Football is the author of Cinderella stories; whether it is Iceland reaching the quarter finals in the Euros and qualifying for the World Cup or Gabriel Jesus going from painting streets only four years ago to spearheading the Brazilian national team's attack on the biggest stage, football has its own unique way of amusing people with tales of joy. We have our very own version of such a success story today, the story of “Plaantik”.
In a time when the only sources of football news in Bangladesh were limited to online UK tabloids, clickbait articles, and generic football “meme” pages waging a pointless Ronaldo versus Messi war in their comment sections, “Plaantik” emerged with content that a new breed of football fans direly needed. It became the first platform in Bangladesh to not only bring authentic and credible news related to football but also broadcast the opinions of the modern day fans. Football suddenly morphed into a sense of community and belongingness.
There is hardly a football fan in our country online who is not acquainted with the presence of “Plaantik”. Although Plaantik came to the forefront through Facebook, it started off as more than a sports page. Four young football fanatics, Aarony Zade, Abir Ahmed Chowdhury, Majed Ul Huq (who has since moved on to other ventures), and Tawsif Akkas, decided to make a "one stop website" for all things football in Bangladesh. Unlike most stories, they barely knew each other and the one thing that connected them was their undying love for the sport.
In 2011, Plaantik was launched, and it was named after the often-colloquial pronunciation of a 'penalty kick'. “We wanted to have a name that was local and unique. So, when someone hears the word Plaantik, they know it is a Bangladeshi thing and it has got something to do with football,” says Tawsif, one of the co-founders. Bizarrely enough, Plaantik managed to do exactly that just a year after the launch. It was quite surreal for all Bangladeshi football fans to hear ESPN (and later John Dykes) give shout-outs to Plaantik. The distorted yet beloved term coined in the houses of a sports-loving nation had finally made its way onto the global stage. What further cemented Plaantik's place in the hearts of its fans is the way Plaantik has been patronising football in our country ever since its inception.
In 2014, the Plaantik team decided that they needed to become more than just an entity on social media and changed their approach altogether. They began to team up with big brands in the country for special events that cater to the football fans. Partnered with Banglalink and Magnito Digital, “Football Fiesta 2014” was one their most successful campaigns during this period.
Furthermore, their digital focus became more international. Currently, Plaantik operates as a “media company” dedicated to providing a 360-degree experience for the modern-day football fans. From promoting local football in Bangladesh to highlighting the football subculture of Europe, Plaantik creates an immersive world for passionate football fans through informative, entertaining, and engaging content and events.
This has been one of the key factors that set Plaantik apart. Instead of staying confined to just rummaging through the glamorous football news and international updates, Plaantik also delves into the unexplored world of Bangladesh's football. This unique blend of content ensures that the fans always eagerly come back and experience the beautiful vastness of the footballing world. From vlogs that explore Europe and engaging Instagram stories to collaborating on Facebook videos and generating insightful podcasts, Plaantik has a diverse array of content for both the casual and the die-hard fans. So, while there are many sport-based companies and social media entities that cater to the masses, Plaantik can also focus on the serious football fanbase. This cuts through the hostility of mindless banter and offers us a way to experience a larger-than-life atmosphere that would not have been possible otherwise from the sanctity of our homes.
Plaantik has taken several innovative initiatives over the past few years. Projects like “Football Lives” (a short film with The Bengali Filmmakers) and the recent 8-bit streetfighter-style UCL promos add a unique spin to the conventional posts we are used to seeing. Plaantik has also started a series of interviews of foreign players playing in the Bangladesh Football Premier League to show how they perceive the football scene in Bangladesh. Furthermore, the Plaantik does match-day vlogs covering games in Europe and did one recently in Bangladesh to showcase the comparison of football in the various regions. They also travelled to Nepal in the 2013 SAFF games and covered the Bangladesh national team in the tournament. These unconventional initiatives are pivotal in inspiring a new generation of football fans to be more aware and updated about our local brand of football.
Shadman Ul Karim, a final year undergrad student and an avid football enthusiast expressed his optimism, “Plaantik is probably one of my most favourite Facebook pages from Bangladesh. Even beyond social media, Plaantik's presence in other tournaments and events is so great to see; they are always trying out new things. The football scene in Bangladesh is not anywhere near what we want it to be but I feel like Plaantik can be a huge catalyst to help us get somewhere commendable, a much-required change in the mentality. I would love to see Plaantik continue doing more for local football."
However, staying relatable and riding popular trends in this fast-paced industry, comes with its own set of challenges. Timing is of utmost essence here. So, it can become incredibly difficult on an individual level as every member of the team has to be online almost ALL the time. Plaantik wants to assure the fans, “If you are up at 4 am watching a Serie A game, we are too.” It currently has 19 members spread throughout 5 countries across the world working round the clock. According to Tawsif, coordinating and managing the whole crew on a regular basis and ensuring not a single update is missed in any social media platform can be very challenging at times too.
Ahnaf Ahmed is a content creator and host of Plaantik's newly launched 'the Double-A show'. Ahnaf remarked, “Being a part of a team, which is trying its best to revitalise football in Bangladesh with limited resources is quite challenging and yet, very satisfying. It is also refreshing to see how people have always supported us, and long may it continue.”
Tawsif shed some light on Plaantik's upcoming plans, “Right now, we are fully geared up for the World Cup. We have a couple of web series lined up, a mini-documentary and of course month-long campaigns just in the next few weeks. However, we are also looking ahead after the World Cup, so we have started making plans for the next season already. We would like to venture towards the world of publication at some point next season and that is an idea we have played with for a very long time. We would also like to expand further internationally.”
Looking ahead to the future vision for Plaantik, Tawsif added, “Currently, we have partnered up with many universities, schools and organisations to organise tournaments to promote the actual sport amongst youth. We haven't pushed this aspect as much as we would like to, but this is something we want to work on in the future. Someday, we also want to have our own football foundation. We have talked about it a lot but we do not want to bite off more than what we can chew at the moment. But then again, 'you can't win the raffle if you don't buy the ticket', as Andy Townsend would say.”
Nafis Imtiaz Onish believes grinning is the answer to everything and avidly loves art, astronomy & all things nerdy. Send him Carl Sagan fan art at firstname.lastname@example.org