Shamima Sattar Mimu is a familiar face in Bangladesh's sports fraternity. The 59-year-old former high jumper was an eminent athlete, an international judge, coach and administrator during a 45-year career. The national award-winner retired from the Bangladesh Krira Shikkha Protisthan (BKSP) on November 1, 2018 after serving since 2002. The former BKSP deputy director (training) spoke to The Daily Star's Anisur Rahman about the BKSP's problems and prospects. The following are excerpts.
The Daily Star (TDS): How are you passing time after retiring from BKSP?
Shamima Sattar Mimu (SSM): Actually, everything comes to an end and there is also time for leisure. I just retired from the government job, and before that I had a colourful career as athlete, national coach and international judge. I am still an organiser. I now spend time with family and also work for social welfare in South Pallabi.
TDS: How did you manage the monumental task of supervising all 17 disciplines?
SSM: My job was not to conduct training but I had to supervise 17 disciplines for six days out of seven. The coaches of all disciplines first submitted their weekly training schedules to the training department and I checked whether they were maintaining their training schedules and conducting training properly in the presence of students and informing coaches and students every Tuesday of administrative decisions. It was a challenging job, but it was not hard, and I really enjoyed my jobs at BKSP.
TDS: Do you think the training schedules were adequate the students to be primed for international competition?
SSM: Sports science is playing an important role at the developmental levels now. BKSP has a sports science department that has been helping our coaches and students. In sport, new techniques are developed around the year and our coaches need to learn about those latest techniques. BKSP once had a good number of foreign coaches (hockey, cricket, football, athletics, swimming, basketball, etc.) from whom the local coaches could have learnt new things but now there is only one foreign coach -- in archery. Having a good foreign coach has two advantages -- local coaches can be upgraded by them and students can also learn new things. Local coaches should be sent aboard for high performance training but it depends on getting allotments from the Bangladesh Olympic Association (BOA) or the respective National Sports Federations. BKSP however bears all expenditure for its coaches' training.
TDS: Do you have any dissatisfaction over unfulfilled dreams after your retirement?
SSM: I started my job at BKSP's lone branch in Dinajpur in 2002 before being transferred to the headquarters in Savar in 2011 as a deputy director. Although I don't have any dissatisfaction, what I have realised is that the facilities at the branches, which now number five, should be increased. Another thing is that some costly apparatus were bought for sports science but those are not being handled properly because BKSP doesn't have experts to who can handle the apparatus or those who can analyse the output after feeding the devices data, which is very important for the athletes' development.
TDS: Do you think that BKSP places equal emphasis on sports and academics or prioritises sports?
SSM: I agree that sport should be given top priority at a sports institution. And we give priority to sporting talent instead of academic talent when admitting students through two tests -- one sports-based and the other an academic one. BKSP usually gives more emphasis on training ahead of any youth national competition. Students who are supposed to sit for an exam but are also training are given a window to sit for a special examination.
TDS: There has been some criticism that BKSP students cannot shine in senior competitions even after showing promise at youth level.
SSM: There may have been criticism that our athletes could not do well at senior levels, but the fact is that our athletes leave BKSP after HSC examinations and don't have any connection with BKSP when they take part in senior meets. A gap is created after leaving BKSP and there may be a discontinuation of training, which is why they can't do well in senior meets. I think if those students stayed at BKSP up to the Degree Class, then they could have utilised facilities and continued producing good results.
TDS: Once BKSP produced a lot of good footballers like Hasan Al Mamun, Masud Rana, Firoz Mahmud Tito, Zahid Hasan Emily but now there are hardly any in the national team.
SSM: There were only two games -- football and hockey -- at the start of the BKSP in 1986. Since then the number of disciplines and athletes have increased, but the number of coaches has not increased at a similar pace. When students were fewer in number, the care was at a higher level but that is lacking now. Besides, the coaches of a few disciplines are also allowed to conduct training at club level for two to three months, so a gap is being created and the students of BKSP are falling behind.
TDS: There have also been allegations that coaches of poor standard are appointed at BKSP, which is why students cannot learn from them.
SSM: There are two types of coaches -- a permanent coach and a talent-hunt coach. Permanent coaches must fulfil certain criteria such as being graduates or former national players, having international coaching certificates or five-year coaching experience at club level and a minimum age of 40. For talent-hunt coaches being a former national player with an HSC certificate is good enough. BKSP can't find educated permanent coaches despite advertising because quality coaches are not applying for BKSP as they get more money from clubs. BKSP should therefore adjust salaries.
TDS: Why doesn't BKSP, which has a budget for foreign coaches, appoint them to make up for the lack of good local coaches?
SSM: BKSP can't appoint foreign coaches by itself because they need to discuss with the youth and sports ministry. As far as I know, the authorities are searching for foreign coaches for cricket and football.
TDS: So do you think that the departures of good cricket coaches like Fahim Muntasir, Sarwar Imran and Mohammad Salahuddin were big losses?
SSM: Of course. But they were offered much higher salaries from other organisations. BKSP had once produced cricketers like Shakib [Al Hasan], Musfiqur [Rahim], [Abdur] Razzak and many others but BKSP has to face competition from private cricket academies now. It is the same in football.
TDS: Why can't BKSP produce international standard athletes in indoor disciplines?
SSM: Sprinter Bimal Chandra was once a BKSP student. He became the fastest man in South Asian Games. But the fact is that we can't find genius athletes in talent-hunt programmes. BKSP graduates Mezbah Uddin and Shirin Sultana are still dominating in 100m sprint in national athletics championships, which means that their BKSP training was good. To be honest, we are now devoid of talented players in indoor games.
Another thing is that there are nearly 50 types of disciplines being played in Bangladesh, so the athletes are being split. But during our time, there were hardly 15 to 16 games being played with a lot of players available. Besides, there were opportunities to get jobs playing sports but there are no such opportunities at the moment except a few jobs in services teams.
BKSP students are still doing well in youth competitions at the international level, with the hockey team directly qualifying for the Youth Olympics twice. Former BKSP athletes like Abdullah Hel Baki, swimmer Mahfuza Khatun Shila, Arnab Shariar Ladif, archer Taminul Haque and the youth hockey team are winning medals at international level. I will say the quality of athletes has deteriorated as BKSP once produced gold-winning athletes like shooter Asif Iqbal and sprinter Bimal Chandra.
TDS: Do you have any suggestions to improve the standard of training?
SSM: It is time to focus on improving facilities at branches and sending beginners there. The central BKSP in Savar is made for high-performance training where students from branches will come after the JSC examinations. The authorities should increase the number of quality coaches and facilities.
The director general, the principle of school & college, director (admin) and director (training) are appointed at BKSP from government officers who come from outside BKSP, but I think the director (training) should be appointed from inside the BKSP. Outsiders are good at administrative posts but if a head coach of a discipline is appointed the director (training) then he or she, with basic knowledge of training, will know what to do for students.