The country’s football scene enjoyed a breakthrough in their development following their qualification to the main draw of the Asian Football Federation (AFF) Mitsubishi Electric Cup late last year.
To assess the current situation the country is facing, the Football Association of Brunei Darussalam (FABD) recently organised the inaugural Football Forum aptly themed ‘Where do we go from here?’ at the FABD House Lecture Theatre.
FABD President Pengiran Haji Matusin bin Pengiran Haji Matasan said, “The idea of the Forum evolves during the final rounds of the AFF Mitsubishi Electric Cup, better known as AMEC 2022, in which our national team qualified for the first time in 26 years.
“Our national team had to play our home matches in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur since our national stadium is not available owing to refurbishments. It was a great disadvantage especially to our expectant fans not being able to see our national team after an absence of 26 years.”
He continued, “Many of the present may recall, we only participated in the inaugural AFF Championship in 1996 and since then we failed to qualify. Further, it was a great loss of commercial opportunities.
“Though the qualification was received with great excitement and enthusiasm, the results during the tournament were somewhat disappointing to say the least.”
The forum will also help provide a better understanding on what FABD has set out to achieve and where had it gone wrong; as well as what they should do to arrest the serious situation.
These are some of the pertinent questions which need serious answers not only from FABD perspectives but all the football stakeholders to share.
The president said, “It was very apparent that our team’s performances needed serious surgery and overhaul. This forum serves to identify the problems and shortcomings, explore remedies and design strategies to move forward, hence where do we go from there.”
The main challenges are players who are not categorised as professionals; members of the management who are not fully engaged; the pressing need to have a full array of coaching personnel; infrastructure and insufficient playing fields for training and matches; as well as finance.
The president added that FABD has been privileged to receive financial assistance from FIFA, AFC, AFF and other donors. In 2021, FABD was awarded the FIFA Forward Project 1.0 and 2.0 which saw the completion of their current complex that now houses the new administration building, technical centre which includes a gymnasium and a stadium.
In the next phase, FABD will be looking into further upgrading works, refurbishing grass fields and other facilities. The national governing body has also hosted international matches in their stadium.
Clubs and grassroots activities have been continuously ongoing; clubs are encouraged to utilise all these facilities and embark on these opportunities.
As contained in FABD Strategic Plan, it is their desire to be able to develop professional players, coaches and referees in the future. The creation of these job opportunities is in tandem with Brunei Vision 2035 whereby there will be qualified personnel in various fields.
During the forum, the audience also listened in to a presentation from national head coach Mario Riveira Campesino.
He emphasised the strengths of national teams in Brunei’s group with professional clubs and players, adding that foreigners are not eligible to participate in Cambodia’s second league division and that 50 per cent of the players must be under-21.
There are 34 professional clubs in Thailand; eight in the Philippines (as most of the players are playing abroad); 39 in Indonesia and 14 in Cambodia including eight in first and six in second division.
In Thailand, there are 800 professional players with 180 in the Philippines excluding the overseas-based players, 900 in Indonesia and 310 in Cambodia.
He also spoke on the need of players making better decisions especially during matches when they are caught between two moments.
Campesino explained a meeting with the coaches will be set up one hour before the start of the training session where they spoke about the general target of the training sessions, general principles and application of each drill.
These will enable coaches to make adjustments and provide instructions for the training session.
An interesting statistic also shows that the national team has only played 36 games in the last 10 years. In comparison, Thailand has played 153 games, 100 for Indonesia, 117 for the Philippines and 95 for Cambodia.
In 2022 alone, Brunei played 10 games which represents the same average with their group rivals in terms of the number of matches played.
During the AMEC tournament, Brunei played four matches in 10 days and played two games in five days prior to their match against Indonesia. The congested schedule led to three players sustaining injuries in the Cambodia match, which was their fourth game in that span of 10 days.
Following the qualification to AFF premier competition for international teams, Mario said that they had to prepare quickly and that they were not aware of the setting of their home matches.
The national team was not able to keep up the level of intensity for the entire match, partially attributed to the absence of domestic competitions in the last three years except for the FA Cup.
Moving forward, it is imperative to produce better players and employ professional staff including a fitness coach in clubs as well as attending training camps and organising better leagues.