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         Volume 11 |Issue 20| May 18, 2012 |


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Back to the Hot Seat

Kazi Salahuddin has been re-elected as the president of the Bangladesh Football Federation. Senior sports correspondent, BISHWAJIT ROY, analyses the battles that lie ahead for the legendary footballer.

Bangladesh football is on the cusp of a new dawn with the arrival of Kazi Salahuddin to the hot seat of the Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF). The legendary footballer's charisma has revived hope among the football lovers after the once-most-popular sport in the country was in a state of doldrums. One can't say that he has disappointed his fans after the way football was run during his first four years in office. True, he promised to bring back the glory days of the game in the country and he still has a long way to go before fulfilling it; but one can't argue with the fact that the beautiful game has gotten a lifeline with his presence at the top. The ever-optimistic Salahuddin might have achieved many things in his first term as a BFF president, but those achievements merely indicated what he could eventually achieve if given more time. He got the mandate to run the country's football for another term when he was re-elected the president unopposed in the recently concluded BFF election. There is no doubt that he is the right man to bring back the glory days of Bangladesh football. Every football fan wishes for his success because it is unimaginable what may transpire if he fails.

Will Salahuddin’s second term bring any change to the country’s football scenario?

Salahuddin kept his promise by keeping the ball rolling throughout the year. Football was starving for money as the big corporate houses hardly showed any interest in the game; but things changed drastically as the BFF banked on Salahuddin's charismatic leadership to attract big corporate sponsors such as Citycell, Nokia and Grameenphone. The crore-taka Super Cup was the highlight of the Salahuddin era. Hosting the international friendly between Argentina and Nigeria took Bangladesh's football to new heights. Salahuddin's vibrant leadership has also strengthened the country's alliance with FIFA, which paved the way for Bangladesh to take maximum advantage towards the development of the game in the country.

There were, however, some pressing issues which weren't resolved during his first term as president; as such, it can be said that familiar challenges await Salahuddin over the next four years. Below are the issues that Salahuddin struggled with during his first tenure:

The BFF president promises to develop the game at the grassroots level. Photos: Star File
Salahuddin after winning the elections.

The vacant seats in the stadium were the most unedifying scene in his first tenure. The existing competitions have failed to draw a sizeable crowd to the stadium.

Football was basically based in Dhaka. There was a problem with the lower league competitions, the connecting league between the top tier and first division, and broken links between age-level teams.

BFF's different wings have failed to function properly. Lack of resourcefulness of the incumbent members and internal politics within the federation have disturbed its progress.

Therefore, Salahuddin must take a long look at the challenges to fulfill the expectations during his second term in the BFF office. He has to revive football at the grassroots level. It will be his main challenge to make the District Football Associations (DFAs) functional again, most of which are run by politically motivated committees.

The BFF president must concentrate on ensuring a proper pipeline for the national team and there is no alternative to a football academy. He should appoint a quality foreign coach for the national team with a long-term vision for improvement. In addition, the BFF must ensure international friendlies to keep the players and coaching staffs in good touch.

He must also note the acute shortage of football grounds in Dhaka. The BNS and the stadium at Kamalapur have become the expected venue for every football tournament in the capital. But without alternative venues, the BFF simply can't stick to the calendar.

The absence of a professional set-up is another setback for Salahuddin. Without professionalism, one simply can't achieve one's goal, so Salahuddin must make sure he has the proper set-up to fulfill his dream.

Salahuddin, however, made realistic promises in his election manifesto. He made three commitments: to initiate football at the district level, start the proposed football academy soon and make the national team a strong one. "The hardest challenge for me would be to take the game to the next level. However, I will accept anyone who wants to extend his support in order to achieve my goals," said Salahuddin after the victory in the election.

There is a saying that “A single leaf working alone provides no shade”; Salahuddin's success not only depends on his own initiatives but also on his colleagues' performances.

But everybody would love to see Salahuddin achieve his goals so that the beautiful game gets back its old, rich flavour.



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