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8 February, 2018 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 8 February, 2018 12:49:06 AM

Girls in Football

Sheikh Iraj
Girls in Football

Besides cricket, football is still the most played sport in Bangladesh. Once, local football tournaments were immensely popular across the country, but the popularity has been waning in recent years, mostly due to poor performances. On the other hand, women’s football has been coming up, particularly with the success of our national girls’ team. In December 2017, our national under-15 team made the whole nation proud by winning the inaugural edition of SAFF U15 Women’s Championship, beating India in the final at Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka.

At the moment, girls from the winning team are preparing for an upcoming tournament that will take place in Hong Kong next month. Y&I recently met with some of the young football stars and their coach at Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) head office in Dhaka where they are training. They talked about how their lives have changed over the past couple of years, their practice regime, diet, studies, and how they are preparing themselves for new tournaments and their future plans.

Monika Chakma, 15, is now a central midfielder of the under-16 girls’ football team. “I study in class 10. I want to play at the national level. Besides continuing with my education, I want to be associated with football as long as I can. Right now, we are practising for four hours every day. We start our morning practice at 7 am and continue for about an hour. Then in the afternoon, we again practise from 1 pm to 2 pm. We are staying at the BFF National Training Centre. There are about 46 players like us,” Monika told this correspondent.

Maria Manda, 15, is the captain of the national under-16 team. She also plays in the centre midfield position. Maria is a class-10 student of Kalishindhu School in Mymensingh, but she gets to study and participate in the exams from Dhaka while training. “Our lives have changed in many ways since we started playing football at the national level. People love us and we love our fans, too. The support we are receiving from parents, friends, our coach, and management, and the public is overwhelming. I want to continue my studies and I also want to become a world-class footballer,” she said.

Akhi Khatun, 15, is another star player of our under-16 football team. She studies at BKSP (Bangladesh Krira Shikkha Protishtan). Like most of the girls at the camp, she also wants to continue playing football. “We live on the fourth floor (of BFF training centre). We practise for six days a week, and on Fridays we rest. Our parents or relatives can come and visit us anytime they want. I play in the central defensive position. Sometimes, it becomes hard to balance study and football, but we are trying our best,” Akhi said.

According to BFF, continuation of the full-time residential academy at the national training centre will see them through to the AFC U16 Qualification Championship in 2018 and AFC U16 Championship in 2019, and perhaps, even FIFA U17 World Cup in 2020.

In football, like in any other sport, coaches play a vital role. They not only help the players to learn new skills, maintain discipline and make the best of their talent; sometimes they also play the role of guardians.

Golam Rabbani, coach of the U16 girl’s team, said: “Since 2014, we have been trying to develop a strong girls’ football team. A tournament called ‘Plan Bangladesh’ was organised in 2014, and from there we initially selected 210 players. Those players got to play at seven different venues under 14 coaches. Then we separated them into 14 teams, and selected the best 46 players. That is how it all began. From our first game, we played good football. Over the years, the players’ skill sets have been gradually developing. And we can prove that by looking at their recent achievements. The whole country loves our girls. We have come to understand one thing _ football is not dead in our country. If we can entertain the people, they show up during the matches, even if the matches are held abroad.”

“As far as their diet is concerned, we allow them to eat most of the things they want. For breakfast, they eat chick peas, biscuits and fruits. For lunch and dinner, they have fish, rice, meat, lentils and vegetables. At night, before going to bed, they have a warm glass of milk. Of course, the food menu is not the same every day,” Rabbani added. “Thanks to the education board, our girls can study in Dhaka and participate in their examinations from here. We have a teacher who comes every evening to teach the girls.”

Photos: File.

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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