Former Bangladesh striker Alfaz Ahmed did not get a chance to play at the Salt Lake Stadium wearing the red and green jersey but he had the experience of playing at the venue for Mohammedan SC (Dhaka) as well as Mohun Bagan FC.
The 46-year-old former Bangladesh international was present at the Salt Lake Stadium with fellow former national footballer Sheikh Belal Ahmed, who was known for his long throw-ins, to support the national football team against India in their 2022 World Cup qualifying match.
“I played in different countries while playing for the national team but I never watched the performance of the national team beyond our borders. So, the dream came true today,” said Alfaz, who fondly reminisced about an IFA Shield match between Mohammedan SC and East Bengal that took three hours to end, with the Bangladesh outfit losing.
“It is a really good feeling to watch a Bangladesh match from the gallery. If Bangladesh win, the whole picture of Bangladesh football will change,” opined Alfaz, who was accompanied by some officials of Uttar Baridhara Club where Alfaz will be acting as head coach in the upcoming season.
“I have come here to support our team and watch a historic win over India, although Sunil Chhetri is a big factor,” said Bilal, who also played at this venue for Muktijoddha Sangsad against East Bengal.
It was not just the former footballers cheering Bangladesh on. A few hundred football fans and some club officials also turned up wearing the Bangladesh jersey and waved the red and green flag.
“We caught the eye of some players and I think our presence will inspire them to play boldly,” said Saif SC manager Obaidur Rahman, while the club’s general secretary Mahbubur Rahman said that they came here to watch Bangladesh win.
Football Supporters Association of Bangladesh general secretary Hasan Mahmud believed that while the few hundred supporters would not be able to drown out the voice of Indian supporters, their supports for Bangladesh will definitely surprise the Indian team.
“We came here to back the national team because they have been playing good football in the last year and a half and we want to voice our wholehearted support,” Hasan said, adding that some 500 to 600 supporters came to Kolkata to watch the match but not all were able to get tickets.
The 85,000 capacity stadium was almost packed with the locals backing their country vociferously in what was Kolkata’s first international match in eight years.
“I watch club football regularly and watching a game involving the national team is something that I don’t have words to describe,” said Sourav Datta of Barakpur. “It is nice that Bangladesh are playing here because we have a good relationship with Bangladesh football. Bangladesh captain Mamunul Islam played here.”
“We have come here to watch India win… we will win the match,” said Chandan Majumder, also from Barakpur.