During every FIFA World Cup world witness with surprise the unbelievable popularity and fan following of Football in Bangladesh. Flags of teams of love are seen in plenty, shirts are other merchandise sold everywhere. Social media, print and electronic media bring World Cup soccer to the door step and kitchen of all Bangladeshis. We are sure even in Brazil or Argentina so many persons worship literally the super stars of soccer or follow top teams Brazil, Argentina , Germany, Spain and others. We used to see similar popularity of Mohameddan Sporting, Wanderers Club, EPIDC and later Abahoni, Brothers Union in our childhood and youth. Bangladesh till middle of 1980s was a formidable force in South Asia. But poor vision and lack of planning have made Bangladesh football lose its cutting edge. Bangladesh ranks 194 in FIFA ranking. Excepting our teenager girls earning some recent glories teams like Maldives, Bhutan and Nepal are playing better football these days. It is time Bangladesh government makes some soul searching why and how football in Bangladesh has sunk so low?
Five Top Countries in FIFA Ranking:
Where Germany, Brazil, Belgium, Portugal and Argentina occupies 1-5 in the ranking (before World Cup 2018) Bangladesh ranked 194 has huge fan following of these teams.
Five Countries Close To Bangladesh Ranking
American Samoa 192
Cooks island 193
Ranking Of Other SAARC Countries
Countries FIFA Ranking
Sri Lanka 200
Many Bangladeshis loving Brazil and Argentina may not even know where are these countries? Messi, Ronaldo and Neymar are house hold names in Bangladesh. But how many even know who the captain of Bangladesh football team is? When last Bangladesh won SAAF football championship? With one of the all time great Bangladesh Footballer Kazi Salahuddin President of BFF for several years being liked by Prime Minister of Bangladesh why Football in Bangladesh can not utilize the huge popularity to at least raise the standard to Asian Level in the next 5 years? A country having 170 million sports loving population can definitely regain its past glory if proper planning in made to spread football in the grass roots, talent hunting is done properly and raw talents are developed in ideal condition exposing them to completion and monitoring their graduation to higher level.
When we grew up in 1960s and 1970s Football in districts out side Dhaka Especially Comilla, Faridpur, Barishal, Rajshahi, Mymensingh, Jessore, Sylhet and Chittagong was of much higher standard than even the present Bangladesh team. During Pakistan days the country produced Ashraf, Kabir, Mari, Nabi Chowdury, Protap, Pintu, Mintu, Hazizuddin, NurunNabi who were regulars in Pakistan team. Our Footballers forming Shadhin Bangla Football team fought the liberation war in football front. Players like Slahuddin, Enayet, Nannu, Monju, Shantu, Amalesh, NKaikobad, Nowsher were Asian standard. Our Brothers Union and Abahoni KC formed after liberation competed very well against teams coming from Thailand and Malaysia. Players like Aslam, Slam, Badal Roy, MonemMunna, Shabbir, Wasim, Moshin, Bauls emerged. I have seen Abahoni and Mohameddan competing so well against Mohon Bagan and East Bengal. Brothers Union is competing on equal footing with Bangkok Bank and Rajbithi Club of Thailand. II have seen Bangladesh winning 7-1 against Maldives in SAF football. But that situation has reversed. Even tiny Maldives ranks way above Bangladesh. But from late 1980s football standard started depleting and now has reached rock bottom.
If memory keeps us in order Bangladesh teenagers won Gothia Cup beating teams like Brazil and Spain. Where those players have gone? Why BKSP is not nursing quality teenage footballers to better standard? What has happened to Bangladesh Football academy? Can Bangladesh follow the football development program at grassroots that was adopted by Belgium over the last 10 years. Belgium was struggling at world level in 1990s. That tiny country over hauled its domestic structure giving impetus to age level football, school football and now they are 3rd FIFA ranked country. They may even play in the final or even win it.
It gives us pain to feel that even Iceland, Panama, Ivory Coast, Costa Rica, Belgium and Uruguay which are so small having so little population can grace the world stage of football. But Bangladesh with so many football loving people and having rich tradition of football can do nothing.
In recent past for great initiative of few individuals Bangladesh teenager women football team has done wonders winning laurels at international level. Our women players played with success in Maldives and India. But for several years Bangladesh could not even produce a footballer of the standard of Aslamor Momem Munna. Should not Quazi Salahuddin do soul searching?
It is not that money is not available in Football. Lot of opportunist persons are making business with Football teams like Abahoni KC, Mohammedan SC, Shekh Jamal or Shekh Russel KC. Lot of ordinary standard footballers are imported from African countries. But Bangladesh can not form a team capable of winning at SAF level. Not speaking of Asian Level.
What Should Bangladesh Do?
I am sure the present diabolic situation of Bangladesh football pains the star footballers of the past. Many of them are in BFF .They are possibly aware where lies the issues? Bangladesh to retract its glory must over haul domestic format. Football needs growing at grass roots. In our time Dhaka had so many open play grounds where boys used to play regularly. Now school children are burdened with books and can hardly find time for playing. Schools do not have play grounds. Opportunists have digested most of the public parks and play grounds. Drugs and alcohols have diverted our young generation. Government has taken initiative for eradicating drugs and alcohol. It is great. But at the same time younger generation must be diverted to play ground to football. The great love for football that we see every time during world cup can lead to getting back good world days if government can create initiatives at grass root. Every year age group football competitions are arranged. But who follows. Every year National football Championship are held but who cares to follow. These days’ people do not even follow Dhaka Football league. But in our time a Match between MSC and AKC used to create festival.
Football must be spread to all districts and upozillas. But for doing that BFF must be truly representative. During BFF election, crores of Taka are spent for winning position. There is rat race. But BFF is not made accountable. Years after years the same persons keep talking big but of no avail.
Prime Minister is doing a lot for sports even. She must get the performance of BFF objectively assessed. These must be performance based.
If Football can be spread all over the country, creating infrastructure for organized coaching and competitions, If football at school level can be developed and football leagues made truly professional Bangladesh can reach Asian standard in 10 years. But for that we need at least 10 committed football loving patriots in BFF. Our immediate target should be rising to the top among SAF nations. In 2022 48 teams would participate in World Cup. Definitely the quota of Asia Pacific would increase from 5 to 8 based on admirable performance of Japan, Korea and Iran. Bangladesh must plan big for qualifying from now. With huge popularity of Football it is still not beyond our grasp.
BDST: 1748 HRS, JULY 2, 2018