HBT officially kicks off
Aziz Idris

HIS Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam last night officiated the opening ceremony of the 5th Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy (HBT) 2014 for Asean Youth Football Tournament at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas ahead of Bruneiís first match against Cambodia.

Accompanying His Majesty were His Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Ministerís Office; His Royal Highness Prince Haji Sufri Bolkiah, President of the National Football Association of Brunei Darussalam; His Royal Highness Prince Haji Jefri Bolkiah; His Royal Highness Prince ĎAbdul Malik; His Royal Highness Prince ĎAbdul Wakeel; Her Royal Highness Princess Ameerah Wardatul Bolkiah and other members of the royal family.

On hand to welcome His Majesty were the Minister of Culture Youth and Sports, Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Laila Diraja Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Hazair bin Haji Abdullah and his deputy, Datin Paduka Hajah Adina binti Othman, as well as the members of the High Level Committee of the HBT 2014.

The ceremony began with the national anthem that echoed throughout the stadium, bringing back the spirit of patriotism and love towards the great game of football to the Sultanate.

This was followed by the declaration by His Majesty to mark the opening of the tournament in front of a packed venue.

Prior to the launch, each team lined up for the customary march into the stadium.

The night also featured marching band performances by the Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) and participation of the National Service Programme (PKBN) as flag bearers.

His Majesty, accompanied by HRH Prince Haji Sufri Bolkiah, was then introduced to the team coaches, captains and managers, who also received souvenirs from the ruler.

The monarch received a pesambah from Pehin Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Hazair to mark the conclusion of the ceremony.

The biennial tournament is a brainchild of His Majesty as the countryís contribution to Asean unity and solidarity through the game of football. The three-week long tournament sees under-21 teams from all member countries of Asean vying for the coveted trophy in 28 matches with the final slated for August 23.

A total of 11 countries, namely, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Timor Leste and host Brunei Darussalam are participating.

HBT is sanctioned by the Asian Football Confederation and the Asean Football Federation.

The tournament offers cash prizes of $20,000 for the champion, $10,000 for the first runner-up and $5,000 each for the joint third place-winners. - Borneo Bulletin (10 August 2014)