SINCE the Football Federation of Brunei Darussalam (FFBD) officially took over the reins of Brunei football, it has received a luke warm response from the public.
The negative criticism has largely come on the back of the international football ban, imposed by the International Federation of Football Association (Fifa) at its executive committee meeting in Rio de Janeiro on Sept 29.
However, FFBD's secretary-general, Sheikh Nordin Sheikh Mohamad, would like football fans to understand that the federation has nothing to do whith what happened in Rio.
"Our hands are tied regarding the subject. We are only involved in football and the ban is beyond our jurisdiction," said Sheikh Nordin.
"Those decisions were done by the relevant authorities and we have to respect that. Until there are any changes, FFBD will continue to run football in the country," said the secretary-general.
And it is not like the new football body has been merely sitting on its hands. So far, the federation has successfully run the U-14 National League, U-16 National League, DST Group Brunei Premier League (BPL) I/II, Champions' Cup, DST Group Brunei League Cup and the DST Group Brunei FA Cup in its very first year in charge.
"I have to thank our sponsors for making this season a success. Without the financial support of our main sponsor, DST Group and not to mention Brunei Shell Petroleum Company and Brunei LNG, it would not have been possible," said Sheikh Nordin.
Officially set up on Jan 14 last year, FFBD was formed by local football enthusiasts who had development in mind.
"We had a strong setup from the start. FFBD president and vice-president, Dato Paduka Hj Md Hamid Hj Md Jaafar and Hj Salleh Bustamam Hj Zainal Abidin respectively are both individuals that want to see the Sultanate become a force to be reckoned with in football. Even Hj Md Rosanan Abdullah Samak, Liew Chuan Fue and others, who were among the 1999 Malaysia Cup winners, have jumped on the bandwagon. If they didn't believe in our vision, this won't have been possible."
The secretary-general went on to outlay his plans for the upcoming season.
"Currently we are wondering whether import players should still be allowed. There is no point if only one team can afford them. It's causing an imbalance within the league and we would like it to be fair for all. These are changes that are made to improve the overall quality of the league. The matter is not finalised yet though but if it does come into effect, it would be in the forthcoming season," said Sheikh Nordin.
If the rule does come to fruition, it would be detrimental for QAF FC. The three-times BPL I champions will be forced out of the services of Cameroonian Viban Francis Bayong, the BPL I top-scorer for the last three years running.
"We will also be holding a Futsal league at the end of the year. Originally planned for last year, FFBD weren't able to run it due to the time constraint and we weren't able to secure a venue yet," he said.
On the topic of referees, Sheikh Nordin acknowledged there were room for improvements.
"It would be better if there were more quality referees that are well versed in the laws of the game. That is why FFBD we are working hard to have better relations with match officials," said Sheikh Nordin.
As the FIFA World Cup is going to be the biggest football tournament this year, FFBD also plans to hold a World Cup-themed competition.
"In conjunction with the World Cup, FFBD will be hosting a football carnival for U-13 and U-10.
It will be held in conjunction with the school holidays. This is one of our efforts at developing football talent from a young age," said Sheikh Nordin.
The secretary-general then closed the interview by stating, "It is our very fervent hope that Fifa will lift the ban and recognise the federation soon. If they could only witness what FFBD have accomplished in it's debut season. I believe Fifa only want the best for Brunei football and currently, with the effort FFBD have put into local football, we are on course toward that goal."