The country's former national footballers are bearing internal bleeding after having watched Bangladesh's timid surrender to lightweights Bhutan in their Asian Cup Play-off Qualifiers on Monday and they partly laid the blame for the 'unacceptable defeat' on the lack of quality players.
Although no former footballers are ready to accept the defeat against Bhutan, the present condition of the national football team has not reached its nadir overnight. While once there were good replacements in all positions till the early 90s, the players' pipeline has been stagnating for a long time. It is a harsh truth that none of the players of current bunch are really capable of competing at the international level with their poor skills, positional sense, technique and knowledge.
“I am really shocked and shattered by the defeat. It is not acceptable that the footballers, who have been earning millions from the domestic circuit, can lose to a team like Bhutan. To be truthful, I don't want to introduce myself as a footballer,” said former national team footballer Hasanuzzaman Khan Bablu, a midfielder who made a great contribution in Bangladesh's second-place finish in the inaugural President's Cup in Dhaka.
“There is not a single player in the current team of our calibre and it is also true that the footballers do not seem to have any feelings after such defeat,” said Bablu, who played in the 70s and early 80s. “However the higher-ups of the football federation and the clubs cannot avert their responsibility for such consequence.”
“I never dreamt of a defeat against Bhutan. It is a totally unexpected result but it is the outcome of not having a proper plan of development,” said Sheikh Mohammad Aslam, a national striker who was well known for his powerful side-volleys and trademark headers.
Having said that there is no match-winning striker at the moment, the former Abahani striker added: “Now the players are very weak technically and they are not willing to sharpen their technique through individual training. A striker can only demonstrate his best when he is super fit, but they lack willingness to be a good striker.”
However, former national captain Jewel Rana believes that Bangladesh would not lose to Bhutan again if they played with proper plan.
“It is painful for me as a former footballer but I believe the standard of Bangladesh football has not fallen that far. However the defeat against Bhutan is not acceptable. I think there was a lack of a proper plan and tactics as our footballer are not fit for hit-and-run football. The players don't have that physique or technique to pick up this type of style within a few days,” said Jewel, who guided the national team to win the SAF Games gold medal in 1999.
Jewel believes a centre-back has a lot of roles in the match as he synchronizes with the wing-backs as well as the midfielders, and said it was problematic that Bangladesh do not have any permanent centre-backs in the team.
“It is a big problem that we don't have a permanent centre-back who is a leader as a lot of players have been used in this position recently. It is an obvious duty for a defender to cover the position of his goalkeeper when the keeper goes to negotiate the ball in their air but I don't see it from the defenders who stick to the post during set-pieces,” said Jewel, one of the best central defenders the country has produced.
“I feel empty after the defeat and it feels like I have lost something,” said recognized striker Alfaz Ahmed, who had struck five goals for Mohammedan against Laos Electric in the Asian Cup championship encounter in 1996 and thus was named the player-of-the-month across Asia by the AFC.
“Now no one can dream to be a striker due to the presence of the foreign strikers at every club at the top level. Aside from that, there is no competition among the strikers, so they can't hone their skills. I think the BFF should stop allowing foreign strikers for the next three years and see what happens and give a coach some time to build a team,” said Alfaz.
“I can't explain my pain in words. I still can't accept this defeat. I never thought such a thing would happen and I can't understand what happened to the players. But I can say that this group of players is not as mentally strong as our generation's players,” said wing-back Firoz Mahmud Titu, who had struck a brilliant goal against Yugoslavia after overlapping from the left flank.