The recent two-year contract extension of Bangladesh head coach Jamie Day is evidence of the Bangladesh Football Federation's (BFF's) satisfaction over the Englishman's performance with the national team.
The extension also showed that the BFF were breaking from their hiring-firing approach when it came to appointments to the hot seat of Bangladesh football.
Day is the 10th foreign coach in the last 12 years under the Kazi Salahuddin-led federation and the 40-year-old coach can perhaps be called lucky to have extended his contract by two more years despite not delivering any major successes that previous foreign coaches like Samir Shaker of Iraq, Austrian George Kottan, German Otto Pfister did during their respective tenures.
Pfister was the first foreign coach to lead Bangladesh to a four-nation trophy triumph in Myanmar in 1995. Shaker delivered the first SAF Games (now SA Games) trophy in Nepal in 1999, soon after guiding Bangladesh to a runner-up finish in the SAFF Championships in India in the same year.
Then, Kottan delivered the subcontinent's most prestigious prize by winning the SAFF Championship on home soil in 2003. But none of those coaches were rewarded. Shaker returned home from Kathmandu after delivering the gold medal in football while Kottan left Bangladesh in slightly acrimonious circumstances.
Day is now lucky not to be under those organisers and has gotten reappointed. At the same time, he is fortunate to have experienced the kinder side of Salahuddin, who had fired foreign coaches one after another, citing failure or disagreement with the coaches. Of the nine foreign coaches from 2008 to 2018, a couple of coaches however left Bangladesh willingly, having found not much to do here.
Brazilian Edson Silva Dido (Jan-2009 to Nov-2009), Serbian Zoran Dordevic (Jan 2020 to Feb 2020), Croatian Robert Rubcic (Sept 2010 to June 2011), Macedonian Nikola Ilievski (June 2011-December 2011), Dutch Lodewijk de Kruif (Jan 2013 to Oct 2014, Jan 2015 to Sept 2015 and May 2016 to June 2016), Italian Fabio Lopez (Sept 2015 to Nov 2015), Spanish Gonzalo Sanchez Moreno (Feb 2016 to May 2016), Belgian Tom Saintfiet (June 2016 to Oct 2016) and British Andrew Ord (May 2017 to April 2018) worked with the national football team from 2008 to 2018.
It is not the first time that Salahuddin, who had once guided the national football team for an extended period from 1985 to 1988 after calling time on his playing career, has stuck with a coach. Before the show of faith in Day, Salahuddin had also pinned hope on Dutch coach Lodewijk de Kruif for three separate terms, for 30 months in total, although he had also not delivered any success for the national football team.
And while Day has not delivered any remarkable successes other than taking Bangladesh U-23 into the second round of Asian Games for the first time, he is believed to have injected some positives into the team, which prompted the BFF to reappoint the UEFA-A licensed coach.
"Day has something different than other coaches I worked under. He has brought many positive things. We fight till the last minute and never think of the game as lost before taking the field, and we are now fitter to play 90 minutes. Besides, Day is really friendly with everyone and even takes care of our individual problems, which was rare in previous coaches. More importantly, he strategises according to the players' strengths" said national centre-back Tapu Barman who worked with many foreign coaches since 2012.
Day guided the Bangladesh senior team to victories in eight out of 19 matches, of which three wins came against Laos, two each came against Bhutan and Sri Lanka, one against Pakistan. There were also two draws against India and Laos against nine defeats in total.
"I had once praised Day for bringing an attitude change among players but honestly I can't praise him again when you ask me to evaluate his two-year performance," said former national footballer and AFC A-license coach Julfiker Mahmud Mintu. "Bangladesh U-23 side qualified for the second round of the Asian Games and they also played well against India, but you can't set sporadic successes as examples.
"It was being said we played well against Qatar who had some problems while playing on a muddy pitch in Dhaka but we were exposed against Oman. We also could not deliver any gold results in SA Games and Bangabandhu Gold Cup. We went to Nepal to retain the title but what saw in the important match against Nepal was that Jamie fielded six defenders when we needed an outright win to ensure the gold.
"I worked under many foreign coaches during my national and club career but I don't see any outstanding quality in Jamie, who could not produce any tactical players and instil consistency in the national team's performance," said Mintu, adding that a coach will get complacent if the game's governing body does not set any big targets to keep the coach and the team on their toes.