The Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) has taken the surprising decision to not send the national women’s team to December’s South Asian (SA) Games in Nepal, citing the considerable difference in ages between Bangladeshi footballers and opposition players.
The game’s local governing body communicated their decision on Sunday to the Bangladesh Olympic Association (BOA), which is taking charge of the athletes participating across 23 disciplines in the regional multi-sport extravaganza. The Bangladesh team has scooped the bronze medal twice since women’s football was introduced during the Dhaka SA Games in 2010.
“It is a very simple matter. You all know that our senior women’s team are not at that standard because everyone, barring Sabina Khatun, are junior players. So, there is about a 10 to 12-year age gap between the players of Bangladesh and those of India and Nepal. It is not possible to produce good results at that level,” BFF executive member and women’s committee chairman Mahfuza Akter Kiron told The Daily Star.
“We won the bronze medal in 2010. Should we go to SA Games for bronze again?” questioned Kiron, who is an executive member of FIFA and AFC. “It is not that we will take part in the SA Games only when the team has the capacity to become champions. Instead, we want to send the team after reducing the difference in standards between our players and those of our opponents. It is tough to compete with an age difference of 10 to 12 years but I think the girls will reach a certain level within the next two to three years.”
Asked whether the women’s team would refrain from taking part in the SAFF Women’s Championship, which will also feature the same opponents from the sub-continent, Kiran said: “No, we will consider sending them to the SAFF Women’s Championship. I believe the players will grow in maturity before the next SAFF Championship.”
However, players such as Masura Parvin, Misrat Jahan Moushumi, Krishna Rani Sarker, Israt Jahan Swapna, Sheuli Azim, Israt Jahan Ratna and Sanjida Akter are above U-18 and U-19 level and there is no domestic league or tournament through which they can hone their skills and earn experience.
The same group of girls took part in the 5th SAFF Women’s Championship last March in Nepal and played against the hosts and Sri Lanka in the group stage. They reached the semifinals, where they were beaten 4-0 by eventual champions India.
Another team, comprising most of these girls, surprised everyone and became runners-up in the 4th SAFF Women’s Championship in 2016, holding the mighty India to a 0-0 draw in the group stage.
It is almost a certainty that the girls are strong contenders for the bronze and any upset in the group stages may even give them hopes of a silver medal in the upcoming SA Games.
“Participating or not is an internal decision of the respective federation. If they feel that they can’t produce good result in the Games, then we have nothing to say because we always discourage teams who can’t produce good results,” BOA general secretary Sayed Shahed Reza said.