BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
Continued on Page A36
Thursday, July 12, 2012
BRUNEI will meet hosts Myanmar in their opening match of the AFF Suzuki Cup qualifiers on Oct 5.
The country's most important competition in years, the Oct 5-13 qualifiers will see five teams compete for two spots in the Nov 24-Dec 22 tournament proper which will be co-hosted by Malaysia and Thailand.
The Sultanate face Cambodia on Oct 9, Laos on Oct 11 and Timor Leste on Oct 13, all matches set to be played at the Youth Training Centre in Yangon.
Representing the National Football Association of Brunei Darussalam (NFABD) at yesterday's draw in Bangkok was honorary president HRH Prince Hj Sufri Bolkiah and president Dato Paduka Hj Abdul Rahman Hj Mohiddin.
The draw was also attended by His Royal Highness Sultan Hj Ahmad Shah, the president of the Asean Football Federation (AFF) who is also the president of the FA of Malaysia (FAM), Datuk Worawi Makudi, the president of the FA of Thailand (FAT), as well as other officials and dignitaries from the 11 member associations.
Though Brunei has been actively involved in international football since FIFA lifted its suspension on the Sultanate last May, the Suzuki Cup qualifiers will mark the first time the national team will be taking to the field since the 2010 AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers held in Sri Lanka in May 2009 where they lost all three of their group stage games.
While Brunei saw action at last year's Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Indonesia and the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy in March which they won as hosts, the former was an Under-23 competition and the latter an Under-21 tournament.
The Sultanate's last participation in the region's most prestigious tournament came in 2008, when they failed to advance to the main draw after being held to one win, one draw and two losses during the qualifiers in Cambodia.
Speaking to The Brunei Times after yesterday's draw, Dato Paduka Hj Abdul Rahman outlined just why the tournament holds such a special place in the hearts of football fans across the region.
"The Suzuki Cup is the biggest, largest and most competitive tournament in Asean and it's also the most watched," he said.
"The Euro is for Europe, the Suzuki Cup is for ASEAN.
"It doesn't matter to us that we play Myanmar first because this is a round-robin competition and we will be facing all the teams eventually," he added.
The 2008 edition saw Brunei field a team made up of DPMM FC players, who were held 1-1 to the Philippines in their opener.
A Shahrazen Said brace inspired Brunei to a 4-1 victory against Timor-Leste in their second game but they found themselves on the wrong end of a 3-2 scoreline when they met Laos in their third match.
In a do-or-die battle against hosts Cambodia, Brunei wasted a first half lead to go down 2-1 and Cambodia would grab the final ticket at the expense of Brunei.
Defending champions Malaysia have been drawn with runners-up Indonesia and Singapore in Group B while Group A pits Thailand against Vietnam and the Philippines.
The winners of the qualifiers will play in Group A while the runners-up will compete in Group B.
Malaysia beat Indonesia 4-2 on aggregate to clinch the last edition of the tournament in 2010, lifting the cup for the first time since the AFF-organised tournament was inaugurated in 1996.
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