The news was confirmed late last week. DPMM FC will take part in this year’s S.League.
The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) announced the decision via press release on Saturday, ending weeks of speculation on the the Brunei club’s future in Singapore’s top football league.
DPMM FC — S.League champions in 2015 — had previously flirted with playing in Indonesia after a disagreement with FAS over new regulations for the upcoming S.League season which kicks off on March 31.
The major sticking point stemmed from FAS’ decision to cut down the number of foreign imports allowed in the S.League — a move which would drastically decrease the club’s ability to be competitive.
And things got messy when Singapore media reported that the FAS were considering allowing DPMM to sign four import players — twice the number local teams could.
This ‘special concession’ — according to Singapore’s The Straits Times — raised eyebrows within the local football fraternity and put further pressure on the FAS.
More talks were needed.
By early January, both parties settled on the current arrangement for DPMM FC to have three foreign imports for this season.
DPMM FC will play in this year’s S-League. A happy ending for all parties involved?
Gabriel: Yes, I suppose you could say that. Barring a disappointing season in 2017, DPMM have traditionally enjoyed plenty of success in the S.League. Furthermore, the S.League is already one of the smallest top-flight competitions in the region with nine clubs competing. Had it been reduced to eight, it might have raised further question marks.
Matthew: Yes, my opinion is that both the FAS and DPMM are happy with the compromise.
DPMM FC can sign a maximum of three foreign players which is one more than local S.League sides (apart from Young Lions) are allowed to. What are your thoughts on this?
Matthew: I think this will definitely be an advantage for DPMM and I won’t be surprised to see them challenging for honours this season.
Gabriel: Personally, the S.League’s foreign quota limit has been hugely questionable.
Previously, it was five foreigners, which meant that [Singapore] sides competing in AFC competitions were disadvantaged as they had to get used to playing with one less foreigner.
Then, it became three, which again meant a disadvantage as other clubs in the region [could field] an extra foreigner. And now, it’s two…
I’m sure the S.League organisers have put the necessary thought into this before settling on this number and, yes, they may have the best intentions at heart. But surely, it isn’t that difficult to imagine that the Asian Football Confederation – who are after all the continental governing body – have done their own research and settled on four foreigners (3 non-Asian + 1 Asian) and adhere to that to ensure the likes of Tampines Rovers and Home United aren’t disadvantaged when playing in the AFC Cup.
Japanese club Albirex Nigata won the S.League in 2016 and 2017 while DPMM FC were champions in 2015. What do you think of the recent domination of foreign clubs?
Matthew: Albirex has dominated, but I wouldn’t say the same for DPMM — after all, they finished second from bottom last season.
Albirex has led the way in terms of professionalism, and the rest of the local clubs, as coaches have admitted, will do well to follow in their footsteps.
Gabriel: I think it’s fantastic because firstly, it’s a great wake-up call for Singapore football that these guys are coming in and strolling to silverware. Brunei, for so long viewed as a minnow in ASEAN football, pooled together their finest talent and showed they can play football.
Who loses out more if DPMM FC had quit — the Bruneian club or the S.League?
Gabriel: That’s a tough one. If DPMM were certain of playing in another league, then it’s definitely the S.League’s loss. But if DPMM were to leave the S.League and miss out on football for a year or two, it would be a huge step backwards because there is no doubt that the S.League is still at a higher level than these footballers would be getting playing domestic football in Brunei. For now.
Were you surprised to see Steve Kean leave DPMM last season?
Matthew: Not at all. It was a thoroughly underwhelming season for the club.
DPMM have a new coach in Rene Weber. How much do you know about him and what can we expect to see from his team in terms of style of play?
Gabriel: To be honest, [I don’t know] a lot. He does have an interesting CV and seems to be a bit of a journeyman although not to the extent of former DPMM coach Vjeran Simunic!
But here’s hoping his Brazilian roots will bring some entertaining football to the S.League this year.
Any final thoughts?
Matthew: I have my reservations on how DPMM can contribute to Singapore football. I’d like to see them being more committed to the S.League, perhaps open to signing locals as Albirex has or simply making more of an effort to build a fanbase here.