|By Khalis Rifhan
Brunei national team players were given a shock a day before they were due to travel to the Philippines for their 2014 AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers, as they were informed that the country is pulling out from the competition.
This news was confirmed by the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports to the local media, Brunei Times, on Wednesday.
"Due to unavoidable circumstances, Brunei Darussalam is unable to participate in the upcoming AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers scheduled to be held in the Philippines from March 22-26," said the ministry's permanent secretary Dato Paduka Hj Mohd Hamid Hj Mohd Jaafar.
Brunei were scheduled to face off with the Azkals on March 22 in Group E, alongside Cambodia and Turkmenistan.
This news will surely not bode well with Vejran Simunic who had been registered as Brunei head coach for the tournament and the players who were looking to get a much needed international exposure following their AFF Suzuki Cup qualifiers last October.
Several of the Brunei national teams players, feeling disappointed with this development, spoke to Goal.com Singapore on condition of anonymity.
“I have no idea about this; I feel Brunei football never learnt from the past mistakes," said one player.
"I have experienced this situation three times. How can we be a good example to the younger generation if there is still internal conflict?
“Look at the neighbours, they have no excuse to not participate in any tournament, even the not so well to do countries are able to join. I feel upset and ashamed that such things have happened again.”
Another player added: “Are we moving forward and giving us a chance to improve? History has repeated itself and I am not sure how to face my fellow Bruneians.”
Although Simunic’s appointment was alleged to have taken place more than a month ago, there was no news of it on the local media as the National Football Association of Brunei (NFABD) was gearing up for its fifth extraordinary congress earlier in the month.
His Royal Highness Prince Sufri Bolkiah was elected as the new president of the NFABD, replacing Dato Paduka Abdul Rahman Mohiddin at the helm till 2015.
But the election of the Prince to the highest post in NFABD has given little to cheer about for the fans with the latest development.
The Football Association of Brunei Darussalam (BAFA) was suspended after intereference from the government which saw the dissolvement of the federation and subsequent replacement by a new governing body.
The Fifa Executive Committee had planned to expel the BAFA had it not been reinstated by the Bruneian authorities. All Bruneian teams were banned from participating in any competition during this period and only saw their reinstatement on May 2011.