23 September 2010

Under-18 team barred in Korea Fifa suspension:

THERE is just no escaping the International Federation of Association Football's (Fifa) suspension on the Sultanate.

On Monday, the Under-18 team from the Co-Curriculum Department returned from Mokpo, South Korea, without even setting a foot in the Asian Schools Under-18 Football Championship.

It turned out that the Sultanate was barred from competing after Fifa sent a letter to the Korea Football Association (KFA), according to head coach Liew Chuan Fue.

"Actually the tournament had been organised for schools. However since all football competitions in South Korea, even those organised by schools, are sanctioned by the KFA, we were unable to participate," Liew told The Brunei Times.

Since KFA is a member of Fifa, it has to abide by the decision made by its parent body.

"We only knew of the decision a day after we arrived, in a meeting between the head delegations of the respective participating teams," said the head coach.

Brunei has been suspended by world governing body Fifa since Nov 2008 for 'government interference'.

The Football Association of Brunei Darussalam (Bafa) was disbanded by the Registrar of Societies (RoS) for failing to hold annual general meetings (AGM) and submitting annual reports, leading to the Fifa ban.

Expulsion from world football was on the cards but Fifa's Executive Committee agreed to maintain the country's suspension when they met prior to the World Cup in June.

Football Federation of Brunei Darussalam (FFBD) took over control of local football in Dec 2008 but are not recognised by Fifa.

Despite the setback, the outing to Mokpo was not for naught for the 20 young football players.

Though the KFA barred the Sultanate's participation in the Championship, a number of friendlies was set up for the spirit of competition.

The Co-curriculum Department team was put to the test in seven matches four against teams that competed in the Under-18 Football Championship and three against local football academies.

Even at the high school level, South Korea proved itself to be a football powerhouse in Asia.

Brunei were unable to reply against the hosts and Chungang High School, suffering a crushing 0-7 and 0-4 defeat respectively.

Those were, however, the only losses for the team who went on to record positive results from the other five matches: the Philippines (6-2), Mokpo High School (3-2), Tianjin High School (2-1), Macau (3-0) and Vietnam (5-3).

The results will be encouraging for the Co-Curriculum Department's next tournament slated for November, the Asean Schools Under-15 football tournament in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

For those that worry the competition might end up the same way for the Sultanate as in Mokpo can rest easily.

"The situation before only applies to South Korea. We will be able to play in Indonesia. It will be a good preparation, before we host the tournament next year," said Liew, who will also coach the Under-15 team.

It is certainly good news that the Sultanate can compete in the Under-15 edition, but what of the Under-18 players who had dedicated months of training for the competition.

Made up by a majority of the Brunei Youth Team (Under-16) players, they are solely set up to represent Brunei on the international stage.

However as long as the suspension by Fifa is imposed, Brunei's participation in international football will always be restricted.

This shows the gravity of the situation surrounding Brunei football at the moment.

In the tournament proper, Thailand topped South Korea 3-1 in the final to emerge as champions last Friday. Iran won 3-0 in the third-place playoff against Malaysia.
The Brunei Times

16 September 2010

Brunei to miss AFF Suzuki Cup

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Sultanate will not be vying for a berth in the Asean Football Federation's (AFF) Suzuki Cup qualification in Vientiane, Laos in October.

Due to the extended suspension by International Federation of Association Football (Fifa) on Football Association of Brunei Darussalam (Bafa) in June, Brunei is not eligible to partake in the biennial international football competition organised by the AFF.

Therefore football fans need not hold their breath for the much anticipated return of DPMM FC, who represented the Sultanate in the tournament two years ago.

The national team placed fourth in 2008, collecting a total of four points from as many matches a win, a draw and two losts.

National striker Shahrazen Hj Md Said proved exactly why he was the country's most deadly player in front of goal when he found the back of the net in the 1-1 draw against the Philippines, their first match in the campaign.

In their next match against Timor-Leste, Shahrazen scored a brace for an impressive 4-1 victory against Timor-Leste to help Brunei gain reputation as one of the competition's top-dogs.

The title did not last as they soon found themselves on the losing end of a 3-2 scoreline to Laos in the third qualification match.

In a do-or-die battle against hosts Cambodia, Brunei lost a first half advantage and succumbed to a 2-1 loss at the National Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh to bring an early end to their campaign.

