PLEASURE IS ALL MINE Our girls’ feat in football and localised pinpricks

Shah Husain Imam

The all-win success story of our U-16 girls’ football team at the group championship stage has been a head turner. But with their entry into the top eight league which pits them against teams like Japan and South Korea, their struggle has only begun. They have a long way to go.

Of course, we must rejoice in their astounding feat clinched so far with magically resilient footwork and skill. Alongside, let’s prepare them to scale the next hurdle through mind and body training sessions that hopefully Bangladesh football federation would arrange in good time. We marvel at the fact that they are basically the products of local trainers.

In this testing time for our mid-teen football performers two things will have to be scrupulously guarded against and discarded: First, while resting on their laurels, the victory should not go to their head; in other words, complacency should not be allowed to creep into their system. Secondly, and very importantly, no opaque, gender biased treatment may be even unwittingly meted out to them. The U-16 football team is playing a huge add-on role in the advancement of women in fields so far considered as the exclusive preserves of men.

In the second category of expectation we have lately bumped against intolerant, even abusive behaviour towards the girls or their parents. The girls, whilst on their return journey, reportedly without any guardian from Dhaka to Kalsindur in Mymensingh on regular bus service, were teased and harassed.

The second incident proves a Shakespearian adage on the abomination of “man, proud man, dressed in brief authority” never failing to show off his hubris – in this case, by a quixotic control freak of a teacher.

The drill teacher of Kalsindur School and College had asked the just – returned members of the U-16 team to play an interschool tournament in Comilla on September 18. The girls and their parents ruled out that possibility arguing that the BFF had scheduled a reception for them on September 17 in Dhaka. The BFF would not permit the girls’ participation in the inter-school tournament, parents informed the teacher who was insistent on a change of plans. And he was in no mood to listen to logic.

This led to a spat, altercation and finally physical assault on goal-keeper Taslima’s father Sabuj Mia. A case has been filed against the teacher, a proforma suspension order issued against him by the school management and the man is absconding.

The point is that with our exposure to global or regional sporting circuits and women clinching laurels on them, some are yet to display a matching cultural uplift to gracefully embrace the positive transformation.

The upward curve in girls’ football is so impressive: We have defeated Maldives, Iran, even Taiwan, Kyrgyzstan before crushing UAE to stay undefeated through the qualifier round.

What is highly interesting to note is that village Kalsindur alone has contributed nine footballers to the team. Soccer experts suggest that the Mymensingh-Kishoreganj-Netrokona-Sunamganj belt has been the breeding ground for good footballers among men as well as women. The haor areas with open spaces may be conducive to supply of footballers. We may not be too hung up with place names; instead scout for talents all over the country.

The private sector including corporate houses and sponsors will have to come forward in patronising sports on a programmatic basis. As the government sets up facilities and modernises sport infrastructure, event management is largely in the hands of cash-strapped federations who have to depend on sponsors.

Women should be encouraged in individual and in group events like for instance shooting, chess, archery, weight lifting, kabadi, swimming, cricket, football and hockey. We have had two iconic women mountain climbers bearing testimony to the grit, determination and skill levels displayed in pushing new frontiers in the sporting world.

In all, there is a paramount need for a structured approach to sports that will not just help consolidate the gains but build on them to ensure sustainability of successes and continuous bettering of records.

With a huge youth population we are ideally placed to develop a groundswell of sporting talents. The best antidote to drugs and extremism which are intertwined addictions is offered by the passion and pursuit of sports.

Source: The Daily Star

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