AKM Nowsheruzzaman, a beacon in the country's football history, passed away on Monday night following complications from Covid-19, but he will forever remain in the hearts of those who were lucky enough to see his enthralling football.
He was a natural athlete, with that unique all-round ability to do well in any sport. He would go on to play cricket for Mohammedan, but football was always closest to his heart. It was the combined love for the game and his country that saw him represent Bangladesh as a member of the Swadhin Bangla Football Team in 1971 -- a team that played a role in creating international awareness and raising fund by playing exhibition football matches in India during the War of Independence.
When travelling down the memory lane of the golden days of football, people recall with fondness the spectacle of watching Nowsheruzzaman's instinct as a striker. He came from a footballing family, with all five brothers featuring in the Dhaka League. A student of Dhaka University, Nowsheruzzaman transmitted joy among his fans as well as his peers. "He began his career at Fire Service and I had the opportunity to watch him closely, having played with him in different teams. He was very talented and very lively. His whole family was very jovial. He was very intelligent and would read the game, how to position himself very well," Golam Sarwar Tipu, former captain and coach of Bangladesh national football team, reminisced.
"But the biggest thing is that he was an immensely good person. He was very amicable and he would talk at the top of his lungs and enjoy himself," Tipu added.
Nowsheruzzaman was the first footballer to score for Bangladesh abroad during Swadhin Bangla Football Team's India tour. The striker became the top-scorer in the league in 1975. That season Mohammedan went on to win the league and he scored two hattricks. He showed his talent in cricket too, primarily as an opening batsman. After independence, Mohammedan became champions for the first time, with Nowsheruzzaman playing a notable innings with the bat. "He carried the bat through the innings on a few occasions," his cousin Sayeed Uz Zaman, a sports journalist, recalled. "Although he was a natural athlete, his focus was on football and cricket. We, the family members, are all very proud of him."
Nowsheruzzaman is one legendary name in the country's sports fraternity but he always held a regret that the Swadhin Bangla Football Team never got the recognition it deserved.
"During the liberation war, the Swadhin Bangla Football team raised a lot of money for the refugees. In Nadia (West Bengal), they demanded the flag of Bangladesh be raised or else they wouldn't take the field in what was the first match of the Swadhin Bangla team. He regretted the fact that the team was never recognised, .that there was no national award for the team," Abdul Gaffar, who played for Dhaka Abahani, Dhaka Mohammedan and Dhaka Wanderers, said.
Separate namaz-e-janazas were held at his residence in Moghbazar and at the Bangabandhu National Stadium with former national footballers in attendance. His last janaza was held at Badarpur, Chandpur before he was laid to rest with a guard of honour.