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Sunday, December 27, 2015

Interesting year for Brunei football

Sunday, December 27, 2015

THIS year may have been one of the most captivating ones for football in Brunei.
Memorable moments such as DPMM FC finally securing their first Singapore League (S-League) title. The Royal Brunei Armed Forces Sports Council (MS ABDB) clinching their first DST Super League title and their third DST FA Cup trophy. The National Football Association of Brunei Darussalam (NFABD) winning the ‘Aspiring’ AFC President Recognition Award for Grassroots Football.

All this, and more, has made 2015 an interesting year for Brunei football.

DPMM FC taste S-League glory

DPMM FC made history this season with the sultanate’s only professional team finally winning their first Singapore League (S-League) title.

After finishing as runners-up twice in the last three seasons, who would’ve thought this year was the one they would go all the way? Of course, there was drama throughout the season.

There was a close rivalry towards the end of the campaign between DPMM FC and Tampines Rovers FC, with DPMM FC only finishing four points ahead of the five-time S-League champions.

There were moments when DPMM FC could have slipped up again, but the team managed to keep it together and thoroughly deserved the title this year.

DPMM FC coach Steve Kean won the S-League’s Coach of the Year award - and deservedly so.
Building the sultanate’s team over the last couple of years was not an easy task, and he brought the title home in his second year in charge - the culmination of the Scotman’s hard work for DPMM FC.

We cannot forget one of the up and coming youngsters, Azwan Ali Rahman, who clinched the S-League’s Young Player of the Year award.

Also worth noting was the establishment of an Under-19 team, of which two players are expected to join the senior squad next year.

MS ABDB and their double glory

Over in the top-tier local DST Super League, MS ABDB sealed their first DST Super League title ahead of bitter rivals Indera SC in a season filled with a strange and exhausting match schedule and inconsistent decisions by the National Football Association Brunei Darussalam (NFABD).

Indeed, it provided MS ABDB with a great deal of frustration, but they stayed strong and vigilant throughout the season.

With only one draw and one loss in their 18 games, there was no doubt that the army men deserved their first title.

Everyone expected a close call between Indera and the army men, but MS ABDB sealed their title in October - two months before the final match.

The highly anticipated season finale against Indera did not disappoint though, as 2014 champions Indera held the newly crowned army men to a last gasp 2-2 stalemate.

“At the end of the day, it’s the players who worked hard the most - and they have done fantastically!

We won this title and it’s all about the teamwork we have,” said MS ABDB’s interim manager Major (A) Razanol Hardi Abd Razak after winning the league by beating bottom dweller Kilanas FC 6-1 at the Tutong Sports Complex on Oct 23.

Another highly anticipated match between the two was played last week – the DST FA Cup final.

The pressure was on Indera to clinch their only silverware of the season, but the army men stayed strong and won 3-2 - but not before showing signs of nervousness and exhaustion on the pitch before lifting the trophy for the third time.

Tabuan Muda and their season, SEA Games slump and international campaign

Many may have forgotten about the national under-23 football team, Tabuan Muda.

After starting off their Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Under-23 qualifiers without a win and suffering the same fate at the 28th South East Asian Games (SEA Games) in Singapore, their disappointing form was also apparent in their DST Super League and DST FA Cup campaign.

It was the second time in a row Brunei failed to finish with a win at the SEA Games after also unable to grab any points at the 2013 Games in Myanmar.

In fact, the country’s last SEA Games win came in the 2011 edition when Brunei beat the Philippines 2-1.

By concluding the league in fifth place with 30 points - 19 points behind MS ABDB - many fans began to question the decisions of head coach Stephen Ng Heng Seng.

The Singaporean took the helm earlier this year and perhaps his transition from coaching the Tabuan Under-16 team to a more senior role may have played a part in the team’s finish.

The Tabuan Under-19 team also failed to impress this year.

Their campaign in the Asian Football Federation (AFF)’s U-19 Youth Championships saw them fail to win any of their games and they were beaten by Thailand 6-0, Cambodia 5-0 and tournament hosts Laos 5-0.

Some hope for the younger footballers?

Things may be bright for the younger generations this year as expected for the most celebrated national sport of Brunei.

NFABD hosted the NFABD Elite Under-15 Youth Cup, with Academy Kilanas showing great potential after triumphing at the inaugural tournament.

The tournament was hailed as a great platform to identify and groom young players for the big leagues and the national team, and with the AFC Under-14 Regional Festival of Football in hand, there is hope for the future of football in Brunei as NFABD has made a great decision to identify and train talent at the grassroots level.

NFABD and their busy year

It was a busy year for Brunei’s national football governing body NFABD, with the re-election of the executive committee and receiving the ‘Aspiring’ AFC President Recognition Award for Grassroots Football during the Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) Annual Awards in New Delhi, India, among the highlights.

A new artificial turf unveiled in October - of which US$500,000 was funded by world football governing body FIFA - and several AFC ‘B’ and ‘C’ coaching courses held this year were among other strong points.

NFABD, only established in 2011, has done a great deal to improve the sport.

However, perhaps because the association is relatively new, there is still work to be done.

Better communication between the media and NFABD representatives could have saved a lot of time and confusion, and local teams have voiced their frustration on the close match fixtures during their league matches and cup matches and which greatly exhausted them.

What else is there for the sport?

We cannot forget the highlight of the DST Premier League champions, Kota Ranger FC who dominated the second tiered league with ease this year.

Kota Rangers played 10 matches with an undefeated streak marking them out as a team to watch out for in next season’s DST Super League.

Alongside Tabuan Under-18, both teams may provide the DST Super League with another strong year of competition.

“Football is still the number one sport in Brunei – people like to play football, people like to watch football,” NFABD General Secretary Hj Muhd Zamri Dato Paduka Hj Hamdani said in a previous interview.

“It is a game that is not only being played on the field, but on the street, and it is a game that never gets old,” he added.

Most of us would agree with Hj Muhd Zamri’s statement, therefore expectations for the sport to be developed - and for the national team to succeed - are understandably high.

The Brunei Times

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