Champions, at last

Champions, at last
PHOTO: The New Paper

They may not have had the easiest of journeys before they reached the mountain top.

But last night, Brunei DPMM accomplished what they had set out to achieve when they first joined the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League in 2009.

A win at the Hassanal Bolkiah Stadium was all they required to be crowned Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League champions, and they finished in style, roaring to a 4-0 triumph over Balestier Khalsa to become only the second foreign outfit to lift Singapore club football's biggest prize (after French club Etoile FC won the title in 2010).

The title triumph was the culmination of a long road for DPMM, which began in 2009 only to be abruptly halted before the end of that season when they were expelled from the competition after a Fifa ban for government interference in football in Brunei.

After returning in 2012, the Wasps came tantalisingly close to winning the title that year and last season, and DPMM coach Steve Kean was proud of the resolve and spirit his charges displayed this time around.

"We've been great all season long," said the Scot, with a look of satisfaction etched on his face.

"In a strange way, I think last year's (slip-up in the title race) helped us get over the line and win this title.

"Everything from last year we used as a learning experience and, tonight, we looked more mature and didn't panic at all."

There was certainly no shortage of motivation for the Brunei club last night, not least from the 23,700 fans who had turned up in expectation.

Even before kick-off, there was already a party atmosphere with singing and Mexican Waves coming from the crowd.

And just 13 minutes in, the stadium erupted for the first time as the hosts opened the scoring; Paulo Sergio finding space down the right and firing in a cross-shot that was deflected by Igor Cerina past his goalkeeper.

Just five minutes later, there was an even louder roar as Sergio capitalised on some slack defending to race through and lift his shot over the onrushing Zaiful Nizam to make it 2-0.

With news coming in that title rivals Tampines Rovers were losing to Harimau Muda, it began to look as though only a miracle would deny former Blackburn boss Kean and his charges.

Right on the stroke of halftime, they struck again as Rafael Ramazotti, having beaten the offside trap, unselfishly laid the ball off for Sergio and Tigers defender Yusiskandar Yusop, in a last-ditch attempt to intercept, could only stab the ball into his own goal.

By now, the celebrations had well and truly begun but just for good measure, the Wasps gave the fans one final goal to cheer - Ramazotti latching onto Sergio's cut-back before firing into the bottom corner four minutes from time to seal a historic first league crown for DPMM.

Moments later, captain Rosmin Kamis, in his 11th year with the club, hoisted up the trophy and it did not take long for the fans to storm the pitch.

Said centre back Boris Raspudic: "It's hard to explain this feeling but I'm just so happy. To have won it for the club is a special feeling."

When asked about the club's future, Kean only wanted to on the immediate future: Winning a double in the second leg of RHB Singapore Cup Final against Home United at Yishun Stadium on Tuesday.

"It's not finished yet," he added, with DPMM 3-2 leading after the first leg. "There's still another competition to go for, and we'll be going to Singapore looking to win the RHB Singapore Cup."

This article was first published on November 22, 2015.
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