Sultan of Brunei: Munster relishing new national team challenge

Paul Munster was confirmed as the Football Association of Brunei's new technical director last month
Paul Munster was confirmed as the Football Association of Brunei's new technical director last month

THE latest step on Paul Munster’s remarkable odyssey has taken him to Brunei, where the west Belfast man intends to oversee a major revamp of the south-east Asian country’s footballing fortunes.

Former Linfield striker Munster was named Football Association of Brunei technical director three weeks ago, after a successful two-and-a-half year stint as head coach of Indonesian outfit Bhayangkara FC came to an end.

It is another new destination in a playing and coaching career that has so far taken him to Canada, the Czech Republic, Sweden, India and across Asia, as well as a stint as national manager of Pacific Islanders Vanuatu.

All those experiences have led the 40-year-old to where he stands now, another step up the ladder, and a role he can’t wait to get stuck into.

“They were halted by Covid in Brunei for two years, so when they started back they were looking at something fresh, everything new,” he said.

“It’s a national team set-up, the stadium’s right beside us, there’s two new pitches, all the offices and the gym are new, the facilities are quality, so it shows their ambition and that they really want to go for it.

“The role of technical director is something that appealed to me, because you’re guiding everything - coaching the coaches and running the infrastructural and operational side of things.

“We have a new Spanish coach coming in next week to take over the seniors, U23s and probably the U19s as well, and I’ll be in the background structuring the playing style, the philosophy, the mentality right the way through.

“They’ve basically given me the keys to do everything, and the potential is massive here. There are a lot of really good teams, one of our main players is out in Thailand, but I want to work with all the age groups.

“There are 12-year-olds coming in this weekend and the aim is to have an U14 team, eventually going through the leagues and making sure the coaches are doing everything correctly, and then hopefully developing an elite academy to get all the best players in.”

Since leaving Bhayangkara at the start of the summer, having led them into the AFC Cup, Munster enjoyed a short break from the coal face of the beautiful game, returning briefly to Belfast before visiting Sweden, Norway and Spain as he weighed up his next move.

At one stage last year he was linked with the vacant manager’s post at Cardiff City, with the Bluebirds’ Malaysian owner Vincent Tan impressed by Munster’s managerial CV.

Steve Morison was eventually promoted from the Cardiff U23s, but Munster admits his long-term ambition is to return to Europe, with clubs in England and Scotland having contacted him in the past.

“The aim in the future is to get back to Europe, but it has to be right.

“After Malaysia I met a few clubs, but it wasn’t right. That was the first time in five years I’ve been out of a job, which was nice in a way, but after a while you’re just itching to get back to what you do.

“I’m always wary of what I’m getting myself into, strategic about whatever move I make. The Cardiff owner was looking for a young, ambitious coach, I was top of the league for a long time and getting linked a lot.

“But, being realistic, I knew they’d bring in an ex-player, or a coach already there, because a lot of clubs in England have done that since Covid.

“It’s good to see some younger coaches being given a chance too, like Michael Beale at QPR, who was on my Pro License. England is very difficult to get into but, to be honest, England is not the be all and end all.”

And, as another journey begins, Munster is relishing the challenge ahead.

“I’m really happy to be here, I think it’s a good move for me.

“I’m always aiming high, but it’s a good step for me. I think it will stand me in good stead for the future.”