Untold Stories, Southeast Asian Clubs: Indera SC, Brunei

Southeast Asia has a rich football history, with some big-name clubs intertwined with some notable, yet lesser-known outfits. In the penultimate edition of our tour through the region, FourFourTwo learned about Brunei's Indera SC, a club that has succeeded in the face of a FIFA ban, a dreadful national team and no shortage of chaos...  

A nation flush with petroleum and national gas resources, strategically located amongst other economic and sporting powerhouses of Southeast Asia and where football courses through the veins of its people, should be the ideal meeting point for success in the global game.

INDERA SC FACTBOX

FOUNDED: 1970

COLOURS: Black and Gold

HOME STADIUM: Berakas Sports Complex

CAPACITY: 500

ACHIEVEMENTS: Two-time Brunei Super League champions (2012/13 & 2013/14)

Brunei Darussalam though stands not just as a regional outpost, but more pertinently as an augury of what happens when competing interests, mismanagement and international exile slow the sport.

From the relative heights of a FIFA ranking of 140th in the early 1990s, the Sultanate is currently way down at No.195, ahead of only Mongolia (No.203) from an Asian Football Confederation standpoint.

Of the active nations in international football, there are only eight below them. 

The national team hasn’t played since November last year and they’ve lost 17 of the 23 competitive matches they’ve contested in the last decade – that period abbreviated by a FIFA ban that left Brunei in international exile from 2009 to 2011.

At club level, too, things have been stagnant for far too long. But amidst all the turmoil there is one team that has stood above all others as a benchmark for the local game, at least in terms of on-field success.

Indera SC head coach Haji Omar Haji Jamil

When it comes to chaos and mayhem, they’ve had their fair share of the limelight – but more of that later.

Founded in 1970 purely as a football club, Indera SC have now expanded into a range of other endeavours including badminton and netball, and are fast emerging as a sporting juggernaut in Brunei.

With connections to the Royal family, it’s football though where they’ve really prospered and they stand as the most successful club in the Brunei Super League since the competition was re-launched following the end of that FIFA ban in 2011.

LEADING FIGURES

PG ANAK HAJI YASSIN bin PG ANAK SAFIUDDIN – The club president, he is also related to the Royal family of Brunei and has been the driving force behind the club’s inception and growth

HAJI OMAR HAJI JAMIL – The current head coach and the key behind their recent title successes

The first season back, in 2012/13, Indera dropped only one match in the abbreviated nine-game championship before they won 14 of 16 the following season to claim the 2013/14 league title.

Despite losing only twice last season they finished as runners-up to the army side, MS ABDB, the same opponent they also fell to in the final of the FA Cup and it’s apparent this pair now clearly hold the balance of power in the local football scene.  

One of the main men behind the growth of Indera is the team’s head coach, Haji Omar Haji Jamil. As he told FourFourTwo, the pressure is always on to succeed at a side widely regarded as one of the strongest in the country.

“This club has a long and fantastic history, we’ve produced many talented and skilled players that have represented the Brunei national team and we are regarded as one of the biggest and best in the country,” he said.

“People refer to us as the Real Madrid of Brunei because we have the Royal connection through our president, but also because we can attract strong players to the team and we have been achieving some very good results.”

Indeed, many of the players now with DPMM FC, the Bruneian side that plays in Singapore’s S.League, have come from Indera and the route that the Steve Kean-led side has taken is one that they’d like to follow.

Some of the club's recent spoils

“We look at the success of a club like DPMM in competing overseas and that’s the way that we would also like to do things,” said Haji Omar.

“At the moment we don’t have the sponsors or the funds to be able to compete internationally, but we should be aiming to enter the league or cup competitions in Malaysia and Singapore and try to expose some of the young talents we have in the country.”

We need FIFA to try and help football in Brunei because we have a lot of potential

Those young talents are something the coach knows all about as, in addition to his duties as Indera coach, he’s also in charge of the Projek Ikan Pusu (PIP) academy which has produced a host of players who have gone on to represent Brunei at various national levels.

“PIP is vital for the development of football in Brunei,” he continued. “It’s now been running for more than a decade and we’ve had thousands and thousands of children come through the programme where we aim to develop good technical and tactical skills.

“Several hundred have played for Brunei, so we need to keep focusing on the grassroots.”

Whilst Haji Omar is regarded as one of the best local coaches in a nation where barely a handful hold AFC ‘A’ licences, he also believes it’s vital for the development of football that the country reaches out to overseas expertise to help guide those working on the ground in Brunei.

“We’ve had two coaches working from Singapore here one of whom, Mike Wong, is the national coach and they’ve done a great job in helping improve things,” he said. “But we need more.