Thursday, July 18, 2024
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The golden days of sepak takraw


In an era where mainstream sports dominate the global stage, traditional sports like sepak takraw face a unique challenge: capturing the interest of the younger generation.

This centuries-old sport, deeply rooted in Brunei’s culture and history, is struggling to compete with the allure of more widely televised games like football and basketball.

In Brunei, sepak takraw is more than just a sport; it’s a part of the nation’s identity, passed down through generations.

However, in recent years, there has been a noticeable decline in interest, particularly among the youth, who are increasingly drawn to the glamour and excitement of modern sports.

The Brunei Darussalam Sepak Takraw Association (PESTABARU) is keenly aware of this challenge.

Located near the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium, their headquarters buzz with discussions on how to reignite interest in this traditional pastime.

From grassroots initiatives to promoting local tournaments, PESTABARU is working tirelessly to ensure sepak takraw remains a vibrant part of Brunei’s sporting landscape.

One of the key hurdles they face is the perception that sepak takraw is outdated or less exciting compared to other sports.

To combat this, PESTABARU is exploring innovative ways to showcase the sport’s speed, agility and skill.

Brunei’s and Malaysia’s sepak takraw players in a group photo. PHOTO: BRUNEI DARUSSALAM SEPAK TAKRAW ASSOCIATION

Furthermore, the lack of grassroots training or institutional programmes for young athletes may have contributed to the decline in interest and demand for sepak takraw.

During its peak, Brunei consistently achieved podium placements in continental competitions, including winning a gold medal at the 2014 Asian Beach Games in Phuket, Thailand.

Despite the challenges in reclaiming its former glory in major tournaments, efforts and initiatives are underway to revitalise the sport.

This was exemplified by the national team’s recent participation in the International Sepaktakraw Federation (ISTAF) World Cup 2024 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

While the team fell short of victory, their performance showcased a high level of skill and sportsmanship, indicating a positive direction for the sport.

After a prolonged absence from international competitions, the men’s team reached the semi-finals of the World Cup, where they were narrowly defeated by the Philippines 2-1 at the Titiwangsa Stadium.

In the local sports scene, there has been a push for competitive events, exemplified by the inaugural Belait District Sepak Takraw Open held at the Mumong Sports Complex last March.


Additionally, efforts have been directed towards improving coaching standards. A basic coaching course was recently conducted at the Sungai Kebun Sports Complex, with 38 individuals participating.

The course, organised by the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS) in collaboration with PESTABARU, was attended by coaches, managers and individuals involved in the TAIB Open Sepak Takraw Super League 2023.

Modelled after regional leagues like Malaysia’s Sepak Takraw League, the TAIB Open aimed to showcase the best teams and players in Brunei, promoting teamwork and sportsmanship. After a month of intense competition, Miharbi emerged victorious, defeating Muara Spurs 2-1 in a thrilling final match. This year has been pivotal for sepak takraw’s development in Brunei, with various competitions organised to promote the sport.

Recently, MCYS and PESTABARU collaborated to host the Sepak Takraw National Open League Championship.

The Royal Brunei Armed Forces Sports Council (MS ABDB) ‘C’ team emerged as the champions.

In addition to government support, other organisations have also contributed to sepak takraw’s growth.

The Sepak Takraw Youth Association of Kampong Lumapas, sponsored by the Muara Port Company Sdn Bhd, organised a 32-team tournament last February.

The Sengkurong team emerged victorious, and they almost clinched another title a month later, finishing as runners-up in the Belait District Sepak Takraw Open to Kampong Lambak Kanan in an all-Brunei-Muara Distrcit final. – FADHIL YUNUS