Jamal Bhuiyan, winner of the most valuable player award of the Bangabandhu Gold Cup, was spending a precious day-off from football at his cousin's place in Uttara yesterday when The Daily Star's senior reporter Atique Anam met up for an elaborate interview. During the discussion, the otherwise introvert individual opened up about his football philosophy, his life in Denmark and his struggles in Dhaka.....
DS: Jamal, you've won the MVP award in the Bangabandhu Gold Cup. It must have been a fantastic tournament for you.
JB: It was a good tournament, but it was a shame we couldn't win. But life goes on and I'm looking forward to it.
DS: Where does life go on from here?
JB: Now I'm looking forward to the league and the other competitions. Hopefully we are going to win those. I'm a bit injured right now (shows band-aids on his ankles); I think I'll need two to three days' rest before I can play again.
DS: Coming from Denmark, how difficult was it for you to cope up with life and football in Dhaka?
JB: In the beginning it was the weather and the food. When people say it's cold in Bangladesh I just laugh and say, 'you've never seen cold'. Food is another problem because I don't eat so much Bangla food; I can't eat 'bhaat' that much. If I were at home in Denmark, I would eat 'doi' or fruits in the morning and then bread, salad, and stuffs like that later.
DS: What would you have done if you were in Denmark now?
JB: I would still play and work – I'm a teacher. I used to teach history and English at high school. I still do schooling here in Bangladesh, not teaching though. I'm educating myself on 'IT' through the internet.
DS: What did your parents say when you told them about your award?
JB: Nothing special. They are just happy for me. They are not too much into sport.
DS: So, was there any discouragement on their part on your becoming a footballer?
JB: When I was younger my mother told me you have to be a doctor or a lawyer. But I said it's up to me. Sometimes you listen to your parents, sometimes you don't. But I went to school and played football too. So education was important for me.
DS: At what age did you start playing football and was it on your own?
JB: First time I went to football practice, I think I was 7/8 years old and my father and one of my brothers took me there. But you know I had an accident when I was 17; I was shot four times. I thought I wouldn't play football again. That's why I went back to school and finished my education while always wanting to become a professional footballer.
DS: How did you get shot?
JB: I was in my father's shop when two people were shooting at each other outside. One of them came to hide in our shop and the other one was shooting and I just got shot.
DS: You attended one trial for Bangladesh in 2011 but weren't selected. How frustrating was that?
JB: The pitch was bad and I was dehydrated too due to the hot weather. The people at the trial said,” oh, he cannot play.” I said 'fine, I'll go back'. Then they called me a few times more but I thought I wouldn't come. Later, Meshu (Atiqur Rahman) called me and I thought, okay I should go.
DS: So, Meshu is one of your best friends here?
JB: Yes, he is. He helped me a lot when I first came here. There are others like Raihan and Yeasin who are 'football friends'. But I don't have any friend like I could call up and say, 'hey, let's go out'.
DS: How does your European football background help Bangladesh national team?
JB: I have other way of thinking about football. When I came here, I saw when people got the ball they just used to shoot long balls. In these two years, we have played the ball more around, we take it easy now.
DS: Have you played in defensive midfield position all your life?
JB: No, I played in attacking midfield role, at the left side and all positions in midfield. But I started playing in defensive midfield role one year before joining the national team (2012).
DS: Do you follow any particular player in that position?
JB: I like Andrea Pirlo.
DS: But your role is more like Daniele de Rossi's than Pirlo's.
JB: yeah I like De Rossi; I like Xabi Alonso, Mascherano, Matic...
DS: Are there aspects of your game that you want to improve on?
JB: I want to score more goals. I don't score many.
DS: Have you ever fancied enjoying celebrity status like cricketers get here?
JB: No, I don't care about being a celebrity. I'm just happy to play football and get my salary.