Bangladesh U-15 boy's football team began its preparation for the upcoming SAFF U-15 Championship at Sheikh Kamal Stadium in Nilphamari yesterday, 10 weeks before the start of the regional age-group championship in Nepal.
Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) picked 34 footballers from July's trial, where some 500 budding footballers from across the country took part in a two-day trial, but the game's governing body took nearly six weeks to start the residential training camp for those selected.
These boys are not as fortunate as their female compatriots as the female footballers are registering strong wins against their South Asian counterparts, thanks to a round-the-year residential training.
For the boys though, the scenario is completely different. The BFF is seemingly not as serious with the boys and, as a result, they cannot even beat the academy-based sides of India and Nepal at this level.
Since the introduction of the SAFF U-16 Championship in 2011, which later turned into an under-15 affair, Bangladesh have never beaten Nepal. The Bangladesh team lost against their Nepalese counterparts twice in semifinals and once in a third-placing deciding match while they lost against India twice in group-stage matches even though they managed to beat them 4-2 in a tiebreaker in the 2015 final in Sylhet.
The boys in red and green proved their worth at this level by winning the title of the SAFF U-16 Championship in Sylhet on the back of 10 months of rigorous training at the BFF academy in Sylhet.
But that academy does not exist anymore and there is no development programme for the young boys, who are being picked as raw talent and given two to three months of training ahead of international assignments. And eventually these boys disappear from the scene due to a lack of international engagement.
In the last edition of the SAFF U-15 Championship, the boys beat Sri Lanka 4-0 and Bhutan and 3-0, but they were beaten 2-4 by Nepal in semifinals before finishing third with a 8-0 win over Bhutan. Afterwards, those boys, under the guidance of Parvez Babu, lost to Yemen 2-0 before beating Qatar by a 2-0 margin in the AFC U-16 Championship Qualifiers. They eventually narrowly missed out on qualification for the final round due to goal difference.
Parvez has once again been given the responsibility to guide the under-15 side. He is optimistic about grooming the players within two-and-a-half months, but not confident enough about beating Nepal and India in the championship.
“India and Nepal follow more systematic and planned ways and they have started training for this championship from January. So the grooming of the players in those two countries is better than ours. The players in those countries develop a good understanding among themselves due to long-term training,” Babu said. “If you conduct long-term training, players improve and react better on the pitch, compared to those who get less training.”
While India and Nepal are fielding their academy-based players in age-level tournaments, Bangladesh arrange open trails with unknown players, who play football at their own interest, owing to no school or youth football tournaments across the country.
“It would have been better had we got all academy-based players, but what we have is some players who train at academies in different districts and some players who are from BKSP. It is too early to comment on the current squad, but I will be able to make a comment about their standing after a couple of weeks of training,” the former national footballer said, adding that they will be conducting uninterrupted training till the championship starts on October 25 in Nepal.