George Scott: empire, football and Burma — adcochrane

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Arrowhead Freelance and Publishing

How the British Empire occupied the remote highlands of Burma (Myanmar) through football, jokes and an indomitable imperialist.

George Scott (middle, striped top) organised the first football matches in Yangon (Rangoon), Myanmar (Burma). 1879

One day in the late 19th century a diminutive son of a Fife preacher stood outside an unknown settlement in northern Burma.

George Scott’s expedition was beyond the protection of the British Empire and his supply route was stretched to breaking point. He was in the territory of the Wa tribe, where “every village has its skull avenue”. It was, judging by the piles of heads ripening in the sun, head hunting season. The head of an Englishman would have been highly prized. Furthermore the villagers were massed on their blockades and were not friendly.

Scott was not deterred. He stood in front of them, unarmed and alone, and told some jokes that survived translations through four different languages. Within minutes he had them laughing so much they invited his party into…

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