29 January 2011

BPL I and II to start in March

Jason Thomas

Saturday, January 29, 2011

THE Football Federation of Brunei Darussalam (FFBD) ended months of speculation and hearsay yesterday when it announced that the local football season will kick-off on March 5.

It will be a familiar sight for fans of the sport when they take to the Berakas Sports Complex at 8.15pm to watch the Champions' Cup clash between two of the Sultanate's powerhouses, QAF FC and Royal Brunei Armed Forces' Sports Council (MS ABDB).

The DST Group Brunei Premier League (BPL) I will kick-off on March 8 while the first match of the BPL II is scheduled for March 25.

The BPL I will start earlier because it is played in a home and away format, so there are more games.

The uncertainty surrounding the start of the leagues has been the talk of the local football community for many months and Sheikh Nordin Sheikh Mohamad instantly addressed the issue during a meeting attended by club representatives yesterday.

"On behalf of FFBD I want to apologise for the lateness in organising the tournaments ... But there were reasons beyond our control," said the FFBD secretary-general.

"FFBD had negotiations with sponsors in December, so you can see, there have been steps to organise the leagues that ran last year.

"As usual the curtain-raiser will be the Champions' Cup where once again QAF FC will face MS ABDB," he added during the gathering at a restaurant in Kiulap.

This time last year both leagues had already entered the second round, with QAF FC and Liang Lumut Recreation Club Football Team (LLRC FT) undefeated and leading the pack in BPL I and BPL II respectively.

QAF FC are the titleholders in the Champions' Cup after beating MS ABDB 2-0 in May 2009. They also won the BPL I and DST Group Brunei League Cup title, edging the army men in both competitions the former by two points and the latter by a 1-0 scoreline.

The 10 teams in the BPL I this season are defending champions QAF FC, MS ABDB, Majra FC, Jerudong FC, Wijaya FC, AH United, AM Gunners FC, Indera FC, Liang Lumut Recreation Club Football Team (LLRC FT) and the Prisons Department.

LLRC FT and Prisons Department were promoted from BPL II after ending the season as champions and runners-up respectively. Both teams ended the season undefeated.

The nine confirmed teams in BPL II this year are Brunei Shell Football Team, Muara Vella FC, Perkasa, Lun Bawang, Kilanas FC, Menglait FC, Brunei Youth (Under-16), Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam Football Team (BIBD FT) and DST Group Football Team.

BIBD FT were formerly known as the Brunei Associations of Banks.

Last year's BPL II basement dwellers, Kota Ranger, will have to fight for their confirmation in this year's competition.

They will compete in a play-off against several teams that have applied to join the BPL II.

It is understood that the Royal Brunei Police Force are one of the interested parties.

Sheikh Nordin also assured the representatives that the other two DST Group tournaments, as well as the national age-group competitions, will be back in 2011.

"The DST Group Brunei FA Cup will be held and as usual it will be conducted in a knock-out format. We will open the competition to more non-league teams, like how they do it in England," he said.

"The DST Group Brunei League Cup will also be contested.

"The National Under-14 and Under-16 leagues will continue. The plan is for the Under-16 league to start before the Under-14 league, probably at the same time as the BPL I in March," he added.

Plans for similar leagues at the Under-10 and Under-12 age groups were also revealed, though the secretary-general said there was no guarantee they would get off the ground this year.

He also talked about the possibility of setting up a futsal league late in the year after the conclusion of the four DST Group BPL tournaments to give footballers year-long competition.

The issue of having imports for this season was also raised, and though nothing was set in stone, Sheikh Nordin said that it was his personal opinion it would not be a wise decision since not all teams could afford foreign players.

The uncertainty surrounding Brunei's status in world football might also make it hard for players to get international transfer certificates (ITC) to play in the Sultanate since the FFBD is not recognised internationally.The Brunei Times ..

12 January 2011

'Bafa will not be reinstated'

FFBD 'officially' football's governing body in Brunei

Federation must now get Fifa's recognition

A NEW year, a new era for the Football Federation of Brunei Darussalam (FFBD), whose status as the sport's governing body in Brunei was made official recently.

"First and foremost, there had been a lot of uncertainties with regard to FFBD's status as the national body of football taking into account Fifa's (International Federation of Association Football) requirement for Bafa (the now deregistered Football Association of Brunei Darussalam) to be reinstated," said FFBD secretary-general Sheikh Nordin Sheikh Mohamad (pic) during an interview with The Brunei Times to discuss the future of the Brunei Premier League (BPL) yesterday.

