BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
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 ..