The Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) has decided to introduce the women's football league towards the end of this year in a bid to make women's football more competitive for the international stage as well as give the women footballers a source of income.
BFF general secretary Abu Nayeem Shohag disclosed this at a roundtable discussion at The Daily Star Centre yesterday.
The roundtable discussion, titled 'Women's football in Bangladesh: Success, challenges and impact beyond the pitch' was jointly organised by The Daily Star and K-Sports ahead of the Bangamata U-19 Women's International Gold Cup, which will be held in Dhaka from April 22 to May 3.
"We have decided to start a women's football league from either October or November this year. The details of the league will be disclosed on 23rd April, the day after the start of the Bangamata U-19 Women's International Gold Cup," Shohag said while replying to a query regarding what the game's local governing body was thinking in order to make the senior women's team more competitive, especially following the recent debacle in the SAFF Women's Championship.
Although the BFF spokesman did not give out any details regarding the format and scope of the tournament, he did say that the BFF was against the idea of letting players under its programme -- currently 53 female footballers reside and train at the BFF camp -- take part in the league as it thinks this might adversely impact their performance in the long run.
Even though the BFF organised a National Championship in 2008 and later ran a club league and corporate leagues for a few seasons, most of these events were irregular, and have not been held for the last few seasons.
The discussion was attended by a cross section of stakeholders for women's football, including the BFF, club officials, organisers, footballers, coaches, development partners and journalists.
The Daily Star's editor and publisher Mahfuz Anam praised the success of women's football and expressed his commitment to continue to promote women's football.
"I have tremendous respect for the girls, who overcame many challenges to reach the level that they have. I praise the success they have achieved despite facing those challenges. We pledge to support these footballers and we will continue to promote women's football," he said.
Mahfuza Akter Kiron, FIFA Council member and women's wing chairman of BFF, spoke of the challenges they have to face at the administrative level to organise women's football. "Finance is a big issue for us. We have to run the training camp out of our own coffers. Sponsors and other stakeholders should come forward to help us take women's football forward," she said, adding that they needed infrastructural improvement in the form of playing fields and training centres to expedite the development of women's football.
Ali Reza, deputy director of the Mass and Primary Education department of the government, said that they were working on ideas of how to keep primary school graduates involved in football by introducing a country-wide football tournament for high-school students, modelled after the Bangabandhu Primary School Gold Cup and the Bangamata Primary School Gold Cup.
Among others in the roundtable were national women's team coach Golam Rabbani Choton, women's team captain Sabina Khatun, K-Sports CEO Fahad Karim, Head of Communications of Unicef, Bangladesh Jean Jacques Simon, Brothers Union manager Amer Khan and senior journalists Sanat Babla and Masud Alam.