Playing in the AFF Suzuki Cup will bring Brunei together says Stephen Ng
The 22-year wait for Brunei Darussalam to return to the AFF Suzuki Cup is literally a generation worth of heartbreak for a nation who could well lean on a core group of players to guide them through qualification who weren’t even born the last time they featured in the finals.
Indeed since participating in the inaugural edition way back in 1996, the Wasps have failed to get back to the tournament proper and the national coach, Stephen Ng, knows just how important it will be for Brunei to do so this time around.
“Qualifying for the finals of the AFF Suzuki Cup is important for Brunei in our development program as it will help to motivate more young players to work harder and for them to look forward to playing against teams at the top level of ASEAN football.
“Football is still the most popular sport in Brunei and it will definitely help bring people together in the nation to cheer for the country if we qualify once again for the tournament proper.”
To do so Brunei will need to see off an equally ambitious Timor-Leste outfit that have also only once before reached the finals but Ng is confident that some strong recent showings against the Timorese will hold them in good stead come September’s home and away matches.
“If you look at the latest FIFA rankings (Timor are 190 & Brunei Darussalam are 194) then you can consider that we are probably on a similar playing level and while we will continue to work hard to prepare we can draw confidence from two recent victories over them in the Solidarity Cup and the last round of Suzuki Cup qualification in 2016.”
“I’m sure it will be a very close game this time around as we need to manage qualification over the two home and away legs but we’re looking forward to qualifying.”
Ng will likely rely on several of the nation’s impressive young talents to complete that task and some solid showings at youth level have fortified the coach’s belief that the nation is on the right track, especially after the U16 squad knocked over both Macau and Hong Kong in last year’s AFC U16 Championships.
“Brunei has done well with young players in recent years and we want that to continue so we can strengthen the senior team with continuous youth development that flows from one level to the next.”