10 January 2012

Big Thai test for DPMM FC's new stars

Tuesday, January 10, 2012
DPMM FC fans will get a first-hand look at the club's new signings next Wednesday when they play a charity match against Thai Premier League (TPL) side Chiangrai United FC.

Though midfield maestro Ivan Jerkovic needs no introduction, the other three imports for the upcoming Singapore League (S-League) season are largely unknowns in the Sultanate.

Brazilian defender Tales Ricarte dos Santos and Ghanaian striker Osman Basiru will be out to impress when they take to the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas at 8.15pm on Dec 18, but all eyes will be on dos Santos's compatriot Rodrigo Gral.

It is understood the striker has agreed to play for Brunei's only professional football club, though he has yet to put pen to paper.

Having started his career together with ex-Barcelona and former AC Milan star Ronaldinho in the Gremio youth team in the 1990s, the 34-year-old Gral was also part of the Brazil Under-23 squad that competed in the 2004 Olympics in Greece. He also represented Brazil at the 1999 FIFA World Youth Championship in Nigeria, where he netted once.

Gral is no stranger to Asia having played for Japanese outfits Jubilo Iwata and Yokohama Marinos.

DPMM FC confirmed the charity match, and the probable line-up, during a Press conference at their office in Gadong yesterday.

Proceeds from the tickets, which are priced at $5 each, will be channelled to the Humanitarian Aid Fund for Flood Victims in Thailand and Cambodia.

Also on the list of players were captain Rosmin Hj Kamis, goalkeeper Mohd Wardun Yussof, midfielder Hj Mohd Subhi Abdillah Hj Bakir and striker Shahrazen Said.

Promising youngsters Ak Mohd Fakharrazi Pg Hj Hassan and Mohd Hendra Azam Mohd Idris, both who were in the national Under-23 team at November's Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Jakarta, are also set to feature.

The Brunei Times first broke the news of the friendly game in its Dec 30 edition.

While it might help give the club's fans something to finally cheer about, DPMM FC know they have to play more matches against quality opposition before they can say they are truly prepared for the Feb 9 S-League.

After all, the game will be the first real test of their standard since their last competitive tie, a 2-2 draw against Tampines Rovers FC in the S-League on Sept 29, 2009.

It can be argued that next Wednesday's match is much more important.

Vjeran Simunic has yet to see how his imports can face up against quality teams, and the fact that his local players have been through a lengthy lay-off notwithstanding their time in the local football leagues will also be on top of his mind.

As the Croatian will undoubtedly agree, the results will not be important what he learns about his team will be.

The club admitted as much in a Press release issued yesterday.

"This charity match represents DPMM FC's best chance to gauge our abilities, strengths and weaknesses before the S-League starts," it said.

The 2009 Singapore League Cup champions, DPMM FC were not allowed to complete their fairy-tale debut season in the S-League after FIFA suspended Brunei in October 2009.

But since their re-admission into the world football fraternity last May, DPMM FC have had to make do with friendlies against local sides, with their pre-season preparations starting in October.

Simunic who like Jerkovic, made a sensational return to the club last year maintained the friendlies have never been a true test of the team's potential.

Chiangrai United, though, will be just that.

Founded in 2009, the team won promotion to the TPL last season when they finished third in the Thai Division 1 the previous season.

According to the TPL website, Chiangrai United are currently ninth in the 18-team table with 27 points from 21 games.

Their striker Wasan Nathasan who is the league's third best scorer with 17 goals looks to be their biggest threat, though their three Brazilian players and one Romanian import might also prove to be a problem.The Brunei Times

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