A new beginning or another year wasted?
As Bangladesh national football team braces for a new beginning under new coach Javier Cabrera with optimism that things will finally take a positive turn after a year of turmoil, experimentation and failure, time is probably right to remind everyone that things can only change as much as they want it to change.
Following Jamie Day's release from national duties towards the end of last year, Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) experimented with two successful club coaches -- Oscar Bruzon of Bashundhara Kings and Mario Lemos of Abahani -- in two regional tournaments.
It's safe to say that those two appointments came out of desperation and as stop-gap measures rather from any conviction or part of any long-term plan. Expectedly those experiments failed to bring any positive result, prompting the game's local governing body to look for something new.
What it has come up with is basically a coach with similar attributes to that of Day when the Englishman was first roped in, but perhaps with very different philosophy of football.
Whatever his philosophy, the Spaniard will have plenty of opportunities to make a mark during his one-year tenure. While the planned friendlies against Indonesia have been cancelled, BFF is likely to use the March FIFA window and other windows available later in the year. The biggest challenge awaits in the form of AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers in June and the likelihood of the SAFF Championship towards the end of the year.
It is good that BFF is giving the new gaffer a number of assignments to prove his worth. Another good thing about this contract is that Cabrera will have to stay in Bangladesh for the most part of the year, allowing him time to watch the players in the domestic leagues closely and develop an understanding and bonding with the national team players, something that is very important if positive results are to be expected.
However, only ensuring time and togetherness will not yield the desired results unless the coach is allowed a free hand in implementing his ideas. There ought to be non-interference from the BFF executive members in selection of players once the coach is familiar with the pool of players available.
Another aspect that needs ensuring is the fairness of the leagues -- both premier league and championship league -- so that teams and the players can show their true quality on the pitch. In that regard, refereeing will need to be of the highest standard, so much so that the match officials will not shy away from using their authority, not mindful of which one is a big team and which one a small.
The new coach will have the advantage of starting without much expectation of him, but come June onwards, there will be a lot of expectations and pressure. How the Spaniard will handle that pressure on and off the field will eventually decide whether 2022 is another year of wasted experiments or a turning point for Bangladesh football.