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David Prutton: Leeds United’s trip to Myanmar is wrong on all levels

Leeds United owner Andrea Radrizzani.
Leeds United owner Andrea Radrizzani.
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WHEN you read that Leeds United are going on a post-season tour to Myanmar you stand back and say ‘flipping heck’ – or words to that effect.

Anybody with a passing acquaintance with geopolitics would think that.

Paul Heckingbottom.

Paul Heckingbottom.

I remember watching a documentary about what was going on over there and what is happening to the Rohingya people is absolutely horrific.

And when you look at the political state of the country, to call it volatile is an understatement. It’s not like popping over to a France or going over to America for a post-season tour – all these relatively straightforward places.

It’s going to one of the most politically volatile places on the planet and you can’t talk about any of it lightly.

When you are talking about refugees and ethnic cleansing, it is an horrific thing that we don’t have on our doorstep.

What is happening in parts of the country is barbaric and completely in the stone age in the way that they are persecuting people for who they are and what they are.

David Prutton

To say that we are going to go over there to play a couple of friendlies and to do a bit of coaching makes it all sound very straightforward.

But I don’t know how you can organise something like that and announce something like that and not see how bigger a statement it would be, not just across the footballing world but the political world in general.

From a footballer’s point of view, I think that post-season tours are not the best idea.

I have only been on one or two in my time and by the end of the season you are sick of the sight of your team-mates.

It’s time to get the hell out of there and go and hang out with your family. It’s time to do something else and relax and decompress.

The other side of it is that once you announce this, people are going to take more interest in what is going on.

If that garners activity and protest and actually helps the one million people that are completely stateless and who are just getting moved from pillar to post and ethnically cleansed which is a human rights atrocity – that is the only positive thing I can see from this. But even head coach Paul Heckingbottom sounded a bit miffed about it and he wasn’t allowed to comment on the political state of it which is rubbish.

If you don’t want to be asked for comment on the political state then go to Jersey for an off-season tour – go to France or Spain.

Go somewhere where you are not going to get caught up in a political storm.

If Leeds go, there will be a media crush when they land and they will be surrounded by people when they are there and they will be asked for their opinion. What are they supposed to say?

And then you have to look at the Malaria rates in that country and the lads are also worried about the Zika virus. You are going to need vaccinations and it’s a completely different culture.

Travel broadens the mind but this almost seems indicative of Leeds United at the moment.

You read and say ‘this is bonkers’ but then you think ‘well actually it’s Leeds United so why wouldn’t they go to a place like that?’

Paul has even said himself that performance wise he won’t be looking at the games for anything and after that the players then have six weeks off.

It’s rubbish and I don’t understand.

You could look at it from a purely human interaction point of view in going out there and playing a couple of games and providing something for kids who never normally get access to something like Leeds United and the history and the prestige and the tradition that comes with that.

When you look at it that way there are elements where you can see where it would work.

But the fact that there are darker forces at work – killings going on because of creed, religion and race – means that you can’t extricate one from the other. It is completely intertwined.

Leeds are saying they want to meet new fans out there but should we really be looking at exploiting a country like that for monetary gain?

It’s not a trivial part of America or Western Europe, it’s not somewhere that is relatively untroubled and straightforward. Politically, what is happening in parts of the country is barbaric and completely in the stone age in the way that they are persecuting people for who they are and what they are.

To see what is going there goes against our cotton wool society.

What I saw going on in that documentary on Myanmar was akin to what happened in Nazi Germany. It’s men, women and children and the regime don’t care about killing them, murdering them and torturing them.

To drop something as trivial as a football team and a football tour into the middle of that, it’s just bizarre.

It trivialises everything that is going on in that region because you think you can spread the word.

Do you think they care about what Leeds United is? And nor should they.

We all know it’s a football club with huge traditions and great credence in world football. But we are talking about literally life and death scenarios here.

To say it is an opportunity to explore another market trivialises everything about it.

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