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Myanmar soccer player abandons team after World Cup qualifier protest, seeks asylum in Japan

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A trip to Japan for a 2022 World Cup qualifier is going to last much longer than expected for a member of Myanmar's national soccer team.

Pyae Lyan Aung, Myanmar's back-up goalkeeper, has refused to return home and is seeking asylum in Japan, according to the Associated Press. The Japanese government is reportedly considering the request, which occurs amid a turbulent time in Myanmar following a military coup.

Pyae Lyan Aung took part in Myanmar's 10-0 loss against Japan late last month, and drew attention with a three-fingered salute that has become a symbol of opposition to the coup in Myanmar. 

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After the protest circulated on social media, the player did not show up for his team's flight back. Now, he's arguing a return to Myanmar would "risk his life," per the Kyodo News Agency.

Speaking to reporters, Pyae Lyan Aung reportedly said the military had visited his home in Myanmar and he's worried about his fellow players as well.

This isn't the first time that Myanmar's soccer team has felt the effects of the coup, which occurred on Feb. 1 when the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi was ousted and replaced with a military government. Up to 10 members of the national team refused to play last month in protest of the coup, joining a widespread public opposition in the country.

Pyae Lyan Aung, a Myanmar national football substitute goalkeeper, shows a three-finger salute after intending to seek refugee asylum at Kansai International Airport in Osaka Prefecture, Japan June 17, 2021, in this photo taken by Kyodo. Kyodo/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT.
Pyae Lyan Aung wants to stay in Japan. (Kyodo/via REUTERS)

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