Rangpur Division emerged champions in the inaugural Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman National Gold Cup (U-17) Football tournament with a 2-1 win over Rajshahi Division in an entertaining final at the Bangabandhu National Stadium yesterday.
The match was witnessed by President Abdul Hamid, who distributed prizes among the teams after the final.
The previous finals of similar tournaments have rarely been impressive due to the lack of technique, tactic and skill of the players, but the final of this newly introduced tournament turned out to be different – there was entertaining display of football from the players including good passing, nice build-up, good understanding and good fitness. And all three goals scored were spectacular, with the scorers showing intelligence in their finishing. It would not be an overstatement if yesterday's final can be termed better than the final of the Premier League Clubs' Youth U-18 tournament.
And the performance is not surprising at all since most of these booters have been playing at different levels in and outside the capital with the dream of flourishing at the top level.
The Youth and Sports Ministry felt the need to introduce this tournament in a bid to giving a platform to the youth, who once played the Bangabandhu Gold Cup Primary School football tournament, filling the void left by the absence of the Suhrawardi Cup Youth tournament, which was held for the last time in 2006, with the participation of district youth teams.
The introduction of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Gold Cup seems to have compensated for the lack of youth football as well as built a footballing bridge between the primary school and high school students.
Payers like Bimal Roy of Rangpur and Jogen Lakra of Rajshahi started playing football through the Bangabandhu Gold Cup Primary School football tournament and they are now part of the Bangabandhu Gold Cup (U-17), which started from union level in September this year before graduating to upazila, district, divisional and the final round in Dhaka, with the participation of some 125,000 players from 5,508 teams.
“There are a lot of talented players at grassroots level as I played from the union level before coming to the final match. If the players are given proper training and facilities, they can go to the top level,” opined Bimal from Kursha union of Taraganj under Rangpur district.
“I trained these boys for only seven days before coming to Dhaka. The game plan worked nicely because they are matured players who are playing at different level in Dhaka and some of them are even part of premier league youth squads such as that of Saif SC,” said Rajshahi Division coach Jahir Iqbal, adding that they have fielded players from all eight districts of Rajshahi.
“If the U-17 Gold Cup is held regularly, I believe the shortage of footballers will end and it will inspire budding footballers,” said champions Rangpur Division's coach Shamim Khan Miskin.
Former national footballer Rakibul Islam, who was part of the organising committee, was amazed to see the big turnout of spectators at union and upazil levels. He was also encouraged by the deep involvement of upazila chairmen, UNOs and DCs.
“The name of the tournament has had a huge impact in regards to the involvement of teams and government officials. Besides, there was joyous presence of spectators at union and upazila level. If the government can continue this tournament, I think a football environment will come back all over the country,” said Rakibul.