanmar national football team to clinch the title as Asian Champion in a golden era.
During the period of Zonin and Myanmar coach U Sein Hlaing, the Myanmar national football team secured the joint first prize in the 1965 Southeast Asian Peninsular Games, the gold medal in the 1966 Asian Cup, the gold medal in the Southeast Asian Peninsular Games and the second in the Asian Cup in 1967 and the joint champion in the Merdeka Cup.
Modern sports techniques and training of tactful football skills of Soviet (Russian) coaches Bozenenkov and Zonin contributed much to the victories of the Myanmar football arena. So also, great chances to play friendly matches with top (Soviet) Russian football clubs gave invaluable international experiences to Myanmar football teams.
The FC Moscow Locomotive from the Soviet Union arrived in Myanmar and played a turn-up match with Myanmar national team on 5 December before the fourth quadruple football tournament in 1955. Such a club was the first-ever football club among the Socialist countries to play a football match in Myanmar. Hence, Myanmar sports fans saw the modern football techniques of the Soviet football team.
In March 1957, FC Dinamo Tbilisi (Georgia) played two turn-up matches with Myanmar national team. FC Dinamo trounced the Myanmar team with a 9-1 win in the first match. Due to utmost efforts, Myanmar was defeated by the guest team with a 4-5 result in the second match.
The FC CSKA Moscow, one of the top football clubs in Russia, arrived in Myanmar in December 1960 to play turn-up matches. In the first match, the Central Army FC crushed the Myanmar civilian selected team 3-0, the Tatmadaw’s selected football team 5-2 in the second match and the Myanmar national football team 8-0 in the third match.
In November 1961, FC Torpedo Moscow which was the champion in Russia held a turn-up match with Myanmar national football team and secured a 4-0 win.
The Ukrainian football team from the Soviet Union held friendly matches in Myanmar in November 1965. The Ukrainian team held a 1-1 draw with Myanmar national football team in the first match and won over the host 2-1 in the second match.
FC Zenit, a top football club in the Soviet, held friendly matches in Myanmar in November 1966. The guest team could not win over Myanmar. Both teams ended at a goalless draw in the first match, and the Myanmar national football team beat the guest 2-0 in the second match.
In 1967, Myanmar’s selected youth team toured Russia and East Germany on its trip to Europe to play friendly matches. In Russia, Myanmar lost to two state-level football teams 0-1 each but played a 2-2 draw with the Russian youth team which was the champion in Europe.
Thanks to embracing valuable experiences of playing with the top football clubs from Soviet (Russia) one after another, the Myanmar national football team and the Myanmar youth selected team could post the milestones on their golden chronicles in playing with South Korean, Iranian and Israeli teams which are now powerhouses in the football arena of Asia and regional counterpart teams with utmost efforts.
Moreover, Soviet (Russian) coaches Bozenenkov and Zonin paved the way for the success of the Myanmar national football team to be able to secure victories in international tournaments. Likewise, the books on football techniques and technologies compiled by those Soviet coaches contributed much to the improvement of the Myanmar football standard.
At a time when books on sports techniques in Myanmar version were very rare, Saya Maung Tin Mya translated the book on football techniques in the Russian language written by Soviet (Russian) coach Bozenenkov and published it. Moreover, the book on football techniques compiled by Soviet (Russian) coach Zonin was also translated by Saya Maung Tin Mya into the Myanmar language, and it was published with the title “Football tactics of Russian football coach Zonin”.
The football techniques of Zonin featured football tactics, training for manoeuvres, characters of modern football sport, teamwork and individual efforts, tussling, carrying and passing the balls, destroying the balls, individual competitiveness, attack tactics, defensive tactics, partnership playing tactics and techniques, manoeuvres, track and field sports, separate duties of football clubs and appendix in 15 chapters.
As such, the article was created to honour Soviet (Russian) coaches Mr Bozenenkov and Mr Zonin who strived for improving Myanmar’s football standard and setting a golden milestone in Myanmar football arena as a gesture of honouring the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Myanmar and the Russian Federation.
Outstanding sports athletes of Myanmar written by Maung Ye Win
Asian football and Myanmar stars by Baho Thein Hsaung

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