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Bencherifa takes charge of Brunei national team

Rufin Oba re-unites with former Floriana coach in Asia

Rufin Oba

Rufin Oba

From Malta to Brunei Darussalam. However complicated and unusual such trip may seem, it is precisely the journey embarked by Moroccan coach Karim Bencherifa since his contract with Maltese Premier League club Floriana was terminated prematurely in the initial months of season 2001-2002.

In January, Bencherifa was named as head coach of the Brunei national team. Speaking to The Times from Paris before boarding a flight to Singapore, Bencherifa said: "Coaching the Brunei national team is a big challenge as the association there is trying to upgrade the level of their football. They've given me the task to see that their young players will improve and flourish."

Brunei, a tiny Islamic country with a common border with the Malaysian state of Sarawak, is renowned mainly for the wealth of its Sultan.

As the Brunei national team also participates in the Malaysian league, they can register up to four foreign imports. In international matches, Brunei are only allowed to use players who are eligible to play for the country.

In a bid to strengthen his side's chances of doing well in the Malaysian championship, Bencherifa has persuaded former Floriana and Birkirkara midfielder Rufin Oba to join his team.

"I know Oba well from my time with Floriana and I believe he can be an asset for the Brunei team in the Malaysian League," Bencherifa said.

"Oba has been through some difficult times since he left Maltese football but I'm confident that he can rediscover his old self with my team."

Bencherifa's spell in the Premier League ended on a sour note as he was relieved of his duties before his contract expired. In spite of his acrimonious departure from Floriana, Bencherifa still has fond memories of Malta and its people.

"My exit from Floriana FC left me very disappointed but it has not dimmed my appreciation of Malta and its people," Bencherifa noted.

"With a population of just over 300,000 people, Brunei is very similar to Malta. I honestly believe that the level of the Maltese national team will improve if there is a selection competing in the Italian league. Brunei's participation in the Malaysian championship is very useful in this respect."

Bencherifa did not have the best of starts in the league, however, as Brunei lost their opening two matches. But, they managed to open their account in their third match. Bencherifa is now hoping that Oba's arrival will help his team remain on their winning trail... with a bit of Maltese influence.

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