Taking club football to a new level

Fadhil Yunus

In tandem with international football leagues, Brunei Darussalam through the National Football Association of Brunei Darussalam (NFABD) started the practice of organising its own national league with the establishment of the Brunei Super League, the country’s top football league system.

The newly rebranded Brunei Super League first commenced in the 2012/2013 season with 10 teams vying for the prestigious title.

At that time, football in the country ushered a transition after a FIFA ban was lifted and Brunei‘s sole professional club DPMM FC continuing their journey in the Singapore’s league.

For the participating teams regardless of history and stature, the league represents a fresh start in the revitalisation of club football with many players harbouring ambitions of being selected for the national team if they perform.

The majority of the clubs play at the Track and Field of the Hassanal Bolkiah National Sports Complex or the Berakas Sports Complex with the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium normally hosting the final league of the match usually involving the champions-elect.

Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Awang Haji Aminuddin Ihsan bin Pehin Orang Kaya Saiful Mulok Dato Seri Paduka Haji Abidin in a group photo with MS ABDB team manager and captain. PHOTO: FADHIL YUNUS
MS ABDB in a group photo with the championship title. PHOTO: FADHIL YUNUS

Temburong District representative Lun Bawang, who were promoted from the Brunei Premier League, the country’s second division, play their home games at the Batu Apoi Sports Complex.

Before a long hiatus from club football and long before the establishment of the Super League, the old Brunei Premier League witnessed a period of dominance from QAF FC who stormed to three consecutive titles.

During the early 2000s following the rebirth of club football, the newly formed DPMM FC also won two league titles and one FA Cup.

In the cup competition, MS ABDB were serial winners having won multiple titles from the 2007/08 season onwards.

Wijaya were the other team who tasted success after collecting a league title in 2003, having won the FA Cup the previous season.

Then in the 2011/2012 season, the league only served as a qualifying competition following the formation of a new football association.

The following season, Wijaya FC, QAF FC and MS ABDB were among the teams that had made their mark in the previous decade.

With a newly re-branded league and starting over a new leaf, the trio as well as the rest of the chasing pack started from scratch as they sought the first-ever Brunei Super League title. The league was contested in a one-round format meaning there is no home and away matches. After nine games, Indera SC were crowned league champions for the first time in their history after winning it by goal difference.

Title contenders MS ABDB’s wait for a league title since 1984, when they won it for the first time, continued. Majra United finished the season in third place with an unbeaten record.

Fresh from winning their first league title under their belt, Indera SC defended their crown where they won it by six points with MS ABDB having to take the runners-up spot once again.

The league saw a noticeable change with the format of the competition changed to two rounds, as practiced by football leagues across the world.

However a season later, 31 years since capturing their maiden title, MS ABDB finally arrived to the Promised Land after they emerged newly crowned winners of the Brunei Super League.

Meanwhile, there was also a top scorer being feted in recognition for the player’s overall performances throughout the season.

Jerudong FC’s Hardi Bujang scooped the first-ever Brunei Super League top scorer award after he bagged a season high of 18 goals.

A season later, MS ABDB secured back-to-back titles with the league contested in a one-round format.

This season also saw foreign players being fielded for the first time with Indera SC boosting their squad with the arrivals of England’s Sam Ford and Australia’s Kane Moran while Jerudong have Indonesia’s Agus Haryono in their ranks. On the other hand, Wijaya FC welcome the additions of Australia’s Ryan Moran and Indonesia’s Sigit Prasetia.

However unlike previous seasons, the destiny of the title was only determined at the final day of the season when title contenders MS ABDB and Indera SC battled it out for supremacy.

Both teams came into the match level on points with league leaders MS ABDB boasting a far superior goal difference but an Indera win will catapult them to top spot and the title.

Under the lights of the Track and Field of the Hassanal Bolkiah National Sports Complex, the army personnel won the title decider in superb style.

The club could do no wrong as they also made a clean sweep in the individual awards with striker Abdul Azizi Ali Rahman taking the top scorer gong and goalkeeper Tarmizi Johari deserved being named best goalkeeper following a league high of eight clean sheets.

With Kota Ranger running them close in the business stretch of the season, MS ABDB lifted their third successive title in the 2017/18 season. Their striker Abdul Azizi scooped the top scorer award en route to the league’s all-time top scorer.

In the latest instalment of the Brunei Super League, MS ABDB won the title with some distance bynine points.

Meanwhile this season also marked a new milestone as Indera SC, who finished a distant fourth earned the right to compete in the qualifying round of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) where they will battle over two legs against Myanmar’s Yangon United for a berth in the main draw.