Sk Russel's finest hour
Sheikh Russel players celebrate after their 2-1 win against Shiekh Jamal Dhanmondi Club at the Bangabandhu National Stadium on Wednesday. The victory confirmed Russel's maiden Bangladesh Premier League title. Photo: Star
Change has been the order of country's football for quite some time. Domestic football titles are no longer an exclusive property of two popular outfits that are Abahani and Mohammedan.
Two seasons back, Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club emerged from no where to win the Bangladesh Premier League.
On Wednesday night at the Bangabandhu National Stadium the professional football league produced a new champions when Sheikh Russel Krira Chakra came from behind to beat Sheikh Jamal 2-1.
And immediately after the triumph, Sheikh Russel's inspirational coach Maruful Haque dedicated the title to his critics.
"I want to dedicate this title to my critics who never considered me as a coach," said Maruf acidly. He did not point his finger at anybody but it is understood that he was referring to a club he parted ways with three years ago in a most painful fashion.
The prestigious title triumph meant Sheikh Russel achieved a rare treble in a season after Mohammedan did it in 2002 by winning the Federation Cup, Premier League and National Football League titles.
But Maruf wants to rate this title above everything.
"Winning a league title is equal to 10 tournament trophies and I have been waiting for this since 2008," said an elated Maruf.
The 42-year-old coach said dedication, willingness, hard-work, discipline and finally positive response from the players were the key behind the success, and these were aplenty in their penultimate match where Nigerian Alfred Emoefe gave Sheikh Jamal a 38-minute lead before winger Zahid Hossain levelled the margin from close range nine minutes into the second half.
It was also fitting that striker Zahid Hasan Emily sealed the title five minutes from time, leaving Sheikh Russel with an unassailable 35 points from 15 matches, six and seven clear of second-placed Abahani and third-placed Sheikh Jamal DC.
Emily was overjoyed after hitting the winning goal that also made him a player who has been a key figure in all three clubs to win the professional football league title.
"It is a unique achievement in my playing career to win a treble in a season. We all worked hard in trying conditions for the last eight months and I want to thank coach Maruf bhai for keeping all of us in a thread," said Emily who has struck 17 goals this season.
For Sheikh Russel it's a dream come true season.
Since their arrival in the top-flight football in 2003, Sheikh Russel could only finish second behind champions Brothers in the now defunct Premier League. But since then they could never prove their potential until the 2012-13 season which they made their own after clinching the club's first trophy -- the Federation Cup -- and then the Independence Cup before the coveted Bangladesh Premier League that Abahani won four times and Sheikh Jamal once.
With one game still to go, Sheikh Russel have set a high standard this season by winning 22 out of 26 games they played. They drew the other two games against two defeats.