Jam-packed 2021 awaits | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 01, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:41 AM, January 01, 2021

Jam-packed 2021 awaits

After spending seven unprecedented months idly at home due to the Covid-19-induced break, athletes shook off concerns regarding the pandemic and came out of confinement a couple of month ago with hopes of year-long engagements in 2021 at both the domestic and national level.

Following the Covid-19 outbreak in early March, different national sports federations were forced to shutter their activities. Domestic competitions were suspended and participation in international meets abroad was halted in line with efforts to contain the spread of the virus.

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However, national athletes from different disciplines stayed engaged with their physical activities even in confined environments.

The scenario has changed a lot now and most of the national sports federations resumed their activities before daring to stage small-scale domestic competitions with stringent health guidelines in November and December.

Staging tournaments on a smaller scale has apparently shown federations a new way to come up with more domestic and international engagements, with cricket, football, hockey, archery and some indoor disciplines leading the way.

Apart from cricket's busy 2021 schedule, football is poised to hold a lot of domestic and international competitions and the Bangladesh Football Federation has already started the season's curtain-raising Federation Cup after the national team played three international fixtures: two FIFA friendlies against Nepal in November and a World Cup Qualifier against Qatar in December.

Yesterday, the Bangladesh Football Federation declared a calendar for domestic and international events, with BFF president Kazi Salahuddin hoping for a good times in the New Year following a dismal 2020.

The BFF will not only host regular domestic events, but also introduce fresh tournaments while the senior national team will be busy playing hosts to the Bangabadhu Gold Cup, SAFF Championship, three World Cup Qualifiers. Other opportunities await during FIFA windows. Other than that, both junior men's and women's teams also have some international tournaments.

Hockey has also been in action recently, hosting two tournaments -- President's Cup in November and Victory Day Hockey in December. The federation is also in the process of staging the Premier Hockey League, which has not been held in the past two years.

Hockey will also have a busy time at home as the senior team is scheduled to play the rescheduled AHF Men's Asian Champions Trophy for the first time alongside five of Asia's top sides in Dhaka from March 11. The tournament had earlier been suspended due to the pandemic.

The national U-21 team will also be vying to secure a spot in the Junior World Cup when they begin their Junior Asia Cup hockey campaign in Dhaka from July 1. The 10-team tournament was deferred twice due to the pandemic.

More importantly, disciplines such as archery, shooting, weightlifting, karate and boxing are likely to get opportunities to take part in the Tokyo Olympics in July as they have already applied for 'wildcard entries'. With the Tokyo Olympics in sight, some athletes are planning to participate in international tournaments to hone their skills.

While Ruman Sana qualified for Tokyo Olympics directly, other archers have already resumed training and are planning to participate in two international tournaments before July's Olympics. Bangladesh will then host the Asian Archery Championships in November. The shooting federation is also mulling whether to send shooters to international tournaments.

Finally, some 31 federations have been asked to take preparations for February's Bangladesh Games as the Bangladesh Olympic Association continues chalking out how to stage the Games on a smaller scale due to the pandemic.

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