Yeasin Khan was once regarded as one of the stalwarts of defence in the Bangladesh national team alongside his long-time mate, Topu Barman.
But while Topu’s influence as a centre-back has only grown with his assured performances down the years, Yeasin, who made his debut for the Red and Greens in a 2014 FIFA friendly against India, lost his place in the national team in March, 2016 due to a six-month suspension owing to alleged indiscipline in March, 2016.
And then as he was trying to get back, he suffered a career-threatening ACL injury while playing for Sheikh Jamal against Saif Sporting Club.
Such a suspension and the long lay-offs due to debilitating injuries could potentially derail a player’s career. Yeasin, too, had feared whether he will ever make it back to the national team. But he got full support from his family, for which he is grateful.
“It was hard for me at that time. It’s difficult to come back to full form from an injury like that. But I got full support from my family. They told me to keep training and not worry about getting back into the team. The suspension was frustrating as I felt I was not liable. However, I forgot everything and started things afresh,” Yeasin reflected while looking back at that period at a hotel in Chattogram on Saturday.
Following the injury, Yeasin moved from the powerhouse of Sheikh Jamal to Sheikh Russel, where he slowly started to find his feet again.
Thanks to some assured performances with Sheikh Russel, Yeasin was once again called up to the national team after more than two years but he found it hard to get into the starting eleven, with the likes of Topu, Tutul Hossain Badsha and Nasiruddin Chowdhury being the preferred options.
While his performances did not always match his reputation, Yeasin returned a more mature player, atoning for the past indiscipline. As time went by, he became more dependable for club and country, helping Sheikh Russel concede the second lowest number of goals in the league last season.
After Topu suffered a long-term injury in the middle of the last season, Yeasin once again became the go-to man at the centre of defence for the national team.
“It’s very competitive now. Young players are coming in and they have more energy. You have to maintain good fitness to be in the team. If you get injured, someone else will take your place and it will be tough to get back,” said the 28-year-old, who was recently signed up by league champions Bashundhara Kings for the next season.
But he is facing the challenge with more aplomb and clinical performances with every passing game, while improving his goal-scoring skill from set-pieces, which Topu used to do on a regular basis.
The centre-back scored two goals against Bhutan as Bangladesh warmed up for the challenge of World Cup Qualifiers against Qatar and India.
Marshalling a defence with three very young players, Yeasin helped keep the Asian champions at bay for most of the match in an eventual 2-0 defeat. But that performance was even surpassed by his performance against India, where despite suffering a head injury very early in the match, he made sure Indian forwards like Sunil Chhetri and Ashique Kuruniyan never found free space to operate in and around the box.
“I was dizzy for five minutes after that injury. But after heading the ball a few times, things settled. Our plan was to not give them free space and block the channels around the danger zone. The coach told us not to get overwhelmed by the crowd and play without pressure,” said the veteran, who was inquired about by Mohun Bagan officials following that performance.
While there is more competition among the players for the national team, Yeasin believes it only bodes well for the future.
“With the young players showing good form, I believe we will be a much better side in the coming days. I am quite sure it won’t be easy for India to take three points from our home in the return fixture next year. And if the improvement continues, we will be a very strong side in next year’s SAFF Championship,” Yeasin opined.