Mehmet lauds Bruneian teammates’ quality, aims for the sky

Striker Billy Mehmet says he is surrounded by some of the best talent he has ever seen in Southeast Asia and fully expects his new team Brunei DPMM to challenge on all fronts in 2017. 

In a long, successful career that is now nearing the end of its second decade, Mehmet has played with plenty of top-shelf talent.

Following stops in Scotland, Turkey and Australia, Mehmet’s journey took him to Thailand, India and then two clubs in Malaysia, before he linked up with Tampines Rovers last season.

Now with his 11th club in a career that began back in 2003, the 32-year-old told FourFourTwo he is thrilled by the talent level around him in Brunei.

“I do have reasonable expectations on us as a team this season,” he said. “I’ve read some stuff and some people haven’t even mentioned us, but others are giving us a chance.

“It’s good to be under the radar a bit because there’s no pressure that way, but I think with the team we’ve got – we’ve got some of the best local players I’ve seen in a long time in Southeast Asia.

“The three boys in the middle of the park – (Hendra) Azam, Param (Azwan Saleh) and Azwan Ali – they’re three of the most technically gifted players I’ve seen in this region.

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Mehmet in training with DPMM. Photo: S.league

“I knew who they were, but I didn’t realise their ability until I trained with them. I think we’ve got a right good chance.”

Mehmet enjoyed his time with the Stags and would have stayed in Tampines, but the club’s move to slash wage costs meant the contract offer for 2017 was not feasible.

“I would’ve been better off getting an actual job than signing again,” Mehmet admitted.

I was speaking to teams in Scotland, Turkey and Malaysia as well, but I enjoyed the S.League last year

The 1.89m front man, who has scored goals wherever he has gone across his career, had a number of options for 2017.

In the end, linking up with DPMM, the 2015 S.League champions, and their Scottish manager Steve Kean felt like the right fit.

“I was speaking to teams in Scotland, Turkey and Malaysia as well,” he said. “But I enjoyed the S.League last year.

“I was disappointed we didn’t win anything, but I felt Brunei could be a bit like Tampines. I knew we would be up their challenging in most competitions.

“Obviously the influence of the gaffer was big as well, he’d been in England and coached in the Premier League (with Blackburn Rovers).

“If you look at that, it was an easy decision to be honest.”

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Mehmet had offers from Europe but he rejected them

One of the reasons some are tipping DPMM to be contenders again this season is the potential of Mehmet’s partnership with fellow striker Rafael Ramazotti.

The Brazilian has topped the S.League’s scoring charts for the past two years and is coming back for a third season in the sovereign state.

Rafa has been brilliant since I got here. A lot of people are probably thinking two big guys, just pump the ball up to them, but it’s not been like that

“Rafa has been brilliant since I got here,” Mehmet said. “A lot of people are probably thinking two big guys, just pump the ball up to them, but it’s not been like that.

“I like to run the channels as well and playing with Rafa is pretty easy.

“He can hold the ball up and he’s not selfish. If he’s got the opportunity to pass if you’re in a better position, he’ll give it. He’s not greedy.

“Fair play to him because he plays like that and he’s still been top goalscorer the last two seasons. If he was selfish, he’d probably have a lot more.

“He’s been brilliant and I’m looking forward to linking up with him, but it’s not just him, it’s the wide boys as well.

“You’ve got Dudi (Maududi Hilmi) and you’ve got Nazim (Najib Tarif) who are putting great balls through for Rafa to score goals.

“It’s looking good and I’m excited about it.”

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Mehmet is looking forward to a partnership with Ramazotti

Ramazotti and Kean have also helped Mehmet off the pitch, showing the London-born striker the better restaurants and places to visit around town.

He recently moved into a new apartment and is adjusting to his new surroundings, which he says are quite different to Singapore.

In Singapore you’ve got a lot of things to do, whereas in Brunei it’s quieter and your full focus is on the football. There are still things to do, but you have to find them.

“It’s quiet, a lot quieter than Singapore, and it’s more relaxed,” he said.

“In terms of football, you’ve got no distractions. In Singapore you’ve got a lot of things to do, whereas in Brunei it’s quieter and your full focus is on the football. There are still things to do, but you have to find them.

“It reminds me a little bit of when I was in Kedah. It’s similar to Sarawak as well, which isn’t too far from here.

“It’s quite easy for me to get used to because I’ve been in this position before. I know what to expect.”

He is also about to have a brush with royalty.

“It’s the prince’s birthday, so we’re going to his birthday party,” he added. “I’m looking forward to that.

“He comes to training, but I haven’t met him yet.”

Photos: S.League (Unless stated otherwise)