When will national school football start?
After Bangladesh national football team's debacle against Bhutan in the Asian Cup Qualifying play-offs, there have been some bold recommendations from all stakeholders to concentrate on grassroots and youth development in a bid to strengthen the pipelines for the senior national teams.
The Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) has also responded well by including some programmes for grassroots and youth level in the much-talked-about four-year calendar. However, the game's governing body is clearly struggling to maintain the calendar.
The BFF has already completed the conditioning camp of the national team and the second Division Football League is going on as per schedule. They have deferred the Under-18 National Football Championship from January to March to allow special training for the participating district teams, but they are seemingly inactive about holding the National School Championships, which was supposed to start from February 1.
“We cannot hold the school championship due to a financial crisis even though I have already placed three proposals to start the tournament from union, upazila or district level,” School Tournament Committee chairman Bijon Barua said. “We will need some Tk 2.5 to 3 crore to start the tournament from upazila level while we will need Tk 1 crore to start the tournament with one school each from 64 districts.”
The former national goalkeeper added: “As far as I know the expenditure of the school tournament has been included in the FIFA Forward Programme which is supposed to be approved at the meeting of the FIFA development committee later this month.”
“If I am provided with the funds now, I can start the tournament in March as I have completed the groundwork,” said Bijon, who had successfully arranged the Pioneer Football League four times over three-and-a-half years.
Bijon, however, believes that the country's football will not develop unless the school football tournament is held regularly.
“It is hard to develop the country's football without school football, a stage from where many famous footballers including some BFF officials emerged in the past. It is beyond imagination that players now get a chance in the national team without playing school, district and divisional football competitions,” opined Bijon.