Can new VP stem 12 years of failure? | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, October 14, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:26 AM, October 14, 2020

Can new VP stem 12 years of failure?

Irregularity in staging lower division football leagues and district football leagues has been one of the major areas of criticism of Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) President Kazi Salahuddin in his past three tenures.

Having been elected to a fourth term, he has taken up the responsibility of arranging the district football leagues and brought newly elected Vice-president Imrul Hasan into the Dhaka Metropolis Football League Committee (DMFLC), which is responsible for holding lower-division football leagues in Dhaka.

While Salahuddin has been able to stage the top-tier Bangladesh Premier League regularly, he could not do the same for the lower divisions and district leagues, the pipelines through which footballers graduate into the professional football leagues -- the Bangladesh Championship League and the BPL.

There was a time when the DMFLC used to organise all football leagues including the popular Dhaka Premier League in Dhaka, but its functionality reduced drastically when the professional football league was introduced in 2007 with top clubs like Abahani, Mohammedan SC, Brothers Union, Muktijoddha Sangsad entering the professional era.

The BFF placed much focus on the then B League, which was later renamed the Bangladesh Premier League, overlooking the importance of holding the lower division leagues regularly. At one point the BFF was forced to allow each club to play five foreign players due to a lack of quality players as well as the high demand of some top players. 

The irregularity of lower and district leagues also resulted in a scenario where players were blooded in the national team following just two or five matches in top-flight football.

In his first 12 years in charge, Salahuddin appointed Manzoor Hossain Malu, Sheikh Mohammad Maruf Hasan and Harunur Rashid as chairmen of the DMFLC. All three were only able to arrange the first, second and third division leagues a maximum of twice in their four-year terms because of two shortages -- sponsorship and grounds.

However, new DMFLC chairman and Bashundhara Kings president Imrul Hasan is apparently taking up the challenge to regularise all lower leagues, including the pioneer league, but he wants proper coordination with the Professional Football League Committee, which is responsible for holding the BPL and BCL, to fix the timing of the lower leagues. 

"The main challenge is to regularise the lower leagues but it is my responsibility to make it happen," Imrul told the Daily Star adding that he has the will to work with both lower division leagues and district leagues.

"I believe we can manage sponsors for the lower division leagues but the shortage of grounds is the biggest problem. Let's hope of doing something by adjusting everything," Imrul said.

"We will sit soon to make a calendar for lower leagues but timing is also another factor and we need the synchronisation of the top leagues and the lower leagues because there is the question of promotion and relegation. So you can't just think of lower leagues; you also have to think of the professional leagues," said Imrul.

To increase the number of footballers and giving them enough time to mature before entering the professional football league, Imrul is also thinking about limiting a footballer to one Dhaka league and another district league per season.

"If the league is held regularly, a player will not have the opportunity to play more than one league in Dhaka and I am thinking of keeping a provision that one player will be allowed to take part in two leagues – one in Dhaka and one in district -- in a single season," said Imrul.

He said he was also mulling another provision -- to have certified coaches for all clubs in the lower divisions.

Although Imrul is not involved with district leagues, he is thinking of how to incorporate the champions of district leagues into the national level, so that clubs at district level can also play with an ultimate target in mind.

With a history of predecessors failing to regularise the lower leagues due to shortages of funds, grounds and will, time will tell how well the new vice-president fares in this regard.

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