The battle for regional supremacy in football, SAFF Suzuki Cup 2018, is all set to rage on from September 4 in Dhaka. For the men in red and green this tournament represents an opportunity to quench the longing of the nation for a long-overdue SAFF title.
A wave of change is slowly but surely coming to Bangladesh’s football and this change has kindled renewed hope for Bangladesh’s prospects in the tournament. The story of the change apparently starts with the appointment of head coach Jamie Day but if followed closely the chronicle can be traced back to former national coach Lodewijk de Kruif’s decisive decision to bring in Jamal Bhuiyan in the system.The three-month long practice camp in South Korea prior to Asian Games gave Jamie the perfect opportunity to address some of the fitness issues plaguing the booters. Being an age-regulated tournament, Asian Games, gave Jamie an opportunity to bring in a host of young players who are eager to give their best.
He brought the youngsters under a strict training and dietary regime during the training camp that turned them into 90-minute player from a 60-minute player.
During Bangladesh’s historic Asian Games 2018 campaign, the much improved physical fitness and mentality to play all 90 minutes of the match was evident. Jafar Iqbal, Jewel Rana, Rahmat Mia, Saad Uddin and Matin Mia being the most impressive ones of the lot along with the brilliant Jamal.
This change in energy was evident even in the 3-1 knock out defeat against North Korea in Asian Games. It was refreshing to see a young Bangladesh squad fighting tooth and nail against a much more skilled opponent till the end. Saad Uddin scored stunner in that match which was too beautiful to be a consolation goal and who can forget the historic win 1-0 against Qatar in the group-stage where Jamal’s right footed shot eluded the post minder to mark a new era of football in Bangladesh.
Moreover, the recent 0-1 defeat against Sri Lanka in friendly encounter might just turn out to be a blessing in disguise for Jamie Day’s booters. The lethargic football of the senior heavy squad of the first-half of that match reinforced Jamie’s rhetoric to field the younger team of Asian games in SAFF Championship. It became ‘easier to pick SAFF squad’ for Jamie after the Lankan defeat.
In light of recent developments, it can be safe to say that Bangladesh National Football Team have once given the nation the audacity to hope after a long and dark period in the history of football of the nation. The fear of defeat should not restrict this young pack of footballers from valiant show of indomitable spirit. This should be the mantra of Bangladesh going into SAFF.