As the opportunity for payback is lost, only four teams will compete in the qualifying round to secure the final two berths between Oct 22-26: Laos, Cambodia, Timor-Leste and the Philippines.

The two teams that advance will join six other nations in the tournament proper in December, which is co-hosted by Vietnam and Indonesia.

Teams that qualified automatically for the finals, based on their tournament records, are defending champions Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Myanmar.

In a draw held yesterday in Hanoi, defeated 2008-finalists Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia have been placed in Group A. Meanwhile hosts Vietnam, Singapore and Myanmar are in Group B.

The teams that place first and second in the qualifiers will be allocated the final berth in Group A and B respectively.

The top two teams from each group will advance to home and away semi-finals, with the final also to be played on a home and away basis.

Former England Captain Bryan Robson, who will helm Thailand, expects a tough outing from hosts Indonesia but maintains his team as one of the favourites.

"I think whichever way it was going to go you are going to get at least one tough team, especially as they have home advantage," said Robson.

"(Co-hosts) Indonesia or Vietnam were obviously going to be in the group and provide us with a difficult game. We have drawn Indonesia and I have already heard that there is likely to be 100,000 spectators there and that will be a difficult challenge for the boys.

"But I would say that we will be one of the favourites in the competition."

Three-time title holders Singapore are aiming for the final at least in the eight edition of the tournament.

"The group we are in is slightly easier than the other group, where there will be three title contenders in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia," said Singapore coach Radojko Avramovic.

"Overall I am happy with the draw. It is a good draw for us. There are three stages in the tournament and we need to clear the first two stages to reach our target of the final."

The Brunei Times

11 September 2010

'Brunei can play in U-18 c'ship'

THE Football Federation of Brunei Darussalam (FFBD) has allayed fears that the country's participation in the Asian Schools Under-18 Football Championship is under threat.

"It is a team representing schools, not our national team," FFBD deputy secretary general Lt Col Dr Bahrin Hj Bintang told The Brunei Times yesterday.

"This is a tournament between schools in Asia and is not sanctioned by the International Federation of Association Football (Fifa) or Asian Football Confederation (AFC).

"It's alright because it does not deal with Fifa or AFC, it's all through the Ministry of Education," he added.

The tournament at Mokpo, South Korea, started on Wednesday and will end next Sunday.

Concerns about Brunei's involvement arose because the country has been suspended by world governing body Fifa since Nov 2008 for 'government interference'.

The Football Association of Brunei Darussalam (Bafa) was disbanded by the Registrar of Societies (RoS) for failing to hold annual general meetings (AGM) and submitting annual reports, leading to the Fifa ban.

Expulsion from world football was on the cards but Fifa's Executive Committee agreed to maintain the country's suspension when they met prior to the World Cup in June.

FFBD took over control of local football in Dec 2008 but are not recognised by Fifa.

Despite their lack of acceptance in the international arena, FFBD continue to develop the sport at the national level, organising national leagues at several age-groups with particular emphasis on the grassroots.

The trip to South Korea is not the first time that Brunei has competed overseas since the Fifa suspension. An Under-14 football team participated in the Asean Youth Football Cup organised by the Tourism Authority of Thailand in Bangkok last June.

Lt Col Dr Bahrin said Brunei will also send a team to the Asean Schools Under-15 football tournament in Yogyakarta, Indonesia which will be held either in October or November.

Brunei also plans to host the tournament next year according to the deputy secretary general, who is also manager of last season's DST Group FA Cup winners, the Royal Brunei Armed Forces' Sports Council (MS ABDB).

The 20 players that left to Mokpo for the 38th edition of the tournament have undergone months of training under 1999 Malaysia Cup winners Liew Chuan Fue (coach) and Hj Md Rosanan Abdullah Samak (assistant coach).

Hj Salihin Abdullah was roped in to help correct mistakes between the sticks. The Brunei Times

04 September 2010

To ban or not to ban: FFBD has tough decision to make

The ruling body of local football, the Football Federation of Brunei Darussalam (FFBD), might just want to hold off from signing the papers that will ban import players from the DST Group Brunei Premier League (BPL) just yet.

