Four new players have secured places in the preliminary squad of the Bangladesh national football team ahead of the Joint Qualifiers of Qatar World Cup and China Asian Cup, and their journeys to drawing the attention of head coach Jamie Day tell varied stories of ascension to the coveted level.
Finland-born Tariq Raihan Kazi is perhaps the most accomplished of the lot as the 20-year-old defender represented Finland's U-17 and U-19 teams. Finland's senior team qualified for the 2020 European Championship (postponed due to Covid-19). The three others -- winger Mathiws Bablu of Bangladesh Police, striker Suman Reza of Uttar Baridhara Club and midfielder Nazmul Islam Rasel of Bangladesh Police -- all have different tales.
"The dream of playing for the national team vanished when I took the police job in 2017, but my dream has come true because of Bangladesh Police team's promotion to the Bangladesh Premier League. It gave me the platform to showcase my skills again," Bablu told The Daily Star over phone from Dinajpur, adding that he had struck three goals -- one in the Federation Cup and two in the Premier League -- for Police.
Having completed the training, Bablu joined the Police football team in 2018 to play the Bangladesh Championship League. He had played top-flight football before, for two seasons with Team BJMC in 2014-15 and 2015-16, after catching the eye of Team BJMC management while playing for their U-18 team in the youth tournament. Bablu had also trained at Sheikh Jamal DC Academy for two years and was picked for the BFF football academy in Sylhet in 2012.
Like Bablu, Suman Reza played football across Tangail as a player on hire before joining Bangladesh Air Force as a soldier in 2015. He never played any lower division or age-group tournament in Dhaka but got a call after playing only six matches in the top-flight.
"I had hoped to draw the attention of the coach by performing well throughout the season, but I have unexpectedly been called up for the preliminary squad. I can't express my feelings… every footballer dreams of playing for the national team," Reza told The Daily Star.
The 25-year-old Reza, a striker, first drew the attention of Uttar Baridhara Club during an inter-service football match at Bangabandhu National Stadium in 2016 and since then he has been with Uttar Baridhara Club.
The 25-year-old Rasel, hailing from Tangail, has come this far through a football process as he was a BKSP student and represented Bangladesh at age-group teams.
"I heard a rumour before that I had been in the squad and finally it turned true yesterday [Sunday] through an official announcement. As I represented the age-group teams, I also dreamed of playing in the national team. I was satisfied with my performance in the Federation Cup and League and was hoping to get a call-up to the national team," said Rasel.
All three players are looking forward to securing their places in the final squad for the World Cup Qualifiers by giving more than hundred percent because they all know that getting a call to the preliminary squad is just the first step and they have to outshine the trusted ones, who have been representing the national team for a long time.