Girls hoist the flag of Bangladesh football
The maiden SAFF Women's Championship title was undoubtedly the biggest success story from the sports arena for Bangladesh in 2022. In an otherwise success-deprived sporting atmosphere, the triumph of the women footballers galvanised the whole nation and set off massive celebrations across the country, which continued for days. It was also a rare moment of limelight for the nation's football officials, who find it hard to grab headlines due to the decadence of football in general, and when they do, they often get it for the wrong reasons. Cricket, the nation's most popular sport though, was always on focus, for reasons right and wrong. While there were a lot of controversies regarding cricketers and cricket administrations, the performance on the field was a bit of a respite, especially when compared to the lows which the sport had hit in the previous year. The year also saw the coming of age of players like Liton Das, Mehedi Hasan Miraz, Taskin Ahmed and Ebadot Hossain, with Liton especially excelling as both a player and a leader. Other sports in the country did not generate too many talking points even though the successful floating of the first franchise hockey league in the country breathed fresh air into the sport and injected some much-needed financial incentive for the hockey players.
The country's domestic football in 2022 was much more vibrant compared to any season in the past. All football competitions, from Bangladesh Premier League to Pioneer Football League alongside youth competitions of professional and semi-professional clubs, took place smoothly. Sadly though, the positives of those competitions were hardly reflected at the international level, however, on the bright side, the SAFF Women's Championship triumph was the glaring exception.
The national men's football team are still searching for solid ground to keep their feet at the international level. The men in red and green could notch only one victory out of eight international matches they played in 2022 under new head coach Javier Cabrera -- appointed early this year following short regimes of two interim coaches since the termination of English coach Jamie Day last year.
The wages of male footballers in the domestic circuit have been going up every season, with top footballers reportedly getting paid nearly one crore taka, but the booters remained lacklustre at the international circuit. Five defeats including a 3-1 defeat at the hands of sub-continent rivals Nepal is a testament to the subpar performances of Cabrera's charges.
The successors of the senior men's team also frustrated in four international tournaments in 2022 -- SAFF U-17 and U-20 Championships, AFC U-17 and U-20 Championship Qualifiers -- despite the BFF Elite Academy's players having undergone a grooming process since September last year.
However, the women's team rocked the nation with their scintillating performances. They broke the dominance of five-time champions India and four-time runners-up Nepal in SAFF Women's Championship in September and were able to write a great chapter in Bangladesh women's football history, which started its journey just over a decade ago.
The achievement was far from a fluke as the SAFF glory was in the making for a long time. It has been a continuation of their successes they achieved at international age-group competitions. Finishing runners-up in both SAFF Women's U-15 and U-17 Championships in 2022 were indications of the progress of the girls, who had been defying heavy odds on their way to the peak.
The massive enthusiasm in the capital, and elsewhere, upon the return of the team from Nepal was evidence of the unconditional love that Bangladeshis have towards football. The game's local governing body, however, yet again failed to protect the country's football from the curse of online betting, spot-fixing, match-manipulation, and more.
Uttar Baridhara Club, an outfit of top-tier Bangladesh Premier League, faced the consequences while Karwan Bazar Pragati Sangha, an outfit of second-tier Bangladesh Championship League, were penalised for their involvement in illegal activities. They were relegated to the first and third division football league, respectively.
The BFF management once again shown its incompetence in handling the finances of foreign coaches as FIFA, in October, ordered the BFF to clear unpaid wages, reportedly worth 86,000 US dollars, to Jamie Day. In 2016, BFF had to clear unpaid wages and compensation worth 80,000 euros to Dutch coach Rene Koster as per FIFA's instructions.
To conclude on a positive note, the BFF deserves a lot of credit for organising almost all competitions in the 2021-22 season since the country's football fraternity had demanded for years that all domestic competitions get rolled properly, in an attempt to provide room for budding footballers to groom up from the grassroots.