Still one of the world’s newest football nations, Timor-Leste will be aiming for a second finals appearance at the AFF Suzuki Cup and with only a playoff match against Brunei Darussalam standing between O Sol Nascente and a spot in the group stage they are confident of getting the job done in September.

One of Asian football’s youngest international captains and one of his nation’s youngest ever debutants, Jose Fonseca has dreamed all his life of having the chance to stand on the same stage as Southeast Asia’s leading football nations and he’s not about to let this chance pass him by.

“I believe that in the playoff it will be Timor-Leste that will pass and enter the Suzuki Cup for the second time, that’s my hope and belief.

“I say that not just as a football player but also a Timorese because football is very important for our nation.

“It’s the most popular sport in our country and with a new league, Liga Amadora, established in 2016 it’s had a big impact for us.”

It’s been more than a decade since the nation’s only previous finals appearance back in 2004 but with a core group of young talent that’s grown together through the various youth teams there’s a sense that Timor-Leste now has experience to combine with the natural technical ability that their players possess in abundance to finally start climbing the regional ranks.

23-year-old Fonseca is a fine example of that with the creative midfielder having had stints playing in both Korea and Thailand before returning to the domestic ranks with Karketu Dili FC and he sees immense potential in this generation of Timorese talent. 

“There’s been a lot of change in our football and we’ve gained a lot of experience as a team and me too as the captain by playing in the second round of World Cup qualification where we came up against a Saudi Arabia side with legends like Bert van Marwijk and Mark van Bommel coaching them and we learnt so much from them.

“Here in Timor players grow up with their own skills that they work hard to develop and I suppose our technical ability comes from watching stars on television and trying to be like them – that’s what I did by trying to copy my favourite player, Kaka.”

Fonseca will be hoping that he can act as a similar kind of talisman for his nation when they face the playoff match under the guidance of new Japanese coach Norio Tsukitate with the captain confident that Timor-Leste will be able to progress.

“I’ve played twice in the qualification for the Suzuki Cup and unlike those past times I’m sure this time we can progress, especially because we can play home and away.

“Football offers so many things for our country and through football we get the chance to meet so many players and learn from the best so I really want to win this match and play in the Suzuki Cup because football is my world.”