DPMM enjoy 'hunting' role
Kean's outfit in buoyant mood for title-chasing ambition
COURTS YOUNG LIONS v BRUNEI DPMM
(Tonight, 7.30pm, Jalan Besar Stadium)
So near yet so far; that is how most would sum up Brunei DPMM in the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League last year.
Having led the pack for much of the campaign, a late meltdown, where they won just one of their last five matches, ultimately saw them pipped to the title by Warriors FC on the final day of the season.
The Wasps are once again in the running this year and are currently four points behind leaders Warriors, with two games in hand.
Having spent almost all of last season being the hunted, DPMM coach Steve Kean believes it could be a welcome change for his players doing the hunting this year.
"Finding ourselves in the position we were in last year was a new experience for the squad," he told The New Paper.
"If you look back at the last few years, we've always been the ones chasing, so I think it was a bit different for the players to find themselves out in front.
"When you have games in hand and you know you have to win them if you're going to overtake the teams at the top, that does give you more motivation and enthusiasm.
"We don't mind chasing Warriors and Albirex (Niigata) and letting them feel the pressure we felt last year."
There were initially question marks raised over the Bruneian outfit's ability to mount another title challenge this year, following the departures of key foreigners Rodrigo Tosi, Roy O'Donovan and Roberto Alviz.
However, Kean has found more-than-capable replacements in strikers Rafael Ramazotti and Paulo Sergio and centre back Brian McLean, while local players like Sairol Sahari and goalkeeper Wardun Yussof have been in excellent form.
"I just think we've got a more balanced squad this season," added the former Blackburn Rovers manager.
"We restarted the league campaign on Wednesday with a 0-0 draw against Home United and I always felt that was a point gained.
"True enough, both teams above us (Warriors and Albirex) lost the following evening.
"If you look at the table with the games we have in hand, we're in a good place and we just need to maintain the momentum from the last match.
"We were excellent defensively, not just with the defenders but the way the midfield pressed as well, and we're always going to create chances like we did against Home."
DPMM have an excellent chance to move just one point off the top of the table tonight when they take on bottom side Courts Young Lions at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
Nonetheless, Kean is aware his side will have to avoid complacency against a young, energetic side who stunned Warriors 2-0 on Thursday.
"We're confident we can get the job done, but we know it'll be tough against the Young Lions," added the Scot.
"They have some really good players and they have no fear.
"It doesn't matter what the score is, they just keep going even when they're losing.
"It's that youthfulness and enthusiasm that make them a thorn in the flesh of opponents."
"The last time I was in Singapore, I found this Brazilian restaurant with fantastic churrasco (grilled meat). Even in Brunei, I found a place where I can buy fantastic Australian beef..."
- Brunei DPMM striker Rafael Ramazotti on how the food helps him cope with homesickness
WASPS’ WEAPON: Brunei DPMM striker Rafael Ramazotti (in yellow) shielding the ball from Home United’s Ang Zhiwei during last Wednesday’s 0-0 draw.
TNP PHOTO: GAVIN FOO
Brunei DPMM's Rafael Ramazotti is one of the most feared strikers in this season's Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League and it is not difficult to see why.
Standing at 1.93 metres, the 26-year-old has great physical strength and is equally prolific in scoring with both his head and feet.
The Brazilian has bagged 11 goals to top the scoring chart and has proved more than a handful for even the league's best defenders.
Yet, off the field, Ramazotti could not be more different than the imposing giant he is on it.
Speaking to The New Paper after a training session at the Jalan Besar Stadium yesterday, he cheekily asked Bosnia centre back Boris Raspudic to join in the interview, before loudly praising Paulo Sergio for his "many assists" after noticing his Portuguese strike partner was within earshot.
Although Brunei is a far cry from his Brazilian hometown of Sao Caetano, Ramazotti is enjoying every bit of life in the sultanate.
"I'm really happy to be here in this fantastic place," he said.
"I've played in many different countries with different cultures and it's fantastic.
"I believe if you respect the culture and religion wherever you are, then you'll definitely be happy.
"For me, football is fantastic because I am doing what I love… not many people have the chance to say they love what they do for a living. I think this is a fantastic privilege."
Ramazotti is hoping to help DPMM make up the disappointment of last season, when the Wasps led the title race for most of the year before a late collapse saw Warriors FC crowned champions on the final day.
The Brazilian is in the driver's seat to finish as this season's S.League's top scorer, but he prefers to put team above self.
"I'm happy because I can help the team," Ramazotti explained.
"It is important to have the belief that we can win the title and, with a really good team, we definitely have a chance to be champions.
"But we need to continue working hard every day and aim to win every match.
"I hope we can win the league because that is the most important thing.
"If I end up becoming the top scorer as well, then that's just something extra that will make me even happier."
Despite being only 26, Ramazotti has had a globe-trotting football career, having plied his trade in Portugal, Switzerland and Japan, as well as his native Brazil.
While he admits to feeling homesick at times, he said that making frequent trips to Singapore for S.League matches does have its benefits.
He said: "The last time I was in Singapore, I found this Brazilian restaurant with fantastic churrasco (grilled meat).
"Even in Brunei, I found a place where I can buy fantastic Australian beef, and you know that back in Brazil, we have barbecues all the time.
"So I buy the meat and bring it home and my wife cooks it... it's fantastic."
Rival defenders, better watch out. Ramazotti clearly has a healthy appetite.
- Courts Young Lions v Brunei DPMM (Jalan Besar Stadium)
- Balestier Khalsa v Harimau Muda B (Toa Payoh Stadium)
- Tampines Rovers v Geylang Int’l (Jurong West Stadium)
- Brunei DPMM v Hougang United (8.15pm, Bandar Seri Begawan)
- Warriors FC v Home United (Choa Chu Kang Stadium)
- Albirex Niigata v Harimau Muda B (Jurong East Stadium)
- Courts Young Lions v Balestier Khalsa (Jalan Besar Stadium)
*All games at 7.30pm unless stated.