These boys can play | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 14, 2015 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, August 14, 2015

These boys can play

Bangladesh colts beat India 2-1

Who says our country's football is not followed as passionately as cricket? A full house at the Sylhet District Stadium and millions who tuned in to BTV on Thursday afternoon enjoyed quality football from the Bangladesh colts, who beat their Indian counterparts by the odd goal in three in an enterprising group league match of the SAFF U-16 Championship.

The win placed the home side at the top of Group A and set a semifinal clash against either Nepal or Afghanistan at the same venue on Sunday.

Mohammad Shaon gave the hosts a 34th minute lead, poaching home a loose ball in the forbidden zone. Four minutes into the second half, Rahim Ali restored parity with a nicely placed shot over an advancing goalkeeper. Sarwar Zaman Nipu won a penalty for Bangladesh eight minutes from time that Atikuzzaman smartly converted, sending the opposing keeper to the wrong end, much to delight of a passionate Sylhet crowd.

This kind of narrative of a match is nothing special. It's not like a nine-goal thriller that Barcelona won the other day against Sevilla that fans across the world wish to reflect on.

But this particular game or the preceding one that the Bangladesh colts had won 4-0 against Sri Lanka have relived the long-forgotten belief, a belief that our boys know how to play proper football.

It's true that these boys have just started kicking a soccer ball and it will be immature to conclude that they are quite good at it. A few years ago a coach of a famed European academy made an interesting observation while visiting Bangladesh as part of a promotional event.

"The biggest problem in this part of the world is that players here don't know what to do with the ball," quipped that coach after watching an age-level game.

However, after watching this energetic bunch of players who ran from one end to the other wearing that green during the entire 90 odd minutes, one can safely say that they tried to do something with that 'priceless breakable'.

It was pleasing to see that they tried to build attacks with short passes; turned to long passes for a brief spell; held the ball when it was needed; used the flanks to create more space and produced that burst of speed to create opportunities. The only disappointing part was the finishing or lack of it and this is something one has to accept considering their age.

To be honest, the way the likes of Nipu, Shaon, Atikuzzaman, Khalil Bhuiyan or Saaduddin played, it never looked stale or boring in the eyes of yours truly, who has seen the rise and fall of the country's football.

This particular match against India also reminds me of another game between the two sides way back in 1992. It was a SAFF U-16 Championship final then and the settings were almost the same.

On that summer day at the Rajshahi District Stadium, the stands were not only full but a few thousand overflowing spectators sat on the green-top just outside the playing area. The Indian contingent refused to play until the spectators were ejected from the ground. However, local authorities pushed back the fan-fencing by a few yards and a sporting Indian team agreed to play. Bangladesh won that game 3-0.

After all these years we, who attended that game, still cherish that not because Bangladesh had won, but for the brand of football our boys had played under the captaincy of one Arman Miah, who would go on to earn the reputation of a master craftsman in the top-flight football of the country later in his career.

And on Thursday Nipu and his mates rekindled our belief.

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