A day after his claim that Bangladesh is targeting the 2022 Football World Cup, Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) president Kazi Salahuddin took the first small step towards that goal when he announced yesterday that the federation will spend FIFA's yearly allocation of 2.5 lakh dollars (Tk 2 crore) to develop district football.
The announcement came at a meeting with the presidents of the District and Divisional Football Associations (DFA) at a city hotel. Each DFA was handed a cheque worth Tk 1 lakh to start the district football league within the next 45 days and the rest of the allotted Tk 2 lakh for each DFA would also be disbursed on the basis of the progress of football in their association.
Reviving district football was one of Salahuddin's three election manifestos, the other two being the formation of a strong national team and starting a football academy in Sylhet.
Since the formation of DFAs in 64 districts and seven divisions in 2008, football activities at district level have reduced drastically due to a lack of funds as the government only allocates funds to its affiliated bodies of Districts Sports Associations (DSA).
Even BFF president Salahuddin could hardly pay any attention to the revival of district football in his first four-year stint, save for a Tk 50,000 disbursement to each district, but the BFF boss promised to take care of district football after being elected for his second term in April this year.
“There might have been a misunderstanding among us about why I didn't give attention to district football during my first four-year tenure. Actually, I wanted to regularise tournaments and leagues in Dhaka and now that it is in a steady position I have shifted my focus to district football.
“It is a day I have long been waiting for and I am announcing that from now on the FIFA donation will be spent behind the development of district football. I hope you will see the benefits in district football after four years,” said Kazi Salahuddin in his welcome speech to the football leaders of the districts and divisions at the Sonargaon Hotel yesterday.
Having pledged support for the DFA leaders to develop the country's football, Salahuddin instructed them to start the district league by December.
Manjur Kader, the chairman of the BFF District Football Association Committee, assured that his committee is ready to help the DFAs in every sector, saying that they are even willing to visit each of the districts to talk with the DC and SP to solve the problems regarding the grounds, which are properties of the government.
AJM Nasir, chairman of Chittagong Divisional Football Association and president of District Football Associations, ensured that they would help the BFF to succeed in all programmes but urged the game's governing body to ensure security in each of the grounds and provide referees of requisite quality.
Nasir also urged the BFF boss to place priority on allocating more funds to the least developed districts instead of distributing equally.