BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
THIS year's Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy (HBT) promises to be the biggest ever.
With a record 11 teams involved, organisers are spending nearly $1.7 million to make sure the tournament runs without a hitch.
A biennial event for Under-21 national football teams in the region, all 10 ASEAN members plus guests Timor Leste will be taking to the field for the Feb 25-March 9 tournament.
(ASEAN groups Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam).
The fourth edition of the meet was supposed to run from Feb 25 to March 5, but the date change was announced during the first meeting of the tournament's executive committee at the Conference Room of the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas yesterday.
Notes from the meeting have also revealed that the $1.7 million will be used for the teams' airfare, accommodation, food as well as transport and to cater for the needs of, among others, the technical committee.
His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam is expected to grace the opening ceremony while His Royal Highness Prince Hj Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office is slated to officiate at the closing ceremony. The HBT is the brainchild of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, who desired that an Under-21 football tournament be organised with the aim of increasing friendship and understanding between Southeast Asian youth through sports.
Each country is allowed to bring five senior players, but only three of them can play each match.
Though all 11 countries have confirmed their entries, the National Football Association of Brunei Darussalam (NFABD) is still waiting for Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia to finalise their 18-player list which should be in by today.
Because this year's contest will involve 11 teams which makes for a total of 28 games organisers have said that four games will have to be played before the Feb 25 official kick-off to ensure the regional event ends in time.
Three of the country's biggest stadiums, all in Berakas, will play host to the two-week football extravaganza.
Apart from the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas, the Berakas Sports Complex and Balapan Track & Field at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Sports Complex in Berakas will also be used.
Brunei's team manager is counting on the public to be out in full force to show their support for the national side.
"The players have been training since August and there has been a lot of positives, in terms of play and management, since then," said Hj Feisal Hj Eusoff yesterday.
"We have shown in friendlies against foreign clubs that we are at their level so hopefully with the public's support we can do well in this tournament.
"The players are very happy with their welfare. Everything is being taken care of ... Food, housing, allowance," he added.
Though the tournament has been hosted in Brunei three times, the Sultanate has yet to reach the semi-finals.
Two-time winners Thailand return to Brunei as the HBT's reigning champions.
They won the tournament by edging Myanmar 5-4 on penalties the last time the event was contested in 2007 and also beat Myanmar to lift the 2005 edition of the trophy.
Indonesia won the inaugural competition in 2002.The Brunei Times