With a vibrant crop of young players being fostered at home and a highly successful professional club flying the flag just a short hop away in Singapore those in charge of football in Brunei Darussalam know that now is the time for them to return to region’s highest stage.

A full 22 years after their first – and to date only – appearance at the finals of the AFF Suzuki Cup those hopes go on the line over the next week and a half as the nation squares off with Timor-Leste in a two-legged playoff to secure the final spot in this year’s tournament.

The man charged with guiding Brunei into the competition proper is South Korean coach Kwon Oh-son and he knows just what a boost that will be for the football-mad nation.

“Football is the most popular sport in Brunei and we’ve seen this in the past when there have been important tournaments held here that everybody was excited and a lot of people came to watch the team at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium so we all know just how important it really is to beat Timor-Leste and reach the group stage of the AFF Suzuki Cup.”


Brunei have the advantage of playing the second leg of the tie at that venue in Bandar Seri Begawan with the first at a neutral location in Malaysia this Saturday, but the vastly experienced coach knows just how tough an ask it will be to progress ahead of a rising regional force in Timor-Leste – fresh off competing at the Asian Games this month.

“The Timor-Leste national side are a very young team and they have dangerous attackers that are very sharp and clever so the main challenge for us will be to hold our focus.

“We must ensure that we give 100% concentration and focus throughout the 180 minutes.”

Brunei too possess their own fair share of dangerous players and one of those expected to hold the key to deciding the tie is Faiq Jefri Bolkiah (pictured below) with the Leicester City starlet a creative talisman in midfield.

It’s far from a one-man show, though, according to the 59-year-old Kwon who also credits the success of the nation’s only professional club side, DPMM, who are flying high in the upper reaches of Singapore’s Premier League.

“Of course Faiq Jefri Bolkiah is at Leicester City which is a massive boost and gives the local players a role model to follow and he’s an important player for us with the national team but also it’s equally important to have a successful team like DPMM FC playing at the highest level in Singapore and achieving success.

“We hope in the future that there can be more professional clubs in Brunei such as DPMM so that there will be more talented players developed in Brunei regularly and in turn that will allow us to compete with countries such as Thailand and Vietnam and then the other nations in Asia.”

If Brunei are successful in seeing off Timor-Leste then the first part of that dream will be realised with the playoff winner slated to host the might of Thailand in their opening match.


For Kwon that would be the high point of more than a decade working in football in Brunei and also, crucially, an ideal platform on which to base sustained success.

“This is my 14th year in Brunei and during that time I’ve had various spells in charge of the senior side as well as the U-23 and U-21 teams, including as head coach in the 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup qualifying round where we only narrowly missed out.

“I know that it’s important to set a good example and give role models for young players in Brunei which is why it’s important that the national team does well in this competition and shows good performances that young players can watch and learn from.

“We have many talented young players developing right now which means that personally I’m very excited for the future of football in Brunei as they possess good technical ability which is why it’s important they keep training hard and compete in international competitions to gain experience and keep growing.”