20 July 2011

Calling all footballers

Trials to select players for national U-19 and U-23 teams to be held this week

IT'S PROBABLY just what local footballers have been waiting for.

The Department of Youth and Sports yesterday announced that it will be holding trials to select players for the national Under-19 and Under-23 teams this week the first piece of national team news in years.

Now that Fifa's suspension on Brunei is lifted, the country is eligible to compete in regional and international tournaments under the auspices of the National Football Association of Brunei Darussalam (NFABD).

The trial for the Under-19 team will be held tomorrow while the Under-23 trial will get underway on Saturday and players from all across the country are invited to join.

The former will start at 3pm while the latter will begin at 4pm.

Both trials will be held at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas.

Players wishing to participate in the Under-19 trial have to be born after Jan 1, 1993, while those aiming to get into the Under-23 team have to be born after Jan 1, 1988.

It is understood the trials will be carried out by coaches from the Department of Youth and Sports, but it is uncertain as to what tournament the team are being formed to compete in if any at all.

With players from Brunei's only professional football club DPMM FC continously training even throughout the Fifa suspension which lasted 20 months, and local football clubs like AM Gunners, QAF FC, Majra FC and the Royal Brunei Armed Forces' Sports Council (MS ABDB) all competing in the local league during that period, it wouldn't be a surprise if most of the players for the two squads are selected from such teams.

With Brunei back on the world football map after the sport's governing body Fifa lifted its ban on the Sultanate on May 30, competing in any international football tournament will be important in announcing the country's arrival back on the global stage.

The national team last took to the field in May 2009 when they competed in the qualifying round of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Challenge Cup in Sri Lanka and lost all three of their group stage games.

Brunei was suspended from world football in November of the same year due to government interference.

Though it is a club competition, the idea of a Southeast Asian (Asean) Super League with the competition set to feature one or two teams from each country in a tournament similar to the UEFA Champions League or Asia's AFC Champions League was welcomed by NFABD general secretary Mohd Noor Hj Abdullah last month, his comments underlining the association's determination to be involved in international football.

"Whatever the Asean Football Federation (AFF) organises, as much as we can we will try to be involved and participate," he told The Brunei Times on June 25.

"Now Brunei is eligible to play in regional and international tournaments, and there are a lot of them going on.

"AFF organises a lot of tournaments and gives its members the opportunity to host them. The AFF Under-16 Championship is in Laos (from July 7-17) and the AFF Under-19 Championship is in Myanmar (from Sept 1-10).

"Brunei likes to participate, but again, it depends on our capability ... (and) the conditions. It depends on how the tournament is organised, for example.

"If the invite comes to us early, and if we think it is worth it for us to participate, we will," he added.

Brunei is currently in a three-way tie for 197th in the Fifa world rankings.

The Brunei Times

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