• Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A year of broken promises

Anisur Rahman
A devastated Bangladesh national footballers hang their heads in disappointment after their exit from the SAFF Championship in September in Nepal, losing their last game against Pakistan 2-1. Photo: Star File
Devastated Bangladesh national footballers hang their heads in disappointment after their exit from the SAFF Championship in September in Nepal, losing their last game against Pakistan 2-1. Photo: Star File

Apart from cricket, which had quite a remarkable year in 2013 in terms of records and achievements, there is precious little to mention when it comes to bringing success for Bangladesh in the international arena. There were some individual success stories of course, but the team games provided more reason to frustrate than to celebrate.
Football and hockey -- two of the more popular sports of the country -- followed an uncannily similar path of success and derailment in the past year. Both sports enjoyed a bit of success early on in the year, hyped up the expectations among the fans and organisers, only to disappoint in the end.
The national football team fared considerably well in the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers in March by becoming runners-up in their group, but missed the flight for the tournament proper through sheer stroke of misfortune. The good performance nevertheless gave the organisers enough encouragement to beef up preparations for the SAFF Championship by dint of appointing a high-profile Dutch coaching staff.
But all the effort and preparation failed to yield any results as Bangladesh finished seventh in the eight-group competition with a single point. The debacle prompted a lot of soul-searching and investigation, though little tangible came out of that.
Hockey, too, had its moment of brilliance. That was in February, in Delhi, when Bangladesh put up a scintillating performance in the World Hockey League (Round-2), beating mighty China and three other sides while giving India and Ireland a run for their money. A foreign coach was appointed to garner further success. But it all went downhill since as in the next assignment in Asia Cup, the same team played quite haplessly and finished seventh out of eight teams.
Conspiracy theories were formed and given credence by the investigation committee. Unlike football, the administrators in hockey came down hard on the players, dishing out various terms of suspension to some of them.
However, the administrators and organisers could be blamed partially for the debacle as they failed to fix the club-versus-club and club-versus-federation power plays, which kept domestic hockey away from the turf throughout the year.

There were no such issues in football as most of the scheduled events -- the Bangladesh Premier League, Bangladesh Championship League, pioneer football league, first and second division football leagues and most of the district leagues – ran fairly smoothly. The rise of Sheikh Russel KC as treble-winners in top-tier football gave further proof that the duopoly of Abahani and Mohammedan is a thing of the past. The star value of one Sony Norde made sure that despite the fading of the two giants, crowds did not desert the galleries altogether.
While success eluded the senior national teams, there was some success for the juniors as the national U-19 football team beat Qatar in the Qualifiers of the AFC U-19 Championship to finish as group runners-up while the national U-16 hockey team became runners-up in the U-16 Asia Cup to qualify for the 2014 Youth Olympics.
There were a few success stories in individual sports. Golfer Siddikur Rahman's second Asian Tour title, ten-year old Fahad Rahman becoming a FIDE Master, a first-ever medal (silver) haul from the Islamic Solidarity Games by archer Emdadul Haque Milon were a few mentionable ones.

Published: 12:01 am Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Last modified: 8:03 pm Tuesday, December 31, 2013

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