After the national U-23 team's 3-1 win over Bangladesh Army in recent a practice match, head coach Lodewijk de Kruif expressed his concern over the backline, which looked ill at ease and leaked an embarrassing goal in the second half.
The defence, especially the centre-back position, which used to be the strength of Bangladesh national team for a long time since independence, started to look vulnerable in the early 2000s. Rajani Kanta Barman and Mohammad Sujan were probably the two last recognizable centre-backs, but since the departure of those two, no one has really looked comfortable in that position.
Ariful Islam came with some promise but his frequent injury thwarted his progress while striker-turned-defender Nasir Chowdhury, young Yeasin Khan, Kesto Kumar and teenager Tutul Hossain Badsha are trying to make an impression, but certainly not with great assurance.
Former national team's midfielder and current Muktijoddha Sangsad coach Shafiqul Islam Manik feels the lack of opportunities for local defenders in professional league matches is the reason they cannot develop into solid defenders.
"The clubs and the football federation together will have to think about this. The clubs pin their hopes on foreign centre-backs, which is why local defenders can't develop match temperament and thus struggle in international matches," said Manik. "We have a few good players in right-back, left-back and midfield positions only because they are getting regular opportunity to play in at the club level."
Most of the big clubs in the premier league are banking on foreigners in those crucial positions these days. Abahani have been using Ghanaian stopper Samad Yousuf for the last five seasons while Mohammedan, too, have used foreign stoppers for five out of the last seven seasons. The same is true for Brothers and Muktijoddha and the minnows, too, are following suit.
Echoing Manik's sentiments, former national team's defender Jewel Rana said there is a shortages of quality defenders due to the lack of competitions at district level and also due to the plethora of foreign defenders at club level.
"A player should have the experience of playing 100 to 150 matches before joining a professional league club but now a days they spend one or two seasons in lower leagues before playing in the professional league and thus they come in top level competition less matured.
"A defender will mature only if he gets chance to play but they are not getting enough opportunity at the top level due to foreign players," opined the former defender, adding that he had spent five seasons at lower level competitions before joining the then premier division side Muktijoddha Sangsad in 1988.