‘I want my family to see the real beauty of Bangladesh’
From Latin America and Europe, where the standard of football is considered the epitome, many coaches have flown – thousands of miles to Bangladesh, a country where the beautiful game is a part of the people's emotion and euphoria. The Daily Star talked with Mario Lemos, Andres Cruciani and Oscar Bruzon -- three coaches who have been working in Bangladesh for many years -- to get an insight into their experiences. Alongside, Tapu Barman, a national footballer who worked with multiple foreign coaches, expressed his thoughts on the gaffers.
Abahani's long-serving coach Mario Lemos says he's all in to enjoy and explore the natural beauties and culinary delights of Bangladesh more and wants his family to be part of the experience while talking to The Daily Star's Ashfaq Ul Mushfiq.
The Daily Star (DS): When you got the offer to coach Abahani, what were your initial thoughts about Bangladesh and what is your current impression?
Mario Lemos (ML): Actually, before Abahani, I worked with the national team (Bangladesh) for four months and I already knew about the club back then. My initial thoughts about Abahani were that it was a big club in Bangladesh. The day I arrived in Bangladesh, I went to visit Abahani with the then national team coach Andrew Ord and met the players. So later on it was easier for me to take the job and coach the biggest club in the country in my opinion. Time flies and it's been three years and my fourth season at the club, it's been a great experience and I'm looking forward to more years to come.
DS: How do you judge the culture of Bangladesh football?
ML: I think Bangladesh is a sleeping giant. Sure, cricket is the main sport of the country, but football has been doing really well in the past few years. I think there is a big passion and a big tradition for the game along with a big history. You know about the Mohammedan vs Abahany, the big rivalry, and people talking about the games of history with so much emotion. I think we can go back there. Of course, it requires a lot of work with the players of the academies and grassroots. I think in the three years I've been in Bangladesh; the quality of football and the players have improved a lot. The facilities of the players and the league have also improved and hopefully, we can keep on pushing for the better, not just the coaches and players but the media and everybody that is involved with football.
DS: Since you've been here for some time, what is your impression about our grassroots football?
ML: I'm not connected with the grassroots but I want to be. I am trying to find ways to share my expertise with the younger generation. I think investing in the grassroots and the youth is the only way you can improve Bangladesh's football.
DS: Away from football, how do you see Bangladesh's culture?
ML: I think socially and culturally Bangladesh is a country that is developing and the main engine of this country is the people. And this younger generation I see, they are very hungry, hard-working and energetic. And I think that will develop the country even more. What I also see is that people have a lot of pride in their history and traditions. I like seeing them celebrate Language Day; seeing the pride they take over independence; that is something I will take with me.
DS: Any fond memories or special incidents in Bangladesh that you share with your family?
ML: I've had the privilege of traveling a lot. I have been to all parts of Bangladesh: Nilphamari, Cumilla, Mymensingh, Gopalganj, Sylhet just to name a few. I've used different types of transportation in Bangladesh: airplanes, buses, trains, boats – I have travelled by them quite a lot. I've been taking my family to Sylhet in recent times and hopefully if I get the opportunity, I'll take them to travel to different parts of Bangladesh because it is a beautiful country with so many different beaches and natural sights. I want my family to see the real beauty of Bangladesh.
DS: Anything specific regarding Bangladesh, i.e., food/music/art that you are especially fond of?
ML: I would say the food, no doubt! I'm a big lover of Bangladeshi food. I love when we play away from Dhaka because that's my opportunity to try many traditional foods and I like spicy food. I ask my friends where I can find the most authentic places to eat traditional food. I look into art a little bit because my wife is an art teacher and an artist. Every time we have an opportunity to see some local exhibition, we go and we try to follow. No doubt there are a lot of good artists in Bangladesh with a lot of passion for art.