Wednesday, September 27, 2023
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Brunei Town
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Making a mark overseas

Fadhil Yunus

Brunei Darussalam has produced sporting talents who have spent time overseas specifically to hone their skills and expertise in moving towards the aim of stepping up their progress as athletes over the years.

While it is notably evident in football with local players venturing into rare opportunities with foreign clubs and leagues, the country has not stopped there, with athletes from other sports honing their skills at foreign-based institutions.

The Sultanate first took notice of one of their sporting representatives on the global stage when a then 13-year-old Faiq Jefri Bolkiah burst into the scene in the Lion City Cup 2013 in Singapore during his time with the junior team of English Premier League side Arsenal.

He scored the opening goal in a 2-1 win over Singapore National Football Academy (NFA) Under-16 side at the Jalan Besar Stadium in Kallang.

The youngster made such an impact that he was voted by Goal as one of the top 20 rising stars in Southeast Asia.

While Faiq was eligible to represent the United States (US), he chose to play for Brunei Darussalam and represented the under-23 national team in the Southeast Asian Games in 2015.

The Brunei international – who previously served as captain – was also in the books of Chelsea, Leicester City as well as Maritimo, and recently signed for Thai League 1 outfit Chonburi FC.

Faiq, who was named among the substitutes in a Primeira Liga game against Portuguese giants Sporting CP last season, is in contention to make his senior professional debut for the Sharks against Muangthong United in the Thai League 1 on January 9, 2022.

If selected, he will be the first Bruneian to play not only in the Thailand professional league but also the highest division of any league in the world.

In December 2018, DPMM FC star Adi Said was linked with a move abroad when he attended trials for then-Malaysia Premier League club UiTM FC.

The Brunei international had just come off the back of an impressive season in the Singapore League for the Gegar Gegar men after registering double digits in both goals
and assists.

His performances during the trials impressed the coaches and subsequently earned a permanent move to the club, hence making him the first-ever Bruneian to represent a club professionally in the Malaysian league.

Adi made a dream start to his debut after scoring twice and followed up by racking up a succession of assists and vastly contributed in sequences of plays that led up to
the goals.

Unfortunately, his time with the club was short-lived and he left the club just months later. He was then reunited with his teammates in DPMM FC.

Meanwhile, there was also interest among clubs pursuing local players over the years, though such moves were not confirmed.

The first signs of players associated with a move for an overseas club can be traced back when Shahrazen Said received an opportunity to play for Indian club Sporting Clube de Goa.

The move did not materialise and Shahrazen remained with the DPMM FC, becoming one of their longest serving players.

One of Brunei’s finest forwards, Shahrazen was also reportedly close to a high-profiled move to Malaysian club Perak FA at the end of the 2014 season.

In February 2020, local futsal player Mohammad Radhi bin Raduan earned a move to the Sarawak United futsal team after successfully completing his trial spell.

He made history as the first Bruneian to make an appearance in the Malaysia Premier Futsal League during his debut against Pahang Rangers FC at the Sukpa Indoor Stadium in Kuantan, Pahang a month later.

Nevertheless, his career was abruptly cut short following the immediate suspension of the league due to the coronavirus outbreak and eventually returned home.

Football was understandably not the only sport where national athletes found opportunities to make a mark overseas.

In swimming, former national swimmer and Olympian Anderson Lim swam for the famed Bolles School Sharks based in Jacksonville, Florida.

His records included top-16 finishes in five events in the Liberty League Championship, and a win in a 400-metre freestyle relay title.

National swimmer Nur Haziq Samil is currently on an International Swimming Federation (FINA) Scholarship programme in Thayanpura, Thailand. The scholarship has so far proved crucial in his development as a swimmer after setting national records in multiple freestyle events at the TSA-AIMG swim meet in Bangkok, Thailand.

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