Back in April the FFBD secretary-general, Sheikh Nordin Sheikh Mohamad, revealed the plan in an interview with The Brunei Times.

"Currently we are wondering whether import players should still be allowed in the BPL. There is no point if only one team can afford them. It's causing an imbalance within the league and we would like it to be fair for all. These are changes that could be made to improve the overall quality of the league," Sheikh Nordin had said.

However, the FFBD would be wise to revise a page from neighbouring country Malaysia's book first.

After barring foreign players from playing in the Malaysia Premier League for only a season, the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) is now considering on reversing the ruling.

According to Bernama, a meeting will be held in October in which the FAM would discuss the issue, among other things.

The 2009 season was the second time that FAM had enforced the ban on import players, the first was in 1999.

The 1999 ban was a result of the Asian financial crisis and was revoked three years later.

The FAM's decision to ban imports stood on grounds that it would help increase the standard of local football.

The difference here is that import players are said to cause an imbalance to the BPL, well at least one import player.

Imports in Brunei football fall under two categories, the first are professional footballers who have international transfer certificates (ITC) and the second are foreign workers who have green identification cards.

BPL I teams like AM Gunners FC and Wijaya FC and BPL II sides like Brunei Association of Banks (BAB) and Kota Ranger have players in the latter group.

Judging from last season's results, there was no solid proof that imports gave the teams a clear advantage in their respective leagues.

While the Gunners finished third and BAB ended fourth, Wijaya FC and Kota Ranger placed at the bottom of the table.

Therefore, the proposed ban by the FFBD can be squarely traced to one man, QAF FC's striker Viban Francis Bayong.

The Cameroonian is the only professional footballer who has an international transfer certificate in the BPL.

QAF FC indeed owe the 29-year-old hitman for their stranglehold on the BPL I.

Bayong, whose biggest claim to fame was being signed by Croatian powerhouses NK Dinamo Zagreb in 2002, scored 20 of 60 of QAF FC's goals in last season's competition.

Besides claiming the BPL I Top Scorer award, his tally also aided QAF FC to secure the league title for the third consecutive season.

Yet it would seem highly unrealistic that FFBD would take a step in this direction solely because of one man's skills in front of goal, especially for a sport in which playing as a team is key.

"I am sure Brunei needs imports to let football improve. It will be more challenging and the players can all gain more," said Bayong after the news was broken to him in April.

This avid observer of local football agrees wholeheartedly because unlike other foreign leagues, the number of foreign players in the BPL is still at an acceptable level.

Even the International Federation of Association Football (Fifa) president Sepp Blatter would not bat an eyelid at the situation. A strong advocate against the influx of foreign players in a league, Blatter was the one who proposed the '6+5' rule ( at least six local players and five imports at the start of a match) back in 2008.

It was eventually abandoned in June, due to a decision of the European Commission that such a proposal would contravene European Union labour laws.

One of the objectives of this rule was to restore the national identity of football clubs, taking into account that English Premier League (EPL) teams like Arsenal and Chelsea have less than a handful of English players in the roster.

Italian Serie A winners and European champions Inter Milan also came under scrutiny following their 2-0 victory over Bayern Munich in the Champions League final last season.

Italy's treble winners failed to field a single Italian in their starting eleven, which they did again on Aug 21 to win 3-1 against AS Roma in the Italian Supercup.

Undoubtedly the best Italian team who failed to field a single Italian came under fire due to their selection policy and Inter president Massimo Moratti responded: "If it was normal (that Inter are hated) it's justified by the fact that if I was the other team that had tried to win but hadn't managed it, of course I wouldn't like the one that had won. That's natural."

A perfectly sound reasoning, which could also be used to explain those in favour of an import ban in the BPL.

Other sports in the Sultanate are complaining about the lack of exposure to further improve their abilities.

Why then should the FFBD throw away this one opportunity for self improvement for having import players is the closest that local players will get in terms of international exposure.

The issue surrounding the Football Association of Brunei Darussalam (Bafa) and Fifa has yet to be resolved and, thus, Brunei is still under suspension and prevented from playing at the international stage.

Therefore, it would be wise for the FFBD to re-think the proposed ban, if it indeed wants the Sultanate to be a force to be reckoned with in the world of football. It is the next best thing to prepare the Sultanate for its return to the international stage.

The Brunei Times