When Caleb Folan set out in search of a fresh start, something to help him forget the irritations of English football, he knew where to look.
These days the place is called Myanmar, and Folan, 32-year-old journeyman striker of eight English clubs and spells in the USA and Malaysia, arrived last December but was soon at ease.
‘It is a hidden gem, a complex country with lots going on,’ he said. ‘It has so much culture and is untouched by tourism compared with lots of Asian countries.
‘I’d been here on a pre-season tour with my Malaysian team (T-Team FC) and liked the country. I was looking for the right opportunity when I got a call to come out here.
‘It had changed a lot even in a couple of years since I was last here. It is starting to open up but still very traditional. You see monks all the time walking barefoot by the side of the road.
Folan in action for Wigan agaisnt Man City | Picture: Paul Lewis
‘I’ve bought a bike and been cycling around.
‘I’ve seen quite a lot of the old capital Yangon (formerly Rangoon). I like to go walking and explore.
‘The reaction I’ve had in some places is funny — people stop what they’re doing and stare.
‘I smile and try to speak a few of the local words. They are friendly people.
‘There’s a very friendly energy about the place.’
The Myanmar National League (MNL) was formed in 2009 and has 12 teams but many of the games are played in Yangon, the largest city although not the capital since 2006.
It sounds like an idyllic setting to reboot a career which stalled after a rare nerve injury cut off all feeling in his right foot and curtailed a spell at Birmingham in 2012 before he could play a single game.
‘I couldn’t move my foot for six or seven months,’ said Folan. ‘It started when I was in the treatment room icing my leg behind my knee and chatting away.
‘I lost track of how long the ice had been there and it was there too long — maybe 30 minutes — and damaged the nerve. It was numb.
‘I thought it would soon wear off but two hours later it was still numb and the next day it was still numb. Days became a few weeks and a few months.’
Read the original article by Matt Barlow for the Daily Mail