No point shying away from reality | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 07, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:06 AM, September 07, 2020

No point shying away from reality

"I believe my product (football) will be good in future," legendary footballer Kazi Salahuddin commented during an exclusive interview with The Daily Star two months after he was elected for his first term as president of the Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) in 2008. He added he was treating the high expectations like an extra challenge rather than a burden.

12 years on, how good is his product? Forget the lofty vision that the former national captain and arguably the country's greatest striker had set after taking charge for his second term, when he said: "Our vision is the 2022 World Cup. From now, we are working to reach our target. We can only ask if his product is charming football lovers?

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Pass, move, run, recover possession and don't use your hands; millions of children in the country love to play the beautiful game with such a simple idea. This is not a new-found passion borne out of the explosion of popularity of European leagues; Bangladesh's glorious footballing past drives football-loving people to be engaged in the beautiful game.

Cricket may be the dominant sport in the country now, but nothing quite stirs passion among fans as football does. But alas, only when it comes to international football. Because only playing the game with finesse, agility, strength, speed, intelligence, foresight and style can attract fans.

Nobody knows what qualities are required better than one of the finest footballers the country has produced, but top-flight football in Bangladesh is lagging behind and only a good foundation can help breed those qualities among players. To build that foundation, the country needs good organisers, but questions have been raised whether our beloved footballer is prudent enough in this capacity?

A good foundation and proper planning; therein lies the problem in Bangladesh.

Experts, former players and journalists have written numerous articles regarding what the game's local governing body needs to do to pull the sport out of dire straits. Here, we cannot say much.

Still, The Daily Star's Anisur Rahman spoke to different stakeholders of the game recently, asking them their thoughts on Salahuddin's 12-year tenure, problem behind the doldrums and the future of the game in the country ahead of the elections on October 3 -- when Salahuddin is set to contest a fourth term.

Former national team captain Jewel Rana, renowned organiser Manzoor Hossain Malu, country's lone UEFA A license coach AKM Maruful Haque and football fan Soyeb Hossain Shamim echoed one sentiment: organisational failure is the main reason behind the sorry state of affairs of the game that had dominated Bangladesh's sporting scene for nearly 30 years from mid-1970s to early 2000s.

They all believe Salahuddin has failed to bring any change to football in 12 years at the helm and did little to stop its decline.

We had earlier discussed how Panama's qualification to the 2018 World Cup had been discussed widely in the footballing fraternity of Bangladesh. In 1995, Panama were behind Bangladesh in the FIFA ranking, at 150th whereas Bangladesh were 138th.

However, the standards of domestic football and Bangladesh's current FIFA ranking of 187 with a national team composed of players that Salahuddin claimed were 'all my products' reflect reality. We have been giving examples of neighbouring countries in order to make people at the helm understand their duties but it has all fallen on deaf ears.

Was football fan Shamim being too much of a pessimist when he said that he did not expect football's good days to return in his lifetime?

Out of 10, Salahuddin got four from one interviewee, while another stated he could not "give more than minus". Meanwhile, Salahuddin gave himself 7.5 during an interview with The Daily Star.

It sounded fantastic when he said: "A foundation has been set. With this foundation, now is the time to build a 30-storey building. That's why I want to continue and complete that building."

However, many can argue the part where he said: "There is a difference between dreams and reality."

Maybe this is where the danger for Bangladesh football lies. When responsible people at the helm deny reality, it hinders progress and complicates problems further.

There is no doubt that anybody who recalls the glory days will speak fondly about this stalwart of Bangladesh football, but will they say it with as much affection when it comes to 'organiser Kazi Salahuddin'?


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