By Tahsin Mahmood
Red and blue flags flying on almost every rooftop, the sky besieged with their colours like as if it was carnival season! A city gripped with sudden excitement and everyone seems to be buzzing. Stadium overflowing with exuberant fans, grooving to the energetic drum beats. The animated crowd carrying fliers, placards, each trying to drown out the supporters of the opposition. A thunderous roar at every climax.
Sounds like a title decider from the NBA, maybe a derby match between Liverpool and Everton or Manchester United and Manchester City, or maybe a thrilling cricket match from the IPL? Actually no.
This used to be the face of football in Bangladesh a decade ago, subsequently defaced by frequent post-match violence, rising popularity of cricket and the transfer of football from Bangabondhu Stadium. With a derby between Mohammedan and Abahani, however, the good times are back!
In 2008, with a new administration taking charge, promises were made to bring back life to football. Sticking to their words, the BFF in partnership with Citycell, very recently arranged a much-publicized Super Cup tournament. Building up the hype, with proper advertising and bringing football back to where it belongs, in the Bangabondhu Stadium, it finally drew back the deafening crowds football had lost.
The format of the tournament was quite new in the Bangladeshi football arena too. After a round robin format in the group stages, the tournament presented two leg semi-finals, with each team playing home and away. However, lack of football infrastructure in the country led to all the matches being played at the Bangabondhu Stadium alone. The tournament also ran a plate championship for the teams, which did not make it to the semis.
The final between Dhaka Abahani and Dhaka Mohammedan saw the rebirth of football in terms of crowds present. The stadium was filled to the brim with 45000 vocal fans, all-jeering at their opponents. The sour history between the clubs added flair to the atmosphere. In the thrilling finale, the spectators were entertained with a gruesome battle for pride between these two giants. A match that saw fast attacking football and countless hard tackles, a score of 1 nil, undermines the entertaining football played. Hats off to both the keepers for their fantastic saves to keep their title hope alive. In the end, Dhaka Mohammedan beat their archrival and emerged victorious. Emily of Dhaka Abahoni was the top scorer and Aminul of Dhaka Mohammedan was adjudged the best keeper of the tournament.
The Citycell Super Cup, with its big money and glamour, did bring back the crowd football once attracted and did plenty to rejuvenate the football fans. It also lifted the spirit of the footballers and the quality of the game played. The nation hopes this is the revival of football.
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