THE tone of the 2010/11 DST Group Brunei Premier League I (BPL I) has been set with QAF FC's Champions' Cup victory at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas on Saturday night.
It is the first trophy for QAF FC without the services of Cameroonian Viban Francis Bayong in three years. Therefore, the 7-6 win on penalties after a 0-0 stalemate against the Royal Brunei Armed Forces' Sports Council (MS ABDB) at full time served as an important statement to the other BPL I contenders: QAF FC are not a one man team.
QAF FC manager Abdul Rahim Daud will especially savour the moment after repeating time and again that the club will not be affected by the import ban.
But, what are words without action? That is exactly what QAF FC did by winning the first trophy of the season proving that they are still the ones to beat in the nine-team league.
One problem that might prevent QAF FC from repeating their 17-match undefeated run that led to the BPL I title last season is the battle for match fitness their biggest problem during the traditional BPL curtain raiser on Saturday.
(QAF FC only lost one match last term going down 3-1 to arch-rivals MS ABDB in their final league match of the season).
The defending BPL I champions, however, can take solace by the fact that they are not the only ones with such a problem. Due to organisers Football Federation of Brunei Darussalam's late announcement on the league kick-off, most teams started their preparation late.
One of the teams is AM Gunners FC, who will take on Wijaya FC in the first match of the BPL I at the Berakas Sports Complex tonight.
It will be the Gunners' sophomore season in the top-tier of Brunei football after finishing at an impressive third place last season.
Armed with a never-give-up attitude under the watchful eyes of last season's Best Coach-nominee Zainuddin Kassim, the Gunners aim to better their record of 13 wins, three draws and two losses.
Despite the feat, the Gunners remain wary of the other teams that make up this season's BPL I especially Jerudong FC.
A breakthrough into the Top Three is Jerudong FC's main target this season and boasting one of the best team chemistry in the league most of their players hail from the same village, Kampung Jerudong as well as benefitting from the no imports ban, it could be achieved.
However, the main draw for this season is the debut of Shahrazen Hj Md Said, the joint top-scorer during the 2006/07 Malaysian Super League season with 21 goals while playing for DPMM FC.
Lacing up for Wijaya FC, he is one of 22 DPMM FC players that will lace up for BPL teams this season.
Indera SC have the largest contingent with six players; the midfield quartet of Sairol Hj Sahri, Azwan Salleh, Helmi Zambin and Muhd Arif Hj Zulkifli will be joined by defenders Ak Shahruddin Pg Tajuddin and Muhd Afi Aminuddin.
Majra FC have a well-rounded list of four DPMM FC players: Wardun Yussof in between the sticks, Yusof Salleh in defence, Ampuan Nurul Azmi Ampuan Hussin in the middle of the park and Adi Said up front.
Meanwhile, BPL I debutants LLRC FT are doubtful of repeating their run of form that led to the BPL II title last season. Due to personal commitments, most of the players that helped LLRC FT to an undefeated campaign have retired and all they could hope for is to avoid relegation.
Joining them in the top-tier league will be Prisons Department, who were also undefeated in the BPL II last season.
Will the import ban be enough to unlock QAF FC's iron grip on the BPL I for the last three years?
Watch the drama unfold starting today.The Brunei Times ..