THE Football Federation of Brunei Darussalam (FFBD) has allayed fears that the country's participation in the Asian Schools Under-18 Football Championship is under threat.
"It is a team representing schools, not our national team," FFBD deputy secretary general Lt Col Dr Bahrin Hj Bintang told The Brunei Times yesterday.
"This is a tournament between schools in Asia and is not sanctioned by the International Federation of Association Football (Fifa) or Asian Football Confederation (AFC).
"It's alright because it does not deal with Fifa or AFC, it's all through the Ministry of Education," he added.
The tournament at Mokpo, South Korea, started on Wednesday and will end next Sunday.
Concerns about Brunei's involvement arose because the country has been suspended by world governing body Fifa since Nov 2008 for 'government interference'.
The Football Association of Brunei Darussalam (Bafa) was disbanded by the Registrar of Societies (RoS) for failing to hold annual general meetings (AGM) and submitting annual reports, leading to the Fifa ban.
Expulsion from world football was on the cards but Fifa's Executive Committee agreed to maintain the country's suspension when they met prior to the World Cup in June.
FFBD took over control of local football in Dec 2008 but are not recognised by Fifa.
Despite their lack of acceptance in the international arena, FFBD continue to develop the sport at the national level, organising national leagues at several age-groups with particular emphasis on the grassroots.
The trip to South Korea is not the first time that Brunei has competed overseas since the Fifa suspension. An Under-14 football team participated in the Asean Youth Football Cup organised by the Tourism Authority of Thailand in Bangkok last June.
Lt Col Dr Bahrin said Brunei will also send a team to the Asean Schools Under-15 football tournament in Yogyakarta, Indonesia which will be held either in October or November.
Brunei also plans to host the tournament next year according to the deputy secretary general, who is also manager of last season's DST Group FA Cup winners, the Royal Brunei Armed Forces' Sports Council (MS ABDB).
The 20 players that left to Mokpo for the 38th edition of the tournament have undergone months of training under 1999 Malaysia Cup winners Liew Chuan Fue (coach) and Hj Md Rosanan Abdullah Samak (assistant coach).
Hj Salihin Abdullah was roped in to help correct mistakes between the sticks. The Brunei Times