Sports development on the right track

Fadhil Yunus

Local athletes have for decades contributed towards sports, at national and international levels, striving for glory at prestigious competitions around the world.

There is no debate that these athletes will defend the country’s honour and pride, as they set foot on the field or court.

But sports and similar activities are not limited to Brunei’s national athletes. In fact, it is commonly practiced among the people of the Sultanate, more so now with an increase in awareness on the need to adopt a healthy lifestyle.

Cooperation between the government, private sector as well as youth and sports associations and establishments is much needed, towards the development of sports.

The government’s efforts to enhance national sports development have been visible since the 1950s, with the establishment of the then-Brunei Darussalam Amateur Athletics Association (now renamed Brunei Darussalam Athletics Federation) in 1953, and the Brunei Amateur Football Association (present day, National Football Association of Brunei Darussalam) in 1956.

The Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium was officially opened on September 23, 1983. PHOTO: FADHIL YUNUS

Additionally, 32 sporting activities have national sports associations and over 150 sport organisations/youth and sport clubs carry out sports activities.

The field of sports is not only visible in the country, but also overseas, with Brunei being assigned as a member of several organisations.

On the government side, efforts to lead and coordinate sports activities officially began in 1974 with the establishment of the Department of Welfare, Youth and Sports.

Meanwhile, the establishment of the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS) in 1984 further strengthened the leadership and the implementation of policy coordination of national sport programmes.

A growing passion for sports paved the way for infrastructure development of sport facilities in the country, among them being the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium officially opened on September 23, 1983.

To this day, the stadium represents an iconic landmark to Brunei’s development in national sports.

The construction of the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium was an inspired idea by Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam, in remembering Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to Brunei on February 29, 1972.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s arrival marked a historic moment for Brunei Darussalam; which enjoys good relations with Britain since 1847.

The stadium, spread across 70 acres in Jalan Berakas, was constructed in stages, with work commencing in August 1980. Construction work on the main building began in January 1981. The entire construction of the stadium cost BND100 million, mainly paid by the government, with contributions also made by the people of Brunei.

At present, the stadium is being upgraded.

The stadium is able to accommodate 30,000 spectators, and has 110 royal seats, 550 VIPs and 3,000 grandstand seats.

Equipped with 198 feet light towers, its football field is in compliance with the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) standard, while the eight running lanes meets the requirements of the then-International Association of Athletic Federations (now World Athletics). The scoreboard found on the north side is also fitted with an Omega video matrix scoreboard costing BND4.2 million.

Other than the existing facilities, the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium also has additional spaces that house the Sports Gallery, Billiard and Snooker Hall, Taman Budiman for skateboarding games and a pedestrian-friendly footpath in Taman Budiman suitable for jogging or brisk walking.

Since it was officially opened, several activities and events have been held at the stadium including a friendly football match between an invited Brunei team against Sheffield United, Malaysia Cup matches, Borneo Cup, S League/ Singapore Premier League matches, 20th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in 1999, Merdeka Games and Brunei Darussalam National Games.