BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
Monday, February 27, 2012
Curl it like Najib
MD NAJIB Hj Tarif will go down in history as the man who handed Brunei a dramatic 3-2 win over Cambodia at Saturday's Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy (HBT) curtain-raiser.
Whipping in a free-kick to the top right corner, the captain's injury time winner sealed three vital points for the Sultanate at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas.
The former AM Gunners midfielder also scored Brunei's only goal during their 2-1 loss to Timor Leste in November's Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Jakarta, but it's understandable why Saturday night's curler ranked higher in his books especially with His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, who earlier officiated at the biennial tournament's opening ceremony, watching from the royal dais.
"I think it was the best goal I've ever scored!" Md Najib told The Brunei Times yesterday.
"I do practise free-kicks and when I stepped up I felt I had a good chance of scoring ... Maybe 80 per cent.
"It was unforgettable because we were playing at home and it was the winner. I'm glad I was able to make all Bruneians happy," said the 24-year-old player.
Insisting that it was a team effort that won them the game, the left-winger also paid tribute to the side's never-say-die attitude.
The inaugural HBT in 2002 saw Brunei play out a 0-0 draw with Cambodia in their opener, but there was to be no repeat of that scoreline come this year's edition.
Trailing as early as the sixth minute after a Prak Mony Udom penalty, Brunei would even the scores just before the break through midfielder Mohd Hendra Azam Mohd Idris. Striker Adi Said gave the hosts the lead in the 75th minute only for Chan Vathanaka to equalise eight minutes later with a free-kick.
"Our mentality won us the game," insisted Md Najib, who has been a policeman for five years.
"We kept on fighting even though we were trailing," said the skipper, who is one of the five overage players starring for Brunei in the Under-21 tournament.
Adi and Mohd Hendra Azam are also on that list, as are defenders Md Azri Zahari and Reduan Hj Petara. All five saw action at the SEA Games.
Though his name might be on every Bruneian football fan's lips at the moment, and cyberspace is abuzz with talk about "that goal", Md Najib isn't about to let all the fame get to his head.
"Am I a hero?" he replied when asked whether he was comfortable with the tag.
"No ... Not yet.
"We have a big game against Vietnam (on Wednesday) and we'll try our best to put up a good fight," added the skipper.The Brunei Times