Vol. 4 Num 230 Fri. January 16, 2004  

Western Union Senior Division Football League
Black Thursday

It couldn't have happened at the worst possible time.

With strong Asian Football Confe-deration (AFC) and FIFA delegates, who are in Dhaka as part of the 'Vision Asia' project, watching from the media enclosure at Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur yesterday, Mohammedan Sporting Club officials and players decided to disgrace the image of Bangladesh's football through behaviour which was totally unlawful and indecent.

When Muktijoddha Sangsad's long-throw specialist Belal's deep hurl was deflected into the Mohammedan net for an equalising goal with six minutes of normal time remaining, a furious black and whites captain Jewel Rana led a wild protest for cancellation of the strike claiming that the ball had gone in straight from the throw-in. What happened next was a sequence of shameful acts.

Jewel, a former Bangladesh international, charged towards referee Ram Krishna Ghosh, pushed and shoved him and then let out his rage on linesman Shahadat Badal. At one stage, Jewel was seen virtually dragging Badal off balance near the centre touchline and even threatening to slap him.

The AFC officials, who have arrived in the country to find out the problems facing the game and to help Bangladesh become a respectable name in the continent under the Vision Asia, were visibly irked and disappointed at what they were seeing.

"Why doesn't the referee just show him (Jewel) the red card and let the game continue," said one member of the delegation as the match was stopped.

In the meantime, Mohammedan manager Amirul Islam Babu, who wastes no opportunity to get involved with the action in the middle, rushed on to the pitch and confronted the match officials. No one but the players and medical staff are allowed on the ground during a match but Babu roamed freely and was continuously talking on his cell phone apparently seeking instructions from club high-ups.

Babu is no stranger to controversy. In 2001, the Mohammedan manager attacked the referee in a Premier Division game and was banned from entering the ground for a year.

Next it was Mohammedan's sports secretary Salam Murshedi's turn. The striker of yesteryears also let his views be known by entering the ground and jostling with the referee.

"Look, even the officials are also getting inside the field. This is crazy," exclaimed another AFC official. While all this was taking place, Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF)'s general secretary Anwarul Haque Helal and BFF vice-president Sirajul Islam Bachchu were stunned into silence seeing any hope of projecting a positive picture of local football perishing before their very eyes. The frustrated delegates left the stadium after waiting about 20 minutes for play to start.

The most outrageous and unprecedented event then unfolded when a camera crew of satellite channel ntv entered the arena and positioned themselves just outside the touchline. They ran a replay of the equalising goal on their camera for a group of excited Mohammedan officials who then made the audacious and silly demand to the referee to cancel the goal based on that video footage.

To his credit, the referee held his ground. After 47 minutes had passed on the clock since the match was stopped, Ghosh blew the final whistle with Mohammedan uninterested in playing the remaining minutes.

As the match officials were being escorted off the ground under heavy police cover, an elegantly attired Mohammedan executive committee member Mahbub completely insulted his dress sense by trying to jump on the security cordon to attack the referee and linesmen. It took the joint effort of a couple of policemen to restrain him as the visibly rattled Ghosh and his assistants took refuge in the darkness of the dressing room.

At the end of the unnecessary fiasco, the common consensus among mediamen and fans present at stadium was that it was time for the Dhaka Mohanagari League Committee, who are the organisers of the championship, to come out with exemplary disciplining measures against the perpetrators responsible for disgracing the country's football infront of foreign guests, in this case the Mohammedan players and officials.