The History of the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy

[His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam will be launching the 4th Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy for ASEAN Youth Football Championship this evening. I wrote the following for today's Brunei Times.]



The History of the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy

On 25 February 2012, His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Muizzaddin Waddaullah, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam will officially launch the fourth Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy for ASEAN Youth Football Championship.

The Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy for ASEAN Youth Football Championship was first launched in 2002. It was opened to football players from ASEAN member states under the age of 21 years old to participate in this football tournament. The 2012 version of the tournament is organised by the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS) and National Football Association of Brunei Darussalam (NFABD) in collaboration with the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF).

How did this football tournament begin?

It was back in 1997 when His Majesty himself first mooted the idea of a football tournament among the ASEAN member states. An extract of His Majesty’s Titah when he visited the Institute of Diplomatic And Foreign Relations, Kuala Lumpur on 27 August 1997 as follows:

“Having our best and brightest students, our future leaders, immersed in another ASEAN country will deepen their understanding and allow them to form valuable networks.”

“Second, I observe that sports can reach out to people in all walks of life. Of all spectator sports, soccer has the greatest following in Southeast Asia.”

“Having an ASEAN or Southeast Asian soccer league will deepen the awareness of ordinary people of ASEAN countries.”

“Let all the best teams of our region compete in the league. If Europe can have a European League, Latin-America a Latin-American League and Africa its African League, why is there not a Southeast Asia League?”

It was in support of this vision from His Majesty to involve the best teams in the ASEAN region to compete in the equivalent of the other regional football tournament, the ASEAN or Southeast Asian League that the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy tournament was initiated. The teams will be fully sponsored by the Brunei Government that for the 2012 edition of the tournament, more than a million dollars had been allocated to ensure that this prestigious tournament will take place.

On top of the valuable network which will form amongst these players, the football tournament will also expose footballing skills among the young football players in the ASEAN member states to the world. The young players can tap on this opportunity enabling them to compete outside their countries and will be able to leverage on this experience for their footballing development. Most importantly these youths will be able to see the different peoples and cultures in the Southeast Asian region and will understand one another better.

In 2002 when the tournament was officially launched, all ten ASEAN member states took part in the football tournament. The ten teams were divided into two groups.

After the opening game on 16 August 2002 in Group A when Brunei and Cambodia drew scoreless, the next few matches were goals galore. Myanmar beat Brunei 6 – 0, Laos defeating Cambodia 6 – 2, Malaysia beat Brunei 7 – 3 and Myanmar trashing Cambodia 7 – 0. Brunei had a mathematical chance of reaching the finals if they could beat Malaysia and with both needing to win, it was Malaysia who took the game by 7 – 3. By the time all the teams had played each other in Group A, Myanmar easily topped the group with a maximum of 12 points and scoring 14 goals in their three matches without conceding a goal. Malaysia and Laos finished equal with 6 points but Malaysia had a better goal difference of 13 – 8 beating Laos having a better goal difference of 10 – 7.

Meanwhile in Group B, Indonesia easily topped the group by beating the other four teams and scoring 14 goals and conceding none. In their first match, they beat the Philippines by 10 – 0. Thailand came in second with three wins. Philippines propped up the table losing all their games and conceding 21 goals and scoring only one goal.

In the semi-finals, Indonesia beat Malaysia by a single goal and Thailand beat Myanmar on penalties 4 – 3, their game ended 2 – 2 after extra time. The first Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy was won by Indonesia when they beat Thailand 2 – 0 on 26 August 2002.

The next Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy tournament was not held in 2004 but it was held instead in 2005 from 13 to 25 March. Cambodia did not take part and the nine teams were divided into one group of five and a second group of four teams. Group A had Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. Defending champions Indonesia did not do well and could only manage to beat the Philippines and drawing with Vietnam. Thailand topped the group by winning three games and drawing one, while Vietnam managed to come in second by beating Malaysia 2 – 1 in their final group match and thus getting second place. Thailand avenged their loss in the 2002 final by beating Indonesia 2 – 1 in the final group match.

In the smaller Group B, Myanmar won their first two games by beating Singapore and Brunei 6 – 0. By the final round, Myanmar had already made it to the semi-finals, while Brunei and Laos both had mathematical chances of reaching the semi-finals, Laos had to beat Myanmar and Brunei had to beat Singapore. Myanmar rested their first team and Laos was able to beat them 2 – 1, thus forcing Brunei to beat Singapore by a six goal margin to reach the semi-finals. Brunei did beat Singapore but by only a margin of 3 – 1. The final table saw Myanmar, Laos and Brunei all garnering 6 points each but Myanmar with its superior scoring record topped the table and Laos came in second but Brunei’s 6 – 0 defeat to Myanmar meant that it has an inferior goal difference.

In the semi-finals, Myanmar beat Vietnam 2 – 0 and Thailand needed the extra time to beat Laos 3 – 2. In the final, Thailand overcame Myanmar by beating them 3 – 0.

The third Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy tournament was held two years later in 2007 from March 3 to March 12. This time round only eight ASEAN member states took part with Indonesia and Laos not being able to come. The group stage saw two groups of four teams each.

In Group A, Myanmar easily topped the group by beating the other three teams and scoring 22 goals and conceding one goal which was scored by Brunei in their 3 – 1 loss to Myanmar. In the group’s final rounds, Brunei with a win and a draw had a good chance of reaching the semi-finals if they could either win or draw or keep their loss to Myanmar to a minimal and hoping that Cambodia did not score too many goals against Philippines. Unfortunately Brunei’s 3 – 1 defeat to Myanmar and Cambodia 6 – 0 win over Philippines meant that both Cambodia and Brunei had 4 points each, a goal difference of minus one each but Cambodia 8 – 9 goal difference beat Brunei 6 – 7 goal difference.

In Group B, with defending champions Thailand easily beating the other three teams, the other three teams were forced to scramble for second place. It was Malaysia who took the second spot after beating Singapore 2 – 0 in the final group game. Singapore and Vietnam did not win a single game.

In the semi-finals both group winners easily won their matches. Thailand beating Cambodia by a 10 – 1 score line and Myanmar beating Malaysia 2 – 0. In the final Thailand and Myanmar could not beat each other as the game went into extra time. It was settled by a nail-biting penalty shootout with Thailand overcoming Myanmar by 5 – 4.

The fourth Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy was supposed to have taken place in 2009 but with Brunei then serving a suspension from FIFA, it was unable to play in international competitions and neither could it host one. However with the lifting of the suspension on 30 May 2011, the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy tournament was back in place.

The fourth tournament was originally meant to take place at the end of 2011 but the dates have shifted to the opening ceremony on 25 February 2012 and with the finals on 9 March 2012. This time round, all the ASEAN member states were supposed to have taken part and an additional country Timor Leste was also invited. Unfortunately defending champions Thailand will not be joining the tournament.

The organisers have announced that each team will be able to bring in 5 over age players but only 3 will be allowed to play for each match. The matches will take place at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas, the Track & Field Hassanal Bolkiah National Sports Complex and the Berakas Sports Complex. The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports have ensured that this year’s Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy (HBT) to be the biggest ever and are spending nearly $1.7 million to make sure the tournament runs without a hitch. Notes from the meeting showed that the $1.7 million will be used for the teams’ airfare, accommodation, food as well as transport and to cater for the needs of, among others, the technical committee.

Brunei’s team is counting on the public to be out in full force to show their support for the national side as well support the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy tournament, a tournament envisaged by His Majesty The Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam.



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