With the Bangladesh national football team's training camp under threat after so many footballers tested positive for Covid-19, a group of the U-21 hockey team are all set to start fitness training today after a gap of six months.
Sixteen hockey players took the Covid-19 test on Saturday. Two have tested positive for the virus and will be kept at the Air Force isolation centre in Cantonment. The rest are scheduled to start training at BAF Bangabandhu Base in Dhaka Cantonment.
The fitness training will be the first BHF activity since the outbreak of coronavirus in March as the local game's governing body last organised the Shaheed Smriti Hockey tournament in February. Bangladesh Hockey Federation (BHF) president and Air Chief Marshal Masihuzzaman Serniabat inaugurated the training programme at the BAF Falcon Hall in Tejgaon yesterday.
The infection of footballers has delivered a strong message to other sports federations about the need to allocate substantial time before resuming activities ahead of any official engagements.
With the Asian Junior (U-21) Cup, which was scheduled to be held in June in Dhaka, postponed indefinitely due to the pandemic, there are no engagements for the U-21s on the horizon.
"Of the 36-member preliminary squad, 18 players from different services teams have been in training [amid the pandemic, as they were inside the Cantonment] and their physical condition is also good but the players who are not in services teams have not been in good shape physically, so our president wanted to provide fitness training for those players," said BHF acting general secretary Mohammad Yousuf. "It is actually an isolated physical fitness training which will be held under the supervision of Bangladesh Air Force. Air Force fitness trainers will only focus on fitness and then, if needed, our coaches will join the camp."
After being overlooked, U-21 head coach Mamunur Rashid raised questions about the value of conducting fitness training when players have virtually no target without a tournament on the horizon. Mamun trained the U-21 team since June last year and his charges beat Oman 3-1 in a five-match series in Dhaka early this year.
"I know nothing about the fitness training as the head coach. I think this fitness programme has no value as there is no target for the players. I think such training will rather push players back," said Mamun, who also wondered why coaches cannot join when players from outside can attend the camp in Cantonment.
"We could have sat idle if we wanted amidst the pandemic but did not. I can't see any problems with the fitness training under Air Forces trainers. Sports activities are gradually starting in the country and it is likely to start in full swing within a few months. We are conducting this so that we can resume the preparation of the U-21 team early, soon after we get government permission. Besides, we also want to host the Asian Junior (U-21) Championship, which is also the Junior World Cup Qualifiers, in early 2021," said Yousuf.