The Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) decided to shut down the national team's preparation camp from today following yesterday's postponement of the October and November windows of the joint Qualifiers of the Qatar World Cup and the China Asian Cup.
FIFA and AFC decided to postpone the event in light of the deterioration of the coronavirus situation in Asia and international travel restrictions in various countries. The decision came just nine weeks after AFC had decided to resume the World Cup and Asian Cup Qualifiers in October and November. The qualifiers have been deferred to 2021, but no specific date has been announced.
BFF had taken the initiative to resume the training after a four-and-a-half-month gap due to the pandemic. The boys in red and green then suffered a big blow after 18 out of 24 players tested Covid-19 positive on August 5 and 6 even after 15 of them had brought negative test results as part of the pre-requisite to joining the camp.
FIFA and AFC may have taken the high rate of infection within the Bangladesh preliminary squad into account when deciding to postpone the qualifiers for the second time in six months.
The first postponement was made on March 9 and this decision also put the fate of the upcoming AFC Cup in jeopardy, although the group matches are scheduled to take place in a centralised venue with Bangladesh Premier League champions Bashundhara Kings starting their campaign in Maldives from Oct 23.
In the qualifiers, Bangladesh were supposed to host Afghanistan on October 8 before travelling to Qatar to play against the defending champions on October 13. Bangladesh were also scheduled to play two home matches against India and Oman on November 12 and 17 respectively.
After the glut of positive results, BFF initiated second and third tests for 30 players and six officials on August 10 at iccdr,b and Praava Healthcare, who collected the samples from the training camp at Sarah Resorts in Gazipur and in the latest reports only seven players tested positive.
All seven players had earlier tested positive at BSMMU while 11 others players and one coach, who were also earlier tested positive, tested Covid-19 negative within a gap of four to five days.
"In context of the latest development of the World Cup Qualifiers' postponement, the ongoing preparation camp of the national football team has been postponed from October 12 and the infected footballers will be treated under the supervision of BFF," said a press release yesterday.
The BFF statement also said three footballers -- Riyadul Hasan, Raihan Hasan and Rakib Hossain – will be kept under supervision as they had tested both negative and positive in the two latest tests. All three had tested negative at BSMMU.
While the postponement of the World Cup Qualifiers has given BFF some breathing space amid criticism of their handling of training arrangements during the pandemic, but it would also have given them some food for thought about whether FIFA approves of their decision to hold the BFF polls on October 3 amid the escalating pandemic.