Published: Friday, May 10, 2013

Positive changes in football

Positive changes in football

Sheikh Russel Krira Chakra became the new champions in the Bangladesh Premier Football League this year.
But more importantly the league was arguably the first in many years not mired in match-fixing allegations. This is perhaps the biggest positive change in the country’s football that also witnessed a shift in power from two traditional rivals and popular teams Abahani and Mohammedan who failed to win a single silverware from three domestic competitions this time around.
Although some people tried to point fingers before crucial matches, but their apprehension was proved wrong. One of the reasons for this fair league was competition. Right from the outset, the battle for the title was confined to five teams (though it became a three-horse race midway through) while the remaining four were busy in the battle for survival.
So there was hardly any scope to resort to the age-old practice of syndicated match-fixing, a menace that crippled the country’s football and slowly but steadily drove the crowd away from the premier venue where they once turned up in droves.
This year the league is also a recognition of coaches’ importance over the weight of big name teams. Coaches have often been considered as a mere technical person than a mentor in our domestic football, but Sheikh Russel’s young coach Maruful Haque proved without a doubt that a success story revolved around a coach by outwitting Sheikh Jamal’s Nigerian Joseph Afusi and Abahani’s Iranian Ardeshir Pournamat in that technical area on the field and beyond.
Maruf became only the second treble-winning coach in the country’s history after Mohammedan coach Abul Hossain, who achieved the feat in 2002.
The sixth edition of the professional football league had also been a platform for the rebirth of local strikers, who unlike the previous editions, found the back of the net regularly alongside the foreign strikers. Abahani’s Shakhawat Hossain Rony was the third top scorer with seven goals.
Undoubtedly, the competitive tournaments, fair league and presence of a few quality foreign players helped the footballers move a step ahead and Sheikh Russel’s Moroccan recruit Tareq El Janabi, who has played in different Asian leagues before coming here, certified the local booters.
“You have some talented footballers and I think their standard is almost equal to those of Malaysia, Indonesia and Bahrain where I played before,” said the 28-year-old mid-fielder who added that the standard of football here was better than that of India, judging by his experience from watching matches of I-league on television.
Tareq however suggested the coaches should give more game time to the youngsters, most of whom warm the benches round the season, as they should gather experience by playing with senior and foreign players.
However, some of that attraction was dampened by the unnecessary extension of the league. The football’s governing body took as many as 177 days to complete only 72 league matches (12 matches a month on an average), which were often interrupted by unplanned international friendlies, AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers, political unrest and lastly the Bangladesh Games.