Thailand-born midfielder Kler Heh has chosen to represent Myanmar internationally in a major victory for the Myanmar Football Federation.
The 18-year-old Sheffield United winger was born and raised in a refugee camp for the Karen, a minority group facing oppression in Myanmar, before being relocated to Sheffield in 2006.
“The camp was like a prison,” Kler told local newspaper The Star in June. “It seemed like there were no opportunities, no way out. But I played football every day, in bare feet, before we were resettled in England.”
There he captured the attention of the Blades’ youth academy, progressing through the ranks and signing a professional contract with the League One side earlier this summer.
“Kler has done this at the same time as having to learn a new language and adapt to an unfamiliar culture,” academy manager Nick Cox told The Guardian. “It has been an incredible achievement to be awarded with a professional contract at the club.”
While currently holding a British passport, Kler would have also been eligible to declare for Thailand or Myanmar.
“He has confirmed just now that he will play for Myanmar,” MFF Deputy Secretary General U Ko Ko Thein told Football Channel Asia. “Since last week we have been in contact with FIFA and the AFC to get the process started. The first thing we need to do is get Myanmar citizenship [for Kler].
“He is an exemplary footballer, not only for the national team but for the whole country. He’s eager and happy to play for Myanmar and we are proud of his decision.”
In response to an inquiry from Football Channel Asia, Kler confirmed his choice but declined to comment further until the registration process has completed.