DPMM FC goalkeeper Azman Ilham Hj Md Nor (Centre Back in blue) celebrates with the rest of the team after they beat Tanjong Pagar United FC 2-0 to win the Singapore League Cup last Friday. DPMM FC have allowed Azman to play for the country at the August 8-23 Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy. Courtesy of VOXsports
DPMM FC yesterday confirmed goalkeeper Azman Ilham Hj Md Nor will be in the national Under-21 football squad for the upcoming Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy.
The team was hit with a dilemma after first choice goalkeeper Md Fakhrul Zulhazmi Yussof was dropped from the squad last week after he pleaded guilty to stealing three gas cylinders. The DPMM FC trio of Adi Said, Mohd Hendra Azam Mohd Idris and Najib Hj Tarif - who, like Md Fakhrul, won the 2012 HBT - were originally selected to lace up for the country at the August 8-23 biennial competition as overage players.
Azman's only competitive game of the year came during DPMM FC's first Singapore League (S-League) match of the season on Feb 23 against Albirex Niigata (S) FC. Replacing first choice Wardun Yussof, who was carrying a suspension over from last season, Azman did well to keep a clean sheet in the 1-0 victory over the Japanese side.
DPMM FC head coach Steve Kean feels that the quartet's loss is not the best situation for the club considering they will be without them for the next two S-League matches, but he understands the impact the players are capable of providing at the prestigious HBT - a regional tournament in which the country will be going up against the best players in Southeast Asia.
"They are the four allowed to play, and we hope they will go on to help the country get a positive result," said Kean in an interview at the Jerudong Mini Stadium yesterday. "It is not ideal to be totally honest, but we try to understand that we want a good team for the country and also utilise our squad.
"Others get the opportunity when we miss good players around the squad, and we have to try to juggle both so that we can continue to keep winning and that the national team can also do well," continued the former Blackburn Rovers manager.
DPMM FC are coming off a 2-0 victory over Tanjong Pagar United FC in the final of the Singapore League Cup at the Jalan Besar Stadium last Friday, their third triumph in the competition after winning the trophy in 2009 and 2012.
The Sultanate's only professional team are currently enjoying a short break for Hari Raya Aidil Fitri before returning to training on Thursday in preparation for their S-League match against Hougang United FC at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas on Sunday, a key game for the S-League table toppers.
The Brunei side currently lead the 12-team table on 38 points from 18 matches, with three-time defending champions Tampines Rovers close behind on 35 points. Warriors FC are a further point back while Albirex Niigata (S) FC are on 33 points, while Hougang complete the top-five just another point adrift.
Though Kean is more than happy to give his players some time off to celebrate Hari Raya with their loved ones, he knows how important it is for them not to "slip up on Sunday". "Now we have the trophy sitting in the room, we can leave that there and enjoy few days off," said Kean.
"The boys will have a break and have some time with their family now. Obviously this is an important time, and I respect everybody's culture. "We've a very fit side shouldn't have any problems when we start training again."