Almost everyone believes that when Bangladesh kick off the inaugural Bangamata U-19 Women’s International Gold Cup at the Bangabandhu National Stadium tomorrow, they will be the favourites to lift the trophy.
The hosts, who will take on tournament’s top-ranked United Arab Emirates in their first match, may be one of the bottom-ranked teams as far as FIFA Women’s rankings are concerned, but they are a force to reckon with at age-group level, and that force will come to the fore, everyone believes.
During the pre-tournament press meet at a hotel in Dhaka today, Bangladesh coach Golam Rabbani Chhoton opined that the performance of age-group teams over the past two years should see them as the favourites.
“We have respect for all the teams. All the teams are strong. But if you analyse our performance over the last two years, I think we should be the favourites for the title,” Chhoton said.
“This is a challenge, not a pressure, to be playing at home. We would try our 100 per cent to win the trophy using our experience and skill,” the coach added.
The coach of the UAE team, Houriya Al Taheri, however, claimed that her team is the favourite, but she also reminded everyone of the fact that most of the players of her team are very young – only four 18-year-olds alongside under-16 players. That is similar to the case of the Bangladesh team even though Bangladesh are much stronger than UAE at age-level, which was evident from the 7-0 win for the girls in red and green during the first round of the AFC U-16 Women’s Championship Qualifiers last year.
The group’s other team, Kyrgyzstan, are considered to be the weakest of the three. However, their coach Nataliia Gaivoronskaia claimed that the favourites will be decided based on performance on the pitch, not on paper.
Bangladesh will play their second game against Kyrgyzstan on April 26. Group A features Mongolia, Laos and Tajikistan, and the coaches of all these teams felt Bangladesh are the favourites due to their experience and success at this level.
The coaches and captains of all the countries expressed their gratitude to the Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) for inviting them to be a part of this tournament, which they feel would help develop women’s football in their respective countries. They also thanked the BFF for picking countries from all five zones in the Asian footballing landscape, which would allow teams to compete against teams from beyond their region.
The semifinals will be held on April 29 and 30 while the final will be held on May 3.
The press meet was followed by unveiling of the trophy for the tournament where speaker of Bangladesh’s national parliament Dr. Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury was present as the chief guest. Among the others at the ceremony were FIFA/AFC member and BFF’s women’s wing chairman Mahfuza Akter Kiron, BFF’s senior vice-president Abdus Salam Murshedy, vice-president Kazi Nabil Ahmed, K-Sports CEO Fahad Karim and other members of the BFF, sponsor company and media partners.
The champion team will receive a paycheque of 25,000 dollars while the runners-up team will get 15,000 dollars as prizemoney, the organisers informed. The tickets for the gallery have been priced at Tk 50 while VIP tickets will cost Tk 200. All the matches will be telecast live on RTV, Nagorik TV as well as BTV while there will be live commentary on Radio Foorti, the speakers informed.