23.3 C
Monday, March 20, 2023
23.3 C
Monday, March 20, 2023
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    Back in the field

    Fadhil Yunus

    Football has been undoubtedly and undeniably the most popular and followed sport in the Sultanate for a number of decades, due to its ever growing fanbase among the population.

    Recreational enthusiasts often frequent football pitches for friendly matches or tournaments almost on a weekly basis and referees and linesman are largely in demand.

    As the nation moved into the endemic phase, there was a sense of relief that players were able to enjoy the sport again, whether it was for a kick-about or sparring in preparation for a far more competitive cause.

    The football scene paints a more colourful tone now in contrast with when the COVID-19 pandemic was at its peak, with pitches and other venues alike were deserted. For instance, the Menglait Sports Complex fields and Berakas Sports Complex are full of activity with a reasonably high number of bookings.

    In the competitive scene, the lower leagues such as the district leagues serve as a platform to enhance their development with ambitions of playing in the top division.

    The Football Association of Brunei Darussalam (FABD) – the country’s national governing body – is responsible in promoting and advocating the development of football in the country.

    It has made several initiatives and efforts covering various aspects from the grassroots level to officials, coaches and other players directly involved to the development of football.

    During the early days of the presidency of Pengiran Haji Matusin bin Pengiran Haji Matasan, the country witnessed the appointment of legendary Malaysian coach K Rajagobal as the national head coach.

    His appointment highlighted FABD’s move towards the right direction in charting the path to success mainly the qualification to the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Championship.

    However, getting the right man to lead the senior team is not the association’s only priority as attention to get certified referees and coaches is emphasised.

    Brunei has been encouraging aspiring referees and coaches to upgrade their certification in their hopes of gaining representation in the continental and global scene. Attaining the most advanced FIFA and Asian Football Confederation (AFC) badges will boost their profile and subsequently increase their chances of being appointed to officiate major club and international football matches.

    The association’s desire to have homegrown referees on duty in high-profiled matches was realised following the appointment of elite referee Abdul Hakim bin Mohd Haidi in an AFC Cup group stage match between Athletic 220 and Eastern at the Hong Kong Stadium in Hong Kong in June 2021.

    During the same match, his fellow compatriot Ali Faisal bin Rosli was also part of the officiating team as an assistant referee.

    The FABD has also previously reiterated its desire to enhance the technical competency of referees and coaches, which also acts as an opportunity to embark a career in football as an alternative to a playing career.

    The association through the Coach Education Unit has prepared a calendar of events notwithstanding the ‘A’ Coaching Diploma, AFC/FABD Coaching Diploma, AFC Coaching Certificate and many more.

    The AFC ‘C’ Certificate Coaching Course which ran on February 2021 was designed to teach participants how to analyse, plan, organise and conduct practical coaching sessions especially for the development of younger players.

    To show that opportunities to contribute through football are present, the AFC Fitness Coaching Certificate Course was introduced.

    In December 2022, an introductory fitness course was launched and designed to teach coaches how to develop and improve the level of fitness of football players; anatomy of the muscles; fitness tests; strength and conditioning as well as other aspects of health and fitness for the development of football players.

    FABD has also struck partnerships and established cooperation through the signing of memorandums of understanding (MoUs) with member associations such as the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF).

    In August 2022, FABD appointed Paul Christopher Munster as the new Technical Director following a contract signing ceremony at the FABD House’s multi-purpose hall.

    Touching on the progress of domestic football clubs, the need to obtain Club Licensing status has been stressed to standardise with other regional clubs and gain recognition by AFC. The Club Licensing also marks one of the eligibility requirements of competing in competitions sanctioned by the AFC.

    The country’s clubs met such requirement as Indera SC made their debut in the AFC Cup playoff round against Myanmar’s Yangon United in January 2020.

    Local clubs have also been reminded to run their administration and management professionally during a ceremony which saw four clubs obtaining AFC Club Licensing status.

    The country has also seen signs of encouragement in recent times highlighted by the qualification of the men’s national team to the ASEAN Football Championship after 26 years.

    Their entry was made possible after successfully negotiating a two-legged encounter in a qualification round against Timor Leste including recording their biggest win in their history.

    Under the guidance of the newly-appointed Mario Rivera Campesino, signs of a revival were ominous when they registered a win against Laos albeit a friendly match with Naziruddin Ismail scoring the winner.

    Also contributing to Brunei’s change in fortunes in the competitive scene were friendly matches against Saudi Arabian clubs and a training camp in Dammam.

    Grassroots football has always been the centre of the association’s interests notably evident with the launch of a junior football tournament.

    Last August, a Sunday junior league was organised involving eight teams in conjunction with the AFC/FABD Grassroots Football Day. The series of matches provided young footballers much-needed game time besides possessing characters and attitude which they can inherit when they go up to higher age groups.

    The association continued to enhance the development of grassroots football following an inter-district football friendly match for under-12 teams between Belait and Tutong districts at the FABD Football Field. The match enabled the association to introduce the best players coming from clubs in the districts.

    Selected players will also be absorbed into a five-day national programme where they will attend training and be introduced to fitness and conditioning as well as team-building activities.

    FABD President Pengiran Haji Matusin has highlighted that the younger generation of Brunei footballers must be given an opportunity as contained in the FABD Strategic Plan 2035.

    In early March this year, the Football and Futsal Referees Association held a refresher Laws of the Game (LOTG) Football Referee talk in conjunction with the start of the Brunei Super League.

    Meanwhile, at club level, young players have also been encouraged to step up and get promoted into the first team as part of their ongoing career development.

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