Football in the country was set to emerge from the four-and-a-half-month coronavirus-induced slumber last week as national players joined the training camp for the Joint Qualifiers for World Cup and Asian Cup, but FIFA and AFC's decision on Wednesday to postpone the October-November window has plunged the sport into uncertainty once more.
Making matters worse is the absence of concrete plans for domestic competitions.
The pandemic had forced the Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) to cancel the top-flight Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) just after the completion of the sixth round in mid-March and since then, the national footballers had been training at home under the virtual supervision of the coaching staff to maintain their fitness ahead of the Qualifiers. But without any international or domestic engagements -- except Bashundhara Kings' AFC Cup campaign – in the offing, footballers are now in a quandary about how to maintain fitness.
"We had really been focused on the World Cup Qualifiers because we had a two-month training at home and were ready to have a two-month national training camp in Gazipur. We had hopes of doing well in the Qualifiers because of that, but everything seems to have been in vain after the postponement of the World Cup Qualifiers," said national defender Tapu Barman.
"We don't know when the World Cup Qualifiers will take place in 2021 and don't know how well we can perform then, because the players may face fitness issues by that time as there is no domestic activity in the near future," said Tapu, who thought fitness, focus and overall conditioning will be better if players play domestic competitions ahead of the resumption of World Cup Qualifiers in 2021.
BFF President Kazi Salahuddin is thinking of starting the new season soon by making the clubs understand the importance of getting football back on the turf. A few clubs, however, are against the start of a new season due to the financial crisis created due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"The people don't understand that the loss of one football season will impact four seasons. Football was not played for one or two seasons during [the tenure of former BFF president] SA Sultan and it had a five-year impact on the country's football. If football is not played in one season, the senior players will grow older and junior players may leave football for another profession," Salahuddin told The Daily Star.
"So far two to four clubs don't want to play but most clubs do. Of course, there is the logic of their [clubs'] financial constraints and there is also the logic of the players being disadvantaged financially. That's why I have asked the professional league committee to have meetings with the clubs and players within eight to 10 days.
"I will be present at both meetings through which I want to reach a decision, so that everyone is benefited because both clubs and players are ours," said the BFF boss, adding that their target was to start the domestic season in November-December.
With the BFF polls on the cards in October, it remains to be seen whether BFF officials can bring all clubs under one umbrella to impress upon them the importance of playing in the new season. Salahuddin also saw no reason not to start a new season as everything else in Bangladesh is going on full swing.
"The youth and sports ministry has also asked to start sports activities because it has resumed all over the world with the European League going on in different countries. The fact is that everything is now open in the country and I am even facing traffic jams on way to the BFF House," said Salahuddin.