Sunday, 17 October, 2021

The pioneer of modern sports

Sheikh Kamal, the martyred eldest son of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, is a significant name in the country’s sports arena as he had taken drastic steps to modernise games soon after the independence of the country.

He played a major role in promoting sports in the country and he was the architect of the then Abahani Krira Chakra that transformed club football and cricket to a great extent.

Sheikh Kamal, who was first trained on war course in Bangladesh, got commissioned in the liberation force and also became ADC to General MAG Osmani, commander-in-chief of Bangladesh Armed Forces during the Liberation War.

Renowned sports organiser Harun-ur-Rashid, who was the founding general secretary of Abahani Krira Chakra and also a close friend of Sheikh Kamal, recalled the memories those days while talking to the Daily Sun.

Harun tried to bring the versatility of his character and also reflected on different colours of his personality.

“Sheikh Kamal took part in the War of Liberation as a captain and worked as the ADC of General Osmani and during that time he thought the young people involved in the war had to be brought to the sports arena to educate them and make them good citizens,” he said. “As per his plan, he gathered all members of Swadhin Bangla Football Team and some local players of Dhaka. Abahani Club was already there. He brought them to Abahani and then took the club to the national level. He started to recruit young players in Abahani. His lone aim was to start the new style of sports by changing the old style, to start modern football,” Harun said. 

“His aim was to go with contemporary trends of sports and as a result, he brought the first-ever foreign coach to Bangladesh—British football coach Bill Hart—for Abahani and started to nurse players under him. It brought huge popularity for Abahani,” he said.

The sports organiser said, “To be honest, it worked as not only our young people got attracted to sports but also those who were not interested in sports started to come to watch the game to the surprise of many.”

He said it brought huge popularity for Abahani. The domestic league was abandoned due to an unexpected clash in 1972. Abahani became unbeaten champions in 1974.

Not only in football but Abahani became champions also in cricket, hockey and table tennis during that year and it only happened due to Sheikh Kamal’s love and affection for sports, Harun said. “Sport was one of his biggest passions and he was far ahead from his contemporaries in terms of intellect and organisational skills as he could complete a task neatly and methodically.”

“Most of the time he came to watch practice sessions on the field and it helped a lot to maintain discipline among the players due to the fact that it made the players serious about their games but those players became his friends outside the field like we were his seniors but we were also his friend,” he said.

He had a multifaceted personality as he was also involved with cultural, social and political activities, Harun said, adding that he used to sing songs and play sitar and he used to learn sitar in Chhayanaut and he was also an actor and acted in some dramas. “He also established a music brand titled Spondon Shilpa Gosthi as well as contributed towards founding Dhaka Theatre. But we were often surprised that he never mixed one with another. He never brought politics into sports or culture. That is why he was very popular among us and among our friends and we had accepted him as our leader.”

“He always led a simple life and we have never seen him show luxury and our meeting place was the High Court Mazar and whenever we became upset, he tried to make us happy by singing several songs like ‘Koto fakir ghore’, ‘Sadher lau’ and these are examples of his great heart,” Kamal’s friend said going down the memory lane.

He said Bangabandhu wanted the young generation to run the country one day. “So, they needed to be good citizens. Sheikh Kamal tried to give them a way through sports and culture. He not only worked for Abahani but also Brothers Union. He also formed several other clubs like Kamal Sporting Club. He had always tried to support them. He had always been thinking about the welfare of the players—to provide them with the best possible facilities. His only dream was to disarm the young people, bring them to education and make them good citizens.”

“We had not been able to make comparatively good progress even in 40 years of independence what Kamal did in three and a half years. His dream was to open Abahani’s branches countrywide. After his death, we had opened Abahani’s branches across the country, even we had opened branches abroad. I think Abahani is now the most popular name in the South Asian region and Sheikh Kamal’s name is closely associated with it. As long as there will be Abahani, there will be Bangladesh and Sheikh Kamal,” Harun said.

Sheikh Kamal’s death is an irreparable loss to our sports arena, he said. “Had he could have lived for at least more 10 years, our sports arena today would have a different history. We might have been stronger in sports in the world.”