The development of football at grassroots level plays an important role in the growth and progress of the sport in the country. At grassroots level, talent can be unearthed and this in turn will create national youth footballers who represent the country on the international scene.
The National Football Association of Brunei Darussalam (NFABD), the national governing body for football, through the Grassroots Development Unit of the Technical Development Department, has taken the initiative to develop football in an effort to provide early exposure to junior footballers and at the same time promote the game.
Numerous programmes have been rolled out for different age groups such as the National 4×4 Grassroots Festival for young footballers aged between 11 and 12, and the Football Festival in all districts for players under eight and 10 years.
Efforts have been made to produce a grassroots framework nationally aligned with the interest of serving the country as a whole, not just in the Brunei-Muara District but also across all four districts.
NFABD Technical Director John Whittle highlighted that support will be given to the local academies in the pursuit of developing football at the grassroots level.
“It is wonderful to see all these academies and they are all a part of the players’ development. Whether there will be private identities, clubs or schools, NFABD will be supporting those programmes in many areas ie in coach development, player development and talent identification, and more importantly the player’s pathway,” he said.
Last February, 300 children gathered at the Berakas Sports Complex to take part in a grassroots event and Whittle said it will be healthy for the game if such an event is similarly held in other districts.
He said that the idea of mass participation in football is focussed towards getting people enthused in the game and also getting parents involved. “All these things come together making quality, consistent, sustainable grassroots programmes for all,” Whittle said.
“We have a number of outreach programmes as well as the 4×4 and league events. We will have four district coaches – one for each district on a full time basis.”
“Part of their responsibility will be grassroots football activities, obviously youth and coach development in those areas.”
“Though still in its infancy, by the end of 2020 we will be in a wonderful situation.” Grassroots development may also lead to the creation of a player profile listing specific requirements of the individual in relation to the playing position or preferred position.
Whittle highlighted that currently within the national teams, there is no knowledge of who the best players are because not all four districts are being served.
“Starting off at an early age where you start to identify skills and technical abilities is fantastic,” he said.
Meanwhile, local academies have also carried out similar programmes which promote activities for youth players in a similar objective to help young footballers step up their interest in the game.
Last March, Dash Football Academy organised a football festival at the Rimba 1 Secondary School.
The purpose behind the event was to give players’ an opportunity to participate in a tournament-like environment so that they will strive to do better in training and get selected for outside tournaments.
Dash Football Academy is a prime example of a structured grassroots football education as the academy, supported by motivated coaches, prides on instilling discipline, humility and respect in the players.
In December last year, the Projek Ikan Pusu Grassroots Football Carnival was held as a finale to the PIP Grassroots Football Development Programme, which drew more than 230 trainees.
Projek Ikan Pusu has produced a conveyor belt of talent since its early days in 2001 who have gone on to represent the country at all levels as well as those who are now actively playing in the Super and Premier Leagues.
PIP Manager Cheah Swee Ming said, “We are pleased to have made a difference to Brunei Football by addressing the critical need for a long-term grassroots football development plan- way back in 2001.”
Cheah Swee Ming is an advocate of grassroots football in the country and in recognition of his contributions and dedication to the cause he received the coveted Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Best Grassroots Leader 2018 award.