Rangpur became the new champions of the JFA Cup U-14 National Women’s Football Championship, beating three-time champions Mymensingh 4-2 in tiebreakers after the final and, in essence, the tournament itself descended into controversy and became a farce at the Birshreshtha Shaheed Mostafa Kamal Stadium in Kamalapur yesterday.
The incidents which took place at the stadium in Kamalapur yesterday posed a serious question mark over the professionalism and quality of the event and officials involved.
The final saw three-time champions Mymensingh take on Rangpur despite Mymensingh losing their semifinal against Thakurgaon on Thursday. Following their defeat, Mymensingh District Football Association president Delwar Hossain Mukul lodged a complaint with the Women’s Football Wing of the Bangladesh Football Federation, allegedly with proof that Thakurgaon fielded four players who have appeared in two previous editions of this championship.
The bylaws of the championship state that no player will be eligible to take part for more than two times. BFF, upon reviewing the complaint, deemed the complaint against Thakurgaon to be valid, hence replacing Thakurgaon with Mymensingh in the final.
“The bylaws state that no player can take part in the championship more than two times. Mymensingh team lodged a complaint with us with proof in this regard. We also investigated things from our archive and found those allegations to be true. Thakurgaon has to accept the decision,” BFF Women’s Wing chairman Mahfuza Akter Kiron, who was present as chief guest during the final, told reporters.
“We sent the bylaws to the teams three months prior to the start of the championship. I believe teams have used illegal means in the preliminary rounds. But since no one brought that into our notice, we didn’t take it into cognizance. But once it was brought to our notice, we took action,” Kiron added.
While Thakurgaon coach Sagu Murmu, himself, alleged that the Mymensingh team too used such unlawful measures in fielding overaged players, the BFF officials claimed that since no formal complaint was lodged against Mymensingh, they could not take any such action.
Mymensingh DFA president Delwar Hossain Mukul refuted the allegation against his team while saying that he did not lodge any complaint against Thakurgaon before the semifinal because ‘he did not feel obliged to do so’ at that time.
As the final kicked off between Mymensingh and Rangpur, the Thakurgaon players were wailing, begging for a reprieve from the BFF regarding their expulsion from the final, setting a scene of great distress and chaos at the match venue.
However, that was not the end of the chaos for the day as the final, which Rangpur won 4-2 on penalties after the regulation 70 minutes ended goalless, saw its fair share of amateurish match officiating.
After Rangpur had converted two of their first three penalties while Mymensingh managed to score only one out of their first three, the referee blew the final whistle, judging Rangpur the winners. It was only after insistence from the journalists and BFF officials that the referee realised her mistake, calling back the players to take the remaining spot-kicks. And then when Rangpur took an unassailable 4-2 lead, with Mymensingh having one shot remaining, the apparently clueless match officials incredibly allowed the Mymensingh team to take the remaining spot kick.
The JFA under-14 National Women’s Football Championship, run under funding from the Japan Football Association for the last five years, has been a strong pipeline for the age-group teams and senior women’s team. But at a time when the game’s local governing body is churning out coaches and match officials regularly in numbers through courses under AFC guidelines and when flouting with age is seriously frowned upon locally and met with heavy suspensions worldwide, this incident would raise serious questions about the success of the game’s local governing body in its pursuit to produce quality young players and match officials.