<i>12 in the theatre of dreams</i>
Having sat in orderly queues on the football pitch at the Bangladesh Krira Shikkha Protisthan, some 200 budding footballers were staring up intently at the temporary dais. The only common emotion emanating from them was anxiety. Within minutes, the five-week wait would be over and the dream of 12 young boys would come true -- they would get a chance to visit and train at the Manchester United Soccer School under the Airtel Rising Stars Program.
Like all announcements, this too was preceded by drama as the announcer milked his time on the stage. Receiving the first slip of paper he looked at it and only said “Mohammed”. The youngsters clearly didn't have time for this game though and when “Sujoy” was mentioned closely after the first name, there was suddenly an even more rapt silence.
Mohammed Sujoy was stunned for a second, but as all eyes drifted to him, he raised his fist jubilantly in the air and punched it a few times. It was a football celebration for the ages -- the dream of visiting the Red Devils would now come true.
“Initially I could not believe what I heard,” said Sujoy. “I thought that maybe there was someone else by that name, but when no one else responded, I went up to the stage,” said the boy who hails from Kuliarchar of Kishorganj.
“It is the biggest achievement in my life and I think it is a new start for me,” said Sujoy who lives in his grandmother's house ever since his father passed away in 2006.
Razib Hossain, the son of Lungi seller Abdul Malek, burst into tears when his name was announced as the seventh footballer. The student of class seven had sat for his final examination on Saturday and was waiting for the result.
“I didn't expect to get a chance but the dream has come true. Now I can meet Rooney and Nani,” said Razib.
“Now I have to learn the things attentively in the Manchester School,” he said through tears.
Of the 12 lucky footballers, there were three youngsters from BKSP and at the nomination of Mahmudul Hasan Kiron the entire student body of the sports institute broke into applause. The BKSP student who hails from Sherpur raced to first embrace the local coaches before going to the dais.
Kiron dedicated his achievement to one of his friends who had presented him with the Airtel SIM which he had used to register his name for the competition.
“I was a member of a BFF squad which was supposed to play in Denmark but the tour was unfortunately cancelled and I was very disappointed. I later registered myself in the Airtel programme but didn't expect to be one of the lucky 12. Now my dream has finally come true and I will travel to England,” said Kiron.
Mashud Uddin Ahmed and Ripon Kumar Das, both BKSP students, were also part of the 12.
Mashud, who is called Messi by his BKSP teammates, and Ripon had both been continually lauded by their teammates in the Airtel squads in the final and it came as no surprise that both found their way into the England-bound squad.
“I don't know how I managed to take part in the three-hour practice session but I tried my best. Already nine out of 12 names had been announced and I was thinking that my name would not be called. But thankfully I was number 10,” said Ripon who hails from Faridpur.
The vast majority who did not make the final list looked understandably upset initially, but they cheered up soon enough and were seen congratulating the ones who had made it.
“I think that it is not about getting a chance in this team, rather the important thing is that we have learnt from foreign coaches and perhaps it will help us become better footballers in the future,” said Mozammel Hossain Babu adding that he felt that the best 12 had been chosen.
“All 200 of us are the best footballers in the country and it is also a kind of pride for us. But we now want the opportunity to play. I will urge the football federation officials to include us in the different age-level teams. That will make us happy,” said Anik of Barisal.
Half of the 12 selected booters have been in the system for long as they have played different age-level tournaments for junior national teams and some of them are already students of BKSP.
The selected booters are Mohammad Sujoy of Kishorganj, Shafayet Hossain Munna of Cox'z Bazar, Mahmudul Hasan Kiron of Sherpur, Saeed Rakib Khan Evan of Barisal, Faisal Ahmed of Rajshahi, Mizanur Rahman of Chittagong, Razib Hossain of Chittagong, Ibrahim Babu of Cox'z Bazar, Nadim Mahmud Limon of Tangail, Ripon Kumar Das of Faridpur, Mashududdin Ahmed of Chittagong and Mohammad Mithu of Narayanganj.