The national football team in a group photo upon arrival from Kota Kinabalu at the Brunei International Airport yesterday. The team lost both friendly games to Sabah and FELDA United but remain positive that results will soon turn their way. Picture: BT/Yee Chun Leong
THE national football team returned with a positive mindset from the Sabah Football Association (SAFA) Tawau Invitational tournament yesterday despite losing both their matches.
The Wasps started their campaign on Friday with a 2-0 loss at the hands of Sabah at the Tawau Sports Complex in Sabah. They then fell 3-0 to Malaysian Super League side FELDA United at the same venue the next day. FELDA United eventually won the competition with a better goal difference after a 2-2 draw against the Rhinos in the final game on Sunday.
Interim national football coach Mike Wong Mun Heng was pleased with the showing of his charges and felt they are going in the right direction. “The two opponents were strong as they were at the final stage of their pre-season while we are at the beginning stage of our training of the year,” said Wong in an interview with The Brunei Times upon arrival at the Brunei International Airport yesterday.
“They were sharper and had foreign players (five for FELDA and four for Sabah). In the first game, they had a penalty given to them which wasn’t a penalty after we saw on video. “It’s not about the scoreline – it’s about the level of performance of the players, and we are happy because we brought a young side which is looking at this year’s SUKMA (Malaysian Games) and next year’s SEA Games,” he added.
“The objective of the tournament was to look for players to carry on for both those competitions as well as AFF Suzuki Cup qualifiers. “Going forward, we will have a stronger team and we will be looking at achieving results,” continued the National Football Association of Brunei Darussalam (NFABD) Technical Director.
When asked if he was concerned the team could not find the back of the net, Wong replied: “I’m not too worried about this because the goals will eventually come... The belief was there. “It was good to see the young players come out and we went into the attacking area where we were able to trouble the professional players in both games,” added the Singaporean.
“It speaks well for the team. Yes, we didn’t convert them into goals, but we had six to eight opportunities in the two games which we should have put in. “We had two young strikers and the opponents were very surprised as they didn’t expect us to bring a young team. “They were happy to see us as we competed well and they were impressed by our goalkeepers (Haimi Anak Nyaring and Muhd Ishyra Asmin Mohd Jabidi), centre back (Muhd Hanif Hamir) and forward (Muhd Syahmi Rashid).
“It means we are on the right track in terms of development,” he continued. A total of 45 players have been identified - with the number set to be trimmed down to 30 - for attachment and training leading up to the AFF Suzuki Cup qualifiers. Wong also highlighted the importance of the players getting international exposure.
“NFABD needs to build a bigger base of quality players for the national team in order to compete well in international games,” explained Wong. “The boys need these games on a regular basis, and at NFABD, we are always ready to support the development of these players if opportunities arise.
“The level of performance is equally important for us in these games. Results will come eventually and we’ve got to be patient with development. It doesn’t happen overnight, everyone knows this,” he added. “We must ensure sustainability in player’s development. NFABD is periodically reviewing its strategic plan and making changes in order to stay competitive and ensuring we are in the right direction to meet our objectives,” concluded Wong.