Monday, 27 March, 2023

ABG Bashundhara ushers in new era for women’s football

  • Ikramuzzaman
  • 28th January, 2023 04:25:57 PM
  • Print news

During pre-independence days it was beyond my imagination that Bengali girls would play football alongside boys, represent the country in the international arena, bring laurels for the nation by playing football with extraordinary skills, and hold the country’s flag high. But thanks to the country’s independence, the girls got an opportunity to flourish their dormant talent. Not only in football, but the girls are showing their mettle in other games too.

When I look towards the sports arena, I observe the new generation girls and boys marching forward with intense interest and enthusiasm. They are our hopes and aspirations. I believe they won’t allow the stoppage of Bangladesh’s forward march in the sports arena. But it is a matter of regret that Bangladeshi girls are deprived of proper patronisation and protection in major sports arenas. When it is a reality just at the moment, Bashundhara Group has come forward. ABG Bashundhara signed a sponsorship deal with Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) for the women’s football team on Thursday. As per the deal, ABG Bashundhara will provide three-year sponsorship to Bangladesh Women’s National Football Team.

Bashundhara Group and ABG Ltd Managing Director (MD) Sayem Sobhan Anvir and FIFA Council Member and BFF Women’s Wing Chairman Mahfuza Akter Kiron signed the deal on behalf of ABG Bashundhara and BFF respectively. While speaking on the agreement, Bashundhara Group high official and Bashundhara Kings President Imrul Hassan said, “Bashundhara Group will bear the entire expenses of the Women’s League and women’s international matches as well as for those who stay at the BFF camps. We’re not providing the sponsorship for publicity.” He further said, "We’re providing the sponsorship for development of the country’s football. We just want to see women's football on a stage. Women’s football is a little bit better than men’s football. If they get a little bit of support, we believe they’ll go a long way.”

Not only in women’s football, but presently Bashundhara Group is patronising each and every competitions organised by the BFF. The positive side of the country’s sports arena is that it has surpassed the class characteristic and interest during adolescence and youth. All from the top-down of society are joining the sports arena. They are playing their due role in the field of sports. They are trying to do something for it—this desire will take the sports arena to a new height. Sports arena will have a new colour.

In Bangladesh, the age of football culture among Bengali women is of less than three eras. On the other hand, in India the age of this football culture spans over eight eras.  In India’s West Bengal, no team consisting of 11 Bengali players ever represented the country like Bengali girls of Bangladesh. While working on football, I’ve never found any information in this regard. From this side, the girls of Bangladesh are fortunate enough. They are getting the chance of representing a nation. In fields, they’ve been able to reflect the national character. People can find the country in the fight of the women’s team.

Last year, Bangladesh senior women’s team emerged as champions. This will be identified as a ‘milepost’ in the history of women’s football. The victory of the women’s team is not merely a taste of victory in the global championship. The victory has ensured self-confidence, courage, inspiration and a new message for the coming days.

A radical change in women’s football is of utmost necessity. Quantitatively it has progressed, but qualitatively there are lackings.  Women’s football is the main concern of the Football Federation. There’s no other way. But why?  At home, the clubs are nourishing football.  In Premier Football, it is mandatory to keep women’s football alongside men’s football. The clubs lack interest in patronising the women’s team. They think it a burden to form the women’s football team. Bashundhara Kings, the three-year champions in Premier Football, is a difference. They not only formed the women’s team in the past three years, but they’ve imparted training to the female players keeping them in camps under a full-fledged trainer which has directly contributed towards forward movement of the country’s women football. In reality, women footballers need the most financial support. Bashundhara Group’s club Bashundhara Kings is providing the same regularly. And, this support is much needed for the families of women footballers.

Had some more major clubs formed women’s teams from their obligations in the Premier League and played as well as participated regularly then the sports arena of women’s football would have been benefited. Female footballers would be benefited. The womenfolk could have witnessed more interest and enthusiasm. Many more footballers would be benefited.

All we’re observing is that from the point of success men lack behind women in age-based football. Had women got opportunities of playing regularly in major league tournaments under big clubs then their ability and talents could have been utilised more effectively. If it is possible to create a woman-friendly football corner following cooperation of all concerned then we’ll be able to witness a big change within the next five years. Sports arena is always in favour of change.

Bashundhara Group, the country's biggest business conglomerate, always believes in male-female parity in their social activities. There is no discrimination between men and women in Bashundhara Kings being patronised by Bashundhara Group.  Two teams are being guided in a disciplined manner under a President. Club President Md Imrul Hassan is ever-conscious regarding sports arenas based on fair play. He is conscious about equal rights.

While telling about the sports arena of parity a few days ago, Imrul Hassan said, “Bashundhara Kings, the club of Bashundhara Group, is not identified merely as a club; rather it wants to contribute its might effectively in flourishing country’s football taking men and women in the fold. And, the club is working towards this aim.”

The modern stadium of Bashundhara Kings is not merely for the club. It is entirely for the interest of the country’s football. Near the stadium, work is underway to create a separate field for girls inside the complex. It is hoped that within a span of two months work on the field will be completed. As soon as work on separate football academies for male and female footballers along with residential facilities and academic buildings, the activities will start separately. I hope that at one stage Bashundhara Kings will be able to fulfill the need of local players from players created by the academy itself. Besides, players created by the Kings Academy can be sold in other clubs. The country’s football is behind all the activities—to enhance the quality of the country’s football as well as its progress. Those who are at the helm of affairs of Bashundhara Group have a dream centring the country’s football and they believe that it is very much possible to materialise the dream. The Group wants the club to operate through the spirit of cent percent professionalism, good governance and accountability.

Like the men's team, Bashundhara women’s team also attained the glory of hat trick by emerging as three-time champions. In the jersey of both men and women’s team ‘three stars’ got inscribed. In the history of Bangladesh football no football club patronized by any corporate house has achieved this rare success. The success of the women's team is glorious enough. No women’s team in the sub-continent attained the glory of hat trick becoming three-time champions without losing any point. The achievement of the Bashundhara women’s team is matchless.  In sub-continental football, the Kings Women’s Team has created a new chapter. Through the success of the women’s team, the ‘brand image’ of Bashundhara Kings increased manifold. At the same time, the acceptability and popularity of the brand have increased by one step. Along with the women's football team, the ABG Bashundhara sponsorship accord will contribute towards assisting in development of the country’s women football.    

(The writer is a columnist and analyst, also former vice-president of AIPS Asia)

Translated by Z A M Khairuzzaman