| Fadhil Yunus |
THE Brunei Darussalam national team set to compete in the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup qualifying left for Vientiane, Laos to finalise their preparations and subsequently a four-game qualifying group campaign.
All matches are set to be staged at the National Sports Complex except for the Cambodia game which will be held at Chao Anouvong Stadium, the only fixture at the sports venue.
Under the guidance of Steve Kean, the national team have Timor Leste, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia to contend with in their path towards qualification for the main draw in late November.
It was made to understand that Kean will only serve as a head coach for the AFF Suzuki Cup qualifying round and his position will be entirely dependent on the results achieved in the qualifiers. Kean is expected to return to the national fold as head coach only if they qualify for the AFF Suzuki Cup finals in either Singapore or Vietnam.
General Secretary of NFABD, Hj Mohd Zamri bin Dato Paduka Hj Hamdani stated: “As General Secretary of NFABD, I would like to stress that Steve Kean will be going as a head coach for the AFF Suzuki Cup only.”
The top two of the qualifying group will progress to the AFF Suzuki Cup finals and join the elite Asean member countries. The runner-up will play their games in Vietnam while the winner will travel to Singapore.
Preparations will not be identified as a problem for the national squad as the majority of the group boarding the plane hailed from S League’s DPMM FC with the additions of Reduan Haji Petara, Muhammad Nurikhwan Othman and Ak Yura Indera Putera Pg Yunus.
“Obviously, we have not played any friendly matches as a country. I really see our training and playing matches as preparation. We’ve trained together as a group for most of the year,” Kean said.
“The training preparation has been really good,” Kean highlighted.
The national team had their training on Thursday ahead of their departure to Vientiane without the import DPMM players.
Kean gave Roy O’ Donovan and company the time off to make sure that the national team can gel as quickly as possible.
“They trained fabulously well yesterday and we’re looking for our first game,” Kean added.
Kean sets his sights on sealing qualification early and remained confident of his objectives in progressing to the main draw.
“We would like to qualify. The sooner we can do the better. We like to get off to a good start. There are tough games but I am confident”.
Upon selection, the trio has since joined the DPMM FC players in training in the last three weeks or so for the national team with Kean stating they have been up to speed now.
At first, they were found to be struggling with the pace and intensity in the first few days but now they are up to speed.
“They played really well in the practice matches,” Kean added.
Encouragingly, the three promoted players felt at home and Kean said that they are not out of place in the national line-up.
The local DPMM FC players have been consistently performing in the S League as well as cup competitions and switching their attention immediately to the international stage will not be a primary concern.
Kean acknowledged the strength of the countries but they have the togetherness in the team under the presence and guidance of the same coach that have been with them all year to allow them the platform to produce results.
Most of the DPMM FC players have been capped in this level before so experience wise will also not be encountered as an immediate problem.
“You’ve got strong countries but what I’m trying to instil in the players is they might on paper look stronger on us but we’ve been together for a long time. We know each other’s strengths. We got a good understanding. We might look on paper as the underdogs but I don’t see it like that,” Kean said.
Kean has regularly been conducting training sessions all year with DPMM FC and has known his squad for almost a season since joining the club.
Rosmin Kamis has been named captain for the national team for the AFF qualifying draw. The DPMM FC captain is a seasoned professional and is also amongst the most experienced players for both club and country.
Kean’s managerial abilities have also guided the home-grown players to prosper into influential figures in the DPMM FC especially the instant rise of star player Azwan Ali Rahman and most recently Adi Said.
Azwan Ali is a major doubt for the Timor Leste game though after picking up an ankle sprain and Kean is hopeful that extensive treatment can be carried out in the race for fitness in time for the remaining games.
“It will be difficult for him to be fit in the first game. He never trained on Thursday. He is still recovering from his ankle sprain. He’s walking today and we’re trying to get him jogging sometime later on (Friday) when we arrive and see where we can assess his fitness from there,” Kean concluded.
Meanwhile, Ali Hj Momin, Assistant Manager, said they have been mandated to represent the national team and hoped that the combination of these players can elevate the team to greater heights.
“Nurikhwan plays in midfield, who is also the captain of the HBT team, Ak Yura and defender Reduan are all in the team. Our hopes for the players are to make sure that they are well adjusted to the team as quickly as possible because we do not have enough time to mould these players in together. Insha Allah, based on what we have observed in training, they have adapted well with the current players,” Ali added.
Present to join the Brunei Darussalam’s delegation for a Doa Selamat and to bid the team farewell at the airport was Hj Mohd Zamri bin Dato Paduka Hj Hamdani, General Secretary of NFABD.