"Finally some time in December, the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Laila Diraja Dato Paduka Hj Hazair Hj Abdullah called a meeting with all FFBD affiliates and Brunei football stakeholders to announce that His Majesty's Government will not reinstate Bafa," added Sheikh Nordin, who was not present during the meeting which was held at the Conference Room of the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas, due to work commitments.

With the uncertainties now cleared, the FFBD which came into existence in January 2009 is now free to move forward.

"It's good news for football generally because the uncertainty about the status of FFBD, and in general Brunei football, is gone but the problem of getting recognition (from Fifa) remains.

"However, at least, the FFBD can now start planning for the new season (2011 season)," added the FFBD secretary-general.

At the conclusion of the Fifa Executive Committee meeting last June, the committee agreed to recommend to the 60th Fifa Congress, which was held in Johannesburg on June 10, the suspension of Bafa instead of an expulsion as agreed during the previous meeting on March 19 in Zurich.

The decision was reached after taking into account that no major progress had been made since Bafa was suspended in September 2009.

Brunei's fate was then sealed when the highest authority for global football confirmed that Bafa would remain suspended until June 2011, when the next Fifa Executive Committee meeting is due to be held and the Bafa issue is expected to be re-discussed.

Judging by the decision to not reinstate Bafa, the Sultanate is taking the second alternative to remain a part of the global football community, which was listed by Fifa last year.

The first option is the re-registration of Bafa by the local authorities and the second is for a new body to officially apply and be recognised by Fifa.

"The application for a new body (to be recognised by Fifa) can come only after the first body has been expelled," said Thierry Regenass, Fifa's director of member associations, in an email to The Brunei Times on April 2.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) in March "guided" Brunei on the steps to be taken if the country were to take the second option.

The AFC Director of Communications and Media, Sean Tohidi, told The Brunei Times then that "the second option is that a new organising body will need to officially apply to Fifa and AFC. Once it has been accepted as a 'provisional member' it will have no voting rights for at least two years.

"Traditionally, the application is first accepted by Fifa and then considered by AFC, but the application can be submitted simultaneously," he added.

The FFBD still has a lot of work to do before Brunei could be back in international football. But Sheikh Nordin hopes that Fifa would take into consideration the federation's hard work in developing football in Brunei, especially at the grassroots level via the Under-16, U-14 and other local leagues and recognise it as the sport's governing body in the Sultanate.The Brunei Times

Nat'l Futsal League planned

FFBD also looking at U-10, U-12 leagues

A NATIONAL Futsal League (NFL) will be one of three new leagues the Football Federation of Brunei Darussalam (FFBD) intends to kick off this year.

Football's authority in the country is not taking its "newly-acquired" position lightly and to prove the point Sheikh Nordin Sheikh Mohamad yesterday explained the federation's plans for 2011 to The Brunei Times.

"In addition to the Brunei Premier League, it's time we set up an NFL. Various futsal tournaments have been organised in Brunei so it's time we have a proper league," said the FFBD secretary-general during the interview.

The FFBD's plan to set up the league is not new. Originally scheduled for late last year, the federation was forced to postpone it due to the uncertainty regarding its status as the nation's official governing body of football.

However, with the uncertainty now removed, the federation can proceed with its plan which is still in the preliminary stage.

"It's still in the early stage but the initial paperwork has already been done. We also need to secure a sponsor," said Sheikh Nordin.

"We have already asked our people to enquire about the availability of the Multipurpose Hall or the Indoor Stadium of the Hassanal Bolkiah National Sports Complex in Berakas," he added.

Besides the venue, the FFBD has also sorted a timeframe for when the league will commence.

"It will be a three-month league and we are planning to hold it during the wet season of November or December, at the end of the year when most of the pitches are wet. It will work out if we start the Brunei Premier League (BPL) in March because then the BPL should be over before puasa (Ramadan).

"So after Hari Raya, we can start concentrating on the futsal league," said Sheikh Nordin.

Though the NFL is scheduled to take place in the BPL off-season, Sheikh Nordin wants the league to be considered as a separate entity and, thus, players are not allowed to play in both leagues.

"In my personal view, which is also shared by the other committee members, those who play in the NFL cannot play in the BPL. This is the only way to increase the number of players in the country and exposure, so we become more specialised. Of course, this is still subject to the participating teams," he said.

