Tough battles: Brunei drawn into Group A

|     James Kon     |

BRUNEI Under-21 squad will face tough group stage battle in the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy (HBT) for Asean Youth Football Tournament 2018, after the squad were drawn into Group ‘A’ with defending champion Myanmar and tournament favourite Thailand, as well as Timor Leste.

The draws for the tournament was witnessed by His Royal Highness Prince Haji Sufri Bolkiah, President of the National Football Association of Brunei Darussalam (NFABD). HBT team manager, Colonel Zahrin bin Haji Zunaidi drew for the Brunei team.

Lao PDR, Singapore and Cambodia make up Group B. The Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and previous tournament’s finalist Vietnam will not participate.

Brunei as the host country chose to be placed into Group A.

Every participating nation was represented by their ambassadors and high commissioners for the draw. Marcal Avelino Ximenes, Ambassador of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste to Brunei Darussalam drew Timor-Leste into Group A. Myanmar were drawn into Group A by U Cho Htun Aung, Ambassador of Myanmar to Brunei Darussalam.

His Royal Highness Prince Haji Sufri Bolkiah, President of the National Football Association of Brunei Darussalam at the HBT draw event
His Royal Highness Prince Haji Sufri Bolkiah in a photo with Minister of Communications Awang Abdul Mutalib bin Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Setia Dato Paduka Haji Mohammad Yusof as the Acting Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, ambassadors and high commissioners of participating countries. – PHOTOS: KHAIRIL HASSAN
His Royal Highness Prince Haji Sufri Bolkiah, President of the National Football Association of Brunei Darussalam in a group photo with the Brunei team

This was followed by Lim Hong Huai, High Commissioner of the Republic of Singapore to Brunei Darussalam, who drew Singapore into Group B. Sim Dina, a representative of the Embassy of Cambodia in Brunei Darussalam drew Cambodia into Group B. Amphay Kindavong, Ambassador of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic to Brunei Darussalam made the draw for Lao PDR.

Thailand were drawn into Group A by Ambassador of Thailand to Brunei Darussalam, Biravij Suwanpradhes.

Haji Mohammad Noor bin Haji Abdul Hamid, Co-Chairman of the technical committee of the tournament in his speech said, “We believe the tournament will further boost closer friendship and cooperation among the youths in Asean who are participating in the competition. Through the tournament, is it hoped that these young calibre players will be unearthed.

“This tournament will also serve as a platform for young players to raise their standard to become professional players.”

Thailand Ambassador Biravij Suwanpradhes also shared the same feeling that Group A will be tough.

“Team Myanmar is the defending champion and there are four teams in Group A, so it’s not an easy group. We will have to play extra game compared to Group B.

“We are hopeful that Thailand can pass the group stage, however, I have yet to know who the players are in the team. The Thai community in Brunei are expected to support Thailand’s football team in the competition,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Singapore High Commissioner lauded the draw process. “The draw was made very transparent and everyone can see the draw. It’s pure luck. After the draw, now it will depend on the players and the quality of the team in the tournament.

“The Singapore community in Brunei will come out to support their team and we hope the Singapore team will go all the way.”

The tournament, which will commence April 23, will be played over two venues namely Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium and Balapan Track and Field.

Also in attendance were Minister of Communications Awang Abdul Mutalib bin Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Setia Dato Paduka Haji Mohammad Yusof as the Acting Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports with officials from the ministry and members of the Diplomatic Corps.