Kazi Salahuddin-led Combined Panel set a lofty target to bring Bangladesh national team around the mark of 150 FIFA ranking in next four years as it announced a 36-point manifesto under five segments during introduction of panel candidates for Bangladesh Football Federation's (BFF) October 3 polls at a hotel in the capital yesterday.
The five segments include the national team, domestic football, women's football, development projects and technical areas. The manifesto includes some of the routine works such as holding leagues and tournaments at all levels, hunting talent and coaches' courses. However, it unfortunately does not make any promise to bring professionalism into clubs – a key component of football development.
The declaration of manifesto highlighted Salahuddin's past 12 years instead of focusing on the successes and failures of the last four years. The last four years saw Bangladesh hit the lowest FIFA ranking in its history and the national football team was eliminated from the group stages of SAFF Championship for the fourth consecutive time and failed to reach the final of Bangabandhu Gold Cup twice.
"When I came to the BFF in 2008, Bangladesh was at 180 FIFA Ranking and now it's 187. FIFA ranking depends on a lot of things and playing friendly matches is important. We could not play friendly matches for three years due to the financial structure but we are now playing friendlies and we are at 187," Salahuddin said. "I don't agree that we could not produce good players. The players don't get media exposure; media instead talks to former players who retired from football some 20 to 25 years ago."
In 2008, Bangladesh were at 174 FIFA ranking and next year it moved up to 149 following some good results at international level, but since then it has been a downward spiral, hitting 197th in 2017 following a disastrous World Cup qualifying campaign, where they were eliminated after defeat against Bhutan.
Denying the 2016 election manifesto as his own, Salahudidn said, "We have covered 70 to 75 percent of 2016 manifesto which was, however, not my manifesto as many things that I recommended were not included. That manifesto was basically Tarafder Ruhul Amin's. But this time the manifesto has been prepared for three months and it includes two new tournaments, namely Sheikh Kamal U-18/19 and Sheikh Russel U-10 national tournaments."
More than half the agenda of the 2016 election manifesto included strengthening clubs' age-group teams, development youth football under BFF supervision, resuming Sylhet Football Academy, hunting talents across the country and nursing them at home before sending selected ones aboard for a strong pipeline for the national team. Unfortunately, the Salahuddin-led committee failed to achieve any of those in the last term.
This time, the manifesto only mentions of continuing the Fortis-BFF Academy, which is now non-functional. The manifesto also promises setting up technical centres in Dhaka and beyond and establishing football centres across the country for non-residential training of budding footballers.
Asked about the allegation of harassment of president candidate Badal Roy, Salahuddin said, "I have not talked to the election commission regarding anything yet. There is no question of influencing the election commission. I know the election commission and Badal Roy would come in my favour if I put pressure, but I won't misuse my power. I am powerful but I don't misuse power. Now election commission will decide."
Chief coordinator of the panel, Chattogram Abahani secretary general Alhaz Shamsul Hoque Chowdhury, praised Salahuddin highly but criticised two other president candidates – Badal Roy and Shafiqul Islam Manik -- heavily.