The Pioneer Football League, considered the breeding stage for aspiring footballers, has not been held for nearly two years since the final between King Star SC and Mirpur Sports and Physical Culture Centre took place in November, 2017.
The Pioneer League had the reputation of producing star footballers such as Monem Munna, Rummon Bin Wali Sabbir, Samrat Hossain Emily, Imtiaz Ahmed Nakib, Jakir Hossain, Alfaz Ahmed, Jewel Rana, Golam Gaus, Masud Rana and Mahbub Hossain Roxy in the past, but the same platform is now closed for those who dream to be future stars.
The league is a stage where some 2000 aspiring footballers from nearly 80 clubs get opportunity to showcase their talent and catch the attention of coaches of upper league clubs to climb the ladder in Dhaka-based leagues as football in most districts are all but on life-support.
Though the Pioneer League, during the second term of BFF president Kazi Salahuddin, was held on regular basis from 2012 to 2016, but it has only been held once in three years during Salahuddin’s third term.
Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) always gave attention to the upper leagues, especially the Bangladesh Premier League and the Bangladesh Championship League, but it shows little care about the lower leagues which are needed to maintain a proper pipeline. This happened due to either BFF’s reluctance or financial constraints. The game’s local governing body added the Pioneer League in the 2019-2020 calendar during June and July, but is still no visible initiative to hold it.
“We will sit with the clubs after Eid-ul-Adha and start searching venues in Dhaka. Then we will start the league,” Pioneer league committee’s deputy chairman Amit Khan Shuvro told The Daily Star. “We could not hold the league last year because of the national elections but this time we are determined to hold it with under-15 players so that the players can be selected for the national team ahead of SAFF U-15 Championship and AFC U-16 Championship Qualifiers.”
Having echoed the same sentiment, BFF general secretary Abu Nayeem Shohag said, “Money is there for the Pioneer League as we have already received Tk 20 lakh from two city corporations.”
The game’s governing local body earlier put the pioneer football league under FIFA Forward programme by which the federation spends its own money and then collect the fund from the FIFA. But the BFF is not interested to do so this time.
“Yes, we held the Pioneer League under FIFA Forward programme once, but it is a very lengthy process to collect money from FIFA. Besides, we don’t have much financial support to spend money behind the league and then collect it from FIFA,” said Shohag.
It is mentionable here that the Pioneer League has, in recent past, produced national players like midfielder Mohammad Abdullah and forward Jafar Iqbal.