"In terms of logistic, say the futsal league was to clash with the BPL, then which one should take priority? By having this rule in place, then you don't have to worry about such a problem," added the FFBD secretary-general.

Since the finer details have not been outlined, Sheikh Nordin also said it was too early to put an estimate to the number of teams that would participate in the inaugural league.

"As for now I cannot confirm the number of teams to contest in the league yet. There has to be a selection process because there are a lot of futsal teams in the country. We already have a committee that will do this," said Sheikh Nordin.

The NFL is only the tip of the iceberg. The FFBD is also setting its sights on further expanding its development of grassroots football.

"It is important that we build up our grassroots football, to create interest among kids and improve their skills. We already have the Under-14 and U-16 national leagues and now we're starting to go into the U-10 and U-12 age groups. We want to start organising a proper league for them which will add to or complement their school tournaments in cooperation with the Department of Co-Curriculum Education (DCCE) of the Ministry of Education," said Sheikh Nordin.

"For example in South Korea, they already have a national league for the U-10 and U-12 age groups. This is something which we should aspire to follow. We have good relations with the DCCE so we should seize this opportunity as they have been very supportive, which is why we were able to use school venues for our age-group leagues," added the FFBD secretary-general.

If the proposed plans do bear fruit the FFBD will be looking at a very busy year, with the federation also set to host the U-14 National League, U-16 National League and the two tiers of the BPL.The Brunei Times ..

BPL to kick off in March

FOOTBALL fans in the country can finally cure their itch for local game with the Football Federation of Brunei Darussalam (FFBD) announcing that the Brunei Premier League (BPL) will kick-off in March.

"Actually we wanted to start early in the year, but now we hope to start around March if everything goes to plan," said FFBD secretary-general Sheikh Nordin Sheikh Mohamad during an interview with The Brunei Times yesterday.

"The next thing we want to do is the Under-16 National League and hopefully we can find a sponsor soon.

"Since the U-14 league has concluded, we want to start the U-16 league before the BPL kick-off because we do not want to distrupt the players' classes. Therefore, the U-16 will start first, with the BPL to take place circa March or April," he added.

The sport's governing body in Brunei is also being held back by the lack of funds needed to run its programmes.

"On behalf of the FFBD and all the stakeholders who are waiting to play in the league, I hope that the Department of Youth and Sports of the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports can release the annual grant as soon as possible so that we can start planning and running the programmes," said Sheikh Nordin.

The FFBD has also started preliminary talks with the DST Group, who has been a strong supporter of the BPL since 2003.

"I had started informal discussions with our strong sponsor, the DST Group, but because of the uncertainty regarding the federation's status, I had to suspend the negotiations. Hopefully with the issue all cleared out now, I can re-start the talks soon. I hope the DST Group will continue to support us," said the FFBD secretary-general.

The FFBD cemented its position as the main football body in the Sultanate after the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Laila Diraja Dato Paduka Hj Hazair Hj Abdullah called a meeting in December with all FFBD affiliates and Brunei's football stakeholders to inform them that His Majesty's Government will not reinstate the Football Association of Brunei Darussalam (Bafa).

Sheikh Nordin also extended his thanks to Brunei LNG Sdn Bhd (BLNG) for its sponsorship of the U-14 National League.

"We were able to proceed with the U-14 league, despite the uncertainty and monetary issue, as a result of the company's kind sponsorship. On behalf of the FFBD and all the participating teams, I would like to convey our utmost gratitude and appreciation to BLNG for its strong support and sponsorship," said Sheikh Nordin.

Previously in an interview with The Brunei Times, the FFBD secretary-general said the federation was weighing on the decision to ban imports.

Asked about it, Sheikh Nordin said: "It's still too early to confirm FFBD's position on the matter as we have not officially ruled on it. In my personal view, which is also shared by some federation members, I am in favour of the decision based on the factors that I have previously stated."

Sheikh Nordin thinks the presence of import players cause an imbalance within the league since only one team can afford them. In order to make it fair for all, the change is needed to improve the overall quality of the league.

"On behalf of FFBD's executive committee, I would like to express our sincere apology for the unavoidable delay. We apologise sincerely to all the teams for the delay and thank them for their patience. We hope that the teams can continue with their preparations until we make the official announcement later," concluded Sheikh Nordin.The Brunei Times ..