Isdair class of 2011
Isdair Rabeya Hossain High School of Narayanganj emerged undefeated champions of the National School Football Tournament after they defeated Kathirhat High School of Chittagong 4-3 in a gruelling final on the soggy pitch of the Bangabandhu National Stadium yesterday.
The school which produced the runners-up in the Bangabandhu Primary Gold Cup two years ago went one better in the senior group as they overcame a stiff challenge from the Chittagong school in normal time (1-1) and in extra time before clinching the victory in tiebreakers.
The incessant rain before the kick-off and the consequent waterlog did little to dampen the enthusiasm of the kids who have battled all the way through the upazila, zila, and divisional levels to get to the final. Isdair had won 15 matches on their way to the final conceding just a single goal while their opposition team Kathirhat too had won all 13 matches that they played.
Isdair, a school rich in football tradition which produced national stars like Mithun Chowdhury and other premier league stars, started at blistering pace despite the soggy pitch. They got an early breakthrough in the 10th minute when Mithu teed off a freekick for the match's best player, midfielder Rabbi, to slot in from the edge of the box and into the far corner of the net.
The celebration that followed was something to behold, as the youngsters from Narayongonj splashed in the shin deep mud by the sidelines. Kathirhat got back into the match after going a goal down and consistently threatened to get the equaliser before they got it in the 43rd minute when Abdullah converted a penalty kick. The pitch got even muddier as the game wore on and the boys struggled to penetrate the opposition back line. The second half and the 20 minutes of extra time failed to add any more goals as both teams dominated fairly equal possession before the usual intrigue that penalty shoot outs generate.
The two goalkeepers had most of the say in the shootout, as Rony saved two of the penalties for Isdair while his opposite number Shahjahan made a superb save before he had to take one on his own. Had this kick gone in, the tiebreakers would have gone into a sudden death, but Shahjahan's thunderous effort went straight at his opposite number, bringing an end to a gruelling final and an eight-month journey which began across 4800 schools of the country in December 2011.
The winners, for their effort received a cheque of Tk.10 lakh while the runners up got half the amount. The man of the final Rabbi Hossain, who scored the opener to take his tournament tally to five, received Tk 1 lakh.
Isdair's coach and its chairman of governing council were overcome with emotions at this victory. The coach Mahmud Hossain Sujan said it was a dream-come-true for them.
“We offer free studentship to the boys who are good in sports. These boys do a lot of hard work, come to training on foot, but their devotion to football is exemplary. The boy who won the ma-of-the-match, Rabbi, is very poor as he is the son of a tempu (human hauler) driver. Boys like these are our inspiration”, said Sujan.
Rabbi said he it was his dream to win the man of the final award and that he wants to contribute this sum to his family.
Earlier, the match started after dignitaries -- Minister of Education Nurul Islam Nahid, representatives of chief sponsors Islami Bank Limited, co-sponsors Plan Bangladesh and Lotto, BFF president Kazi Salahuddin and other dignitaries -- kicked the ball from the penalty spot against the two goalkeepers to mark a festive start to the final. Little did they know that the final would also end in shoot-outs.