Vol. 5 Num 933 Sat. January 13, 2007  

Glamour lights up sports
Grameenphone-Prothom Alo crown Nafees

Bringing the whole sporting arena under one roof seemed to be a difficult job. But that was until one attended yesterday's Grameenphone-Prothom Alo sports awards in the city.

It was not just the whole sports arena -- it is literary impossible to hold such a vast gathering inside the ballroom of a hotel -- but all sections of local sport were represented with distinction when the country's leading cellular phone operator and the leading daily awarded the top sportspersons of the year 2006.

Past and current sports icons littered the cordial ceremony, hosted ably in the distinctive style of Prothom Alo's Sports Editor Utpal Shuvra, where cricketer Shahriar Nafees was declared as the Sportsman of the Year.

The carnival came alive when Ranjit Das, star footballer of the 50s, was given a standing ovation when he walked to the stage to take the Lifetime Achievement award from Prothom Alo Editor Matiur Rahman and Grameenphone's MD Erik Aas.

The 70-plus Ranjit, who played hockey and cricket after retiring from football, told that he only started 'keeping because his captain had asked him to do so.

"Obey the captain and you should not regret," the audience murmured in response.

Golam Sarwar Tipu, one of the five juries, perhaps described Ranjit in the best possible way when he wrote for The Daily Star last year about his first memories of watching a domestic football match in Dhaka: "I was impressed by Ranjit's dress and movements. He was short, but very fair and really smart. Unlike other goalkeepers of that time (as far as I knew) who used to just stand under the bar, he moved with grace. He was totally different."

At 5ft 4in, Ranjit overcame physical limitations with devotion to become a great goalkeeper of his times.

Former cricket captain Minhajul Abednin Nannu handed over the Emerging Sportsman award to Sakib Al Hasan, whose first year in international cricket has proved that he is made for the long run.

Consecutive South Asian Games silver medallist Fouzia Huda Jui was an obvious choice for the leading Female Sportsperson but for the first time in its third year, a footballer was not considered.

The two runners-up, both came close to challenge national cricket team's vice-captain Nafees, were Mashrafee-bin-Mortuza and Mahfuzur Rahman Mithu.

Mashrafee, who claimed 49 wickets to become the highest one-day international wicket-taker in 2006, received his award from the country's undisputed superstar and legendary footballer Kazi Salahuddin.

Mithu became the first athlete to win a hurdles gold medal for the country at regional level, winning the 110m hurdles in the 10th SA Games in Colombo last year. The tall athlete, who requested the media to give more coverage of sports other than cricket and football, also urged the need of sponsors' support to the so-called 'small-time games'. Former national cricket captain Gazi Ashraf Lipu handed over the prizes to the hurdler, who had a difficult time to explain general people what 'hurdles' actually is.

Two other gold medallists in the 10th SA Games, swimmer Shahjahan Ali Rony (50m breaststroke) and martial artist Mizanur Rahman (taekwondo), were also in contention like the national kabaddi team which won the Asian Games bronze medal last December in Doha. The two athletes and the whole kabaddi team were given big hands and flowers as token of their credit.

Last year's Sportsperson of the Year Habibul Bashar was not at all disappointed to miss the spotlight this time while giving the crown to his deputy Nafees.

"He not only batted brilliantly but also solved the seemingly everlasting problem of the brittle top-order batting of the national team," Bashar was all-praise of the youngster. "For his performance, I was spared from a familiar question like why the top order can't score runs."

Nafees, who swept the best cricketer and the best batsman awards at the Cricket Awards Night, rated his latest accolade highly.

"It is a very important award because more people are involved in the procedures. I am honoured and hope to continue with my form," said the left-handed opening batsman who scored 1033 runs including three centuries in ODIs in the last calendar year and 330 runs in four Tests including one hundred against mighty Australia.

"Prothom Alo thinks that sports needs basic changes in the country and it will fight to create public opinion for a corruption free and lively sporting arena," said Prothom Alo Editor Matiur Rahman. "We also want that besides cricket, which is now in the limelight, other sports should be widely spread and get more coverage."

Grameenpjone MD Eric Aas said that the two organisations believe truly in the enthusiasm of sports.

"Sports is more about than just moving and it is the development of the whole country. I am also happy because these awards have credibility and people believe that it's neutral," he said.

The jury board comprised of Bashir Ahmed (chairman), Golam Sarwar Tipu, Jalal Ahmed Chowdhury, Salma Rafique and Aminul Islam Bulbul.

The winners of Lifetime Achievement and Sportsperson of the Years each received Tk one lakh and the other winners Tk 50,000 each.

Winners of the Grameenphone-Prothom Alo Sports Awards 2006 pose with the juries and organisers during a prize-giving ceremony at a local hotel yesterday. PHOTO: STAR