After the sudden departure of aspiring presidential candidate Tarafder Mohammad Ruhul Amin from the election scene and Badal Roy's attempt to withdraw from the election, the Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) polls appeared to be shaping up to be a one-sided affair like in 2012, but it now seems there will be two-way traffic after all.
Organisers from district football associations and some Dhaka clubs have reorganised under the banner of Integrated Panel on Tuesday to bring some excitement to the BFF elections, but they decided not to contest against incumbent president Kazi Salahuddin, who is leading another group named Combined Panel. They will instead contest the 20 other posts.
The Integrated Panel did not explain why they were not contesting the president's post, which has three candidates -- Salahuddin, Shafiqul Islam Manik and Badal, who attempted to pull out due to pressure from "some quarters".
Sheikh Mohammad Aslam, a candidate for senior vice president from the Integrated Panel, is disheartened by what he called external pressures.
"I'm really ashamed that country's influential persons threatened candidates like Badal Roy and others. If pressure comes through such important places centring just a small election, then where do we go? Those influential persons should focus on their own work which is more important than the BFF polls. FIFA also does not permit such interference and can also ban us, so we are really worried," said former national striker Aslam.
The Integrated Panel officially started their campaign yesterday from Sylhet where they will meet the leaders of four district football associations and the divisional football association before heading to Chattogram for another meeting with four districts, university and educational board. They will also meet the leaders of some districts and educational board in Noakhali. The Integrated panel also plans to meet with leaders of Rajshahi and Rangpur division on September 21 and 22 before having another meeting with district leaders from Khulna, Barishal, Mymensigh and Dhaka divisions on September 20.
"Following the sudden departure of the secretary general of Bangladesh District and Divisional Football Association (BDDFA), Tarafder Ruhul Amin, many of us were broken down mentally. They [district leaders] were also disappointed and discouraged. That's why we needed some time to make the district leaders understand and bring them back into the elections," said BDDFA deputy secretary general Shahinul Islam Bhuiyan on way to Sylhet yesterday.
"The organisers at the grassroots were never given the opportunity to serve football but they are the main cogs in the wheel. So, we are not weaker than anyone. We have chosen qualified organisers to compete in the BFF elections in a bid to change the leadership in football. We believe we can win a majority of the posts," said Bhuiyan.
There were also strong whispers that both Tarafder and Roy left the scene following "pressure from some quarters" and many also believe the Integrated Panel may face the same fate in the October 3 polls.
"We are hoping that we won't face any pressure because we are not competing for the presidential post. Besides, those who are going to compete in the elections are qualified in their respective fields and they will be able to change the fate of the country's football if they get a chance to serve," said Bhuiyan.
Another BDDFA leader, who preferred not to be named, said they are ready to face the challenge as they have experience of such situations.
"After the disclosure of the final candidature of the BFF elections, general people from all over the country have already voiced their opinion against the existing committee on Facebook and we certainly did not tell them to do so. So, we believe we are ready to face any challenges in any circumstance," said the organiser.
"We know pressure may come from different quarters and our well-wishers have advised us to be careful. In the last elections, I was asked to avail all facilities from the hotel after allotting me a room two days before the elections and advised to stay inside the room. If this type of situation returns in upcoming polls, then we won't have nothing to do and it is reality."