21 July 2011

National team trial off to rough start

Jason Thomas

KWON Oh-son was not impressed by what he saw yesterday.

The national football coach headed a team of coaches from the Department of Youth and Sports at a trial to select players for September's Asean Football Federation (AFF) Under-19 Championship in Myanmar, the first major football competition that Brunei will be competing in since May 2009.

Though the Sept 1-10 event will mark Brunei's return to international competition after 20 months of suspension by Fifa, Kwon doesn't believe the signs look promising.

"No skill, no power, no insight about play, no midfield general, no finishing, no strong defense, no goalkeeper," sighed the South Korean, who then started apologising profusely.

"There is no Iniesta (Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta) or Pique (Barcelona defender Gerard Pique) here that's how I can explain it to you.

"There were four Brunei Youth Team (Under-18) players here and they played well. But the others look to have had no training and they aren't playing well.

"Brunei has not played an international match in years so it will be hard to discover good players.

"Now we are selecting for the future and we need to make a continued investment in these players for at least two years. Keep them training. That's the most important thing," he stressed.

The Brunei Youth Team used to compete in the second division of the local football league for the past two years and were atop the 10-team table when the competition came to a halt last month.

A total of 66 players showed up for yesterday's trials at the Balapan Track & Field, Hassanal Bolkiah National Sports Complex in Berakas where 29 players were then shortlisted.

Further trials in the other three districts have to be carried out before the team can be selected.

Once that is done, the players from all four districts will be brought together for a centralised trial during which Kwon and his team will have a better understanding as to how the squad will be shaped.

But with less than two months to go until they leave for Myanmar, time is running out.

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, a suspension which world governing body Fifa only lifted on May 30.

A trial for the Under-23 team will be held at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas on Saturday at 4pm.

Trials for Under-21 players will also be carried out in all four districts in the coming week.The Brunei Times

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