You may wonder why ETS is hosting an interview with a goalkeeper in the Myanmar National League. Matt Acton was born in Australia and recently played for A-League side Brisbane Roar, but is eligible for Finnish citizenship through his father. Friend of the blog Jaakko, better known as @barbaricfooty, interviewed Matt and has generously allowed me to host the interview here in English, with Matt's consent. The original interview (in Finnish) is here on Kymppipaikka. Thank you Jaakko and thank you Matt.
Matt Acton (r)
1. When did it become clear that you're leaving Brisbane Roar? How did you feel about it?
I found out that I would be leaving Brisbane Roar in late January. At the time I was really disappointed as I felt I had shown enough ability in the games I played to be offered a new contract. As I got used to the fact, it became more acceptable but still hurt a little bit knowing that I had to leave the club that I loved.
2. Brisbane Roar won the double in your last season. How did it feel and how big was this to you, the club and the city?
Winning the double was something that as a group we set out to do from day one of the pre-season and to do it was reward for a lot of hard work. We worked for eleven months straight, sacrificing a lot to be where we were on the final day. For the city it was a massive buzz, to sell Suncorp Stadium out for the third time in our third final, shows that the city of Brisbane is very passionate about the club. On a personal note it was a dream come true, to play a role throughout the season and to win was massive and no one can ever take away from us what we did as a group.
3. What are your best memories from Brisbane Roar? Do you regret anything?
Since I was 15, all I have ever known is Brisbane Roar. In seven years at the club, I've seen a lot of highs and lows. My best memories are being part of such a successful club with all the trophies we won and to become the 100th player to play for the Roar. Keeping a clean sheet on my debut in front of my family and friends was another memory that sticks in my mind. I don't have too many regrets, I would have liked to have played more games but this was out of my hands. I believe I supported the team 100% in every game even when I wasn't playing and I can be proud of that.
4. Soon after you left Australia and signed for a Burmese club. Did you have other options at the time?
I've since joined Myanmar-based club Yangon United FC. They have been champions of Myanmar for the past three seasons which was a big draw for me, coming from a successful club in Australia as I wanted to win more trophies. I had a few other options that I could have looked at but the club showed me that they were very keen on signing me and I liked what they had to offer. Ever since I have arrived here they have made me feel very welcome and will go head over heels to make me happy which I'm really appreciative of. I received a phone call from my representatives asking if I would be interested. We waited for an offer and then made a decision, everything ran very smoothly and I'm happy to be here. For me it wasn't too much of a risk, only playing a few games in Australia I had nothing to lose but everything to gain. I have since played every week I have been here which as a footballer is what I want.
5. What were your first impressions of the country?
I arrived here in mid-May after the celebrations died down in Brisbane. My first impression was a bit of shock, it's a complex culture here, different from anywhere else in the world. I have grown to familiarise myself with the culture and I love the diversity of the country. It's a place that has remained untouched for so long and still has all of it's natural beauty. I can say that reading about Myanmar doesn't do it justice, people from the outside are a bit critical of the country, but until you come here and experience it I don't think you can judge it. The people here are so friendly and always have a smile on their face. They put life into perspective. My fiancé is joining me in August until the end of the season. She had to stay home for a few business opportunities we hope to take up, but now is the right time for her to join me and experience what I have.
6. What kind of a club is Yangon United?
Yangon United is a great club with massive pressure and expectations. As a foreigner you face the pressure head on and have to perform in every game. The facilities here are the best in the country which was another big carrot in coming here. We have two Brazilians and a Macedonian. The team, like everyone here, have been very welcoming from the first day. There are no big egos here and everyone just gets along which is fantastic. As a new player I had to gain respect from everyone but I think I have done that through my performances and how I have presented myself off the field.
7. What can you well us about the league, coaching and club conditions?
Like I said I have played every game since arriving here. The standard of the league is growing, I wouldn't say it's as high as the A-League in terms of broadcasting and stadiums. It's a different style of football here, very direct and a lot of transition. There are a lot of naturally gifted players here who I think can make a good career abroad. It's hard for me to judge the coaching of the league but here at Yangon we have an Australian coach which is great for me personally. We have a fitness coach and a goalkeeping coach, all full time so the standard of coaching at this club is very much the same as the A-League.
8. What about the local football culture?
Football is the number ond sport here. Every time I go into the city I see kids and adults playing in car parks or under overpasses using bottles or shoes as goals. They love football here. Everyone recognises the football players here which is great. Attendances aren't the greatest but the thousands that do come make a lot of noise and they really show you their passion. To say the World Cup is big here is an understatement, the locals flock to tea shops to watch the games every night of the week at 10:30, 2:30 and 4:30. They're crazy!
9. What does the future hold for you?
My contract finishes here at the end of the season in September. At this stage I am here just to get game time, if I wasn't here I would be doing a pre-season somewhere so for me it's a no-brainer. As for me staying on longer, I'm not to sure at this stage, I will sit down with the club in the next few months and see what their plans are for me going forward. If they feel I have offered them enough then we will definately talk! Expectations are to go as far as we can in the Cup, qualify for the AFC Cup and to finish as high as we can in the league. We have high expectations so to not win would be seen as a failure.