Last November, I wrote an article entitled “Lost at SEAG” to shed some light on the losing streak of the U-23 team in the recent 2011 SEA Games. I was compelled to express myself because the collective feeling of disappointment among fans and supporters, conveyed both online and offline, had successfully brought together an army of haters. People were blamed. Hasty generalizations were made. Others felt that they had had enough.
The 2012 Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy, regrettably, was another tournament we lost. This time around, the U-21 team was involved. Surely there were expectations to bag the trophy. Unfortunately, we didn’t win. But am I proud of the team? The answer is a massive yes. Believe it or not, a lot of people are proud of the players. I’m not here to make excuses for the team. I’m well aware of the flaws and mistakes, but I’m glad to see them making progress. In Coach Graeme’s words, “You learn from losing. There’s very little to learn when you win.”
Of all the matches, I was only able to watch the last game, and it was against Indonesia. Nevertheless, it was enough proof that the boys had been fighting like real warriors in all of their recent matches. Our players were possessed with the will to win. They say that in soccer, as in war, the underdog tends to try harder. Our country should be proud; they represented us well.
Don’t let the losing streak undermine their efforts because we didn’t see them as a failure. Coach Zoran, who’s like the epitome of machismo, even shed tears. In an article for The Brunei Times, he said: “I have been coaching for 33 years and have coached in many countries before. I’ve never seen boys with such a big heart…”
The 2012 Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy may be deemed in many ways as a repeat of the 2011 SEA Games, but I have to disagree. I think they’ve vastly improved since then and they’re only getting started. They’re now surrounded by stronger people. In Coach Zoran’s dictionary, he would call them “tigers.” I just know they’re on the right path and they need continuous and unconditional support from everyone. Believing in them can make a difference. Sometimes it all boils down to fierce loyalty and commitment.
Some of the U-21 players are on Twitter. Follow them: