Congratulations! Bravo! Well done! Tahniah! to DPMM FC for winning the Singapore League Cup 2009. An achievement the whole country is definitely very proud of. This is no small feat. Only admitted to the S-League two weeks before the start of the season, here we are few months on, the Champions of the League Cup, the first foreign team to win any silverware in Singapore domestic competitions. Next is the League title ............
Most TVs in Brunei were glued to RTB watching the match unfold. Full time score 1-1, the match went into extra time. Thirty minutes of torture as the Singapore Armed Forces FC (SAFFC) mounted attack after attack. Then came the penalties. Pacing around trying to keep calm. What a relief, it ended up 4-3 to DPMM FC. Phew!
Sitting there watching the match on TV, memories of one Saturday night in December 1999 came flooding back. There we were, thousands of Brunei hardcore supporters at the Merdeka Stadium in Kuala Lumpur gathered to watch an historic moment, witnessing the first and only time Brunei won the Malaysia Cup. Those days, we had Patron Akakpo, Brian Bothwell, Rosli Leman (wonder what happened to the Toyota he won), Liew, Azmanuddin, Irwan, Ibrahim and many more including Ak Sallehudin who is one of the key players of the current DPMM FC team.
At the beginning of 1999, it did not look like we will be winning anything! Being the year Brunei was hosting the 20th SEA Games, the focus of the country was on the SEA Games. Preparation for it became top priority. The M-League matches had to move to Padang Kebajikan as the Stadium was under renovation. Well over the years Brunei had played their matches in lesser padangs. It started at Padang Besar (now Taman SOAS) in 1979, then the KBRC (I remembered this fondly, the match against Sarawak where Pg Tajuddin scored through a thunderbolt freekick), the Police Stadium in Gadong and the Padang Puaka aka Padang JKR at Airport Lama (Brunei remained undefeated in one season here!). So what’s wrong with Padang Kebajikan? May be it was bad luck, Brunei fared badly in almost every match there. Not until after Brunei had done with the hosting of the SEA Games (a memorable sporting event we hosted brilliantly with the most gold medal haul ever for Brunei), the matches moved back to the National Stadium, the Brunei Team aka the Wasps got into gear and started winning match after match.
After failing at the semi final and quarter final stages the previous years, Brunei was not going to be denied. The couple of weeks before the final got thousands scrambling for air tickets. By hook or by crook, a lot of people wanted to be at the Final. Luckily extra flights were arranged. Kuala Lumpur was flooded with thousands of Bruneians. Some even arrived on the day of the final and immediately returned after the match.
On that Saturday night, 4 December 1999, as soon as the final whistle blew, thousands of us were ecstatic. Tears flowing. Hugging. Shouting “Brunei Yakin!”. Jumping up and down! Who cares how silly we all looked like. All we care was after 20 years, we finally won the Cup! Few of us managed to celebrate with the players at the team hotel (after soup ekor session to regain some energy drained during the match). What a night! Hairs on the back of my neck stood and tears in my eyes every time I recalled that night!
Now, 10 years on, we won the League Cup. Hopefully this will be a good sign for the future of football in Brunei. Better things to come unlike the downhill spiral the local football scene took after winning the Malaysia Cup in 1999. First thing first, the most important step is to sort out the BAFA/FFBD quandary ...