4th Women's SAFF Championship

U-16s dominate national team

With the 4th SAFF Women's Championship knocking on the door, the Bangladesh team put in some much needed practice yesterday at the BFF Astroturf in Motijheel. Photo: BFF

With only eight days left to the start of the 4th SAFF Women's Championship in India, Bangladesh national women's team look to produce better results than their three previous campaigns. As it seems, their new found confidence is drawn from the presence of a host of under-16 girls in the national team.

Bangladesh U-16 team have raised the bar of expectation, especially after their stunning performance in the AFC U-16 Women's Qualification in August where they defeated superior sides such as Iran and Chinese Taipei to qualify for next year's final round.

Interestingly, the players of the under -16 team have been dominating the two-month-long residential camp where only nine senior players were called up, with three of them already excluded due to poor performance. The six remaining senior players face a tough challenge from their junior teammates to ensure a place in the final 20-member squad which will be declared before the team departs for India.

“There used to be a massive difference between the seniors and juniors, but now there is hardly any difference in terms of technique, tactic and stamina. The only difference is that the junior players lack international experience,” coach Golam Rabbani Choton said yesterday.

“Nevertheless, the players from the under-16 team will dominate in the final squad just like they did during the South Asian (SA) Games earlier this year. There were 10 players from the under-16 team in the SA Games squad but this time the number will go up,” informed Choton.

In the training camp, Choton emphasised on fine-tuning his forward line and enhancing the girls' strength in a bid to keep the same tempo throughout the matches. 

Bangladesh won a bronze medal in the SA Games. They defeated Sri Lanka and Maldives 2-1 and 2-0 respectively but suffered defeats against India (1-5) and Nepal (0-3).

Choton noticed some differences between the SA Games squad and the current one and believes the current squad is more aggressive.

“You will definitely see the difference on the pitch. Previously the girls were fearful of facing any side but after they started getting results, that fear has gone,” Choton said. “We have set our initial target of reaching the semifinals and after achieving that we will set our next target.”

The game's governing body is taking the SAFF Women's Championship as part of preparation for the AFC U-16 Championship rather than expecting anything big from the upcoming tournament. The under-16 team is also supposed to play a couple of practice matches in Japan after the SAFF Championship.

Striker Sabina Khatun, one of the six senior players of the squad, is excited to see talented players from the under-16 team. “They [junior players] have improved a lot and the bonding among players is good. The squad is a mixture of senior and junior players and you can say we are now much stronger than before,” said Sabina, who represents the national team since 2009.

Israt Jahan Mousumi, a key midfielder of the under-16 team, believes that they have improved greatly over the last two months after rectifying their mistakes from the AFC U-16 Championship qualifying campaign.

“We have improved in areas like passing, attacking, defending, shooting and taking possession and I think that will be a reflected in the SAFF Championship,” said Mousumi, who played in the last edition of the SAFF Women's Championship as well.