After how many years had football returned to the public sentiment? It was not so easy to recall for anybody. But undoubtedly it took more than a decade to experience this kind of enthusiasm with a domestic football match at the Bangabandhu National Stadium.
The teams produced quality football in the middle to fit the mega occasion but without any doubt the talk of the topics was none other than the turnout of the crowd, the ear-deafening roars from all corner of the stadium, the festivities all around the match.
A game which has been on a downward spiral for numerous years suddenly got a life and it took only a little time to make many nostalgic. “I don’t know when I last came to the stadium to watch a domestic football match but its no less than a decade ago. Today everything made me nostalgic,” a bearded man named Atiqur Rahman, who came along with his grandson, responded. The man was in a rush because only early entrance could ensure a place inside the bowl as the queue was so long that many lined up three-four hours before kick-off.
So, who blew the whistle to bring back the crowd into the field? It was none other than Kazi Salahuddin, the yesteryear star turned the game’s boss of the country, who made the things happen due to a Tk 1 crore tournament which was his brainchild.
He should have been the happiest man after
the mega success of his dream tournament, the meet for which many was raised their eyebrows initially but the leader was guarded in his brief reaction and why not, when he has the sky as his limit with the country’s football.
“What I can say, it’s just the beginning of a dream,” said Salahuddin.
Mohammedan was over the moon after clinching the richest tournament in the subcontinent while their archrivals Abahani’s tent was understandably dejected after losing the final despite playing the better game.
But both the captains were common in one sentiment, in their generation it was their first experience playing football in front of such a jampacked stadium.
“It’s an amazing experience for everybody to play football in front of such a big crowd. It’s nice to see the fans who have come to the ground. Now we hope the game will regularly roll into the ground and the crowd will make it habit to watch the football,” said an excited Mohammedan captain Arman Aziz.
“I think it’s all about a team effort which enabled us to lift the trophy as well as the big cheque. We started this season’s campaign brilliantly by winning the Federation Cup failed to keep up our standards but finally we performed our best today,” he said about his team’s success against their bitter rivals.
“It’s a fantastic experience for us to play a game in such an electric atmosphere in front of a full-house crowd. But we have to continue it and it’s now a big challenge for everybody,” said Abahani captain Nazrul Islam.
Nazrul also rued his team’s missed opportunities and said that the luck didn’t favour them.
“In this kind of big match one can’t win if they even miss one good chance but unfortunately we missed a number of sure chances. On the other hand Mohammedan got one and capitalized on it to be successful,” he said expressing his disappointment.
He also complained about the absence of their three key players—Joy, Pranatosh and Emily. “We felt their absence,” he said.
Mohammedan custodian Aminul Haque, the best goalkeeper in the tournament, also expressed his excitement with the turn out. “It’s great we won the final but I am also excited with the turnout which is something new for us,” said the country’s number one goalkeeper.
The pain was unbearable for new sensation Emily, the best player in the tournament who displayed his great ability to score when his side trailed, as the Abahani striker failed to play the entire match, substituted in the 34th minute due to a hamstring injury.
“It’s really painful. The story might have been different had I played the entire match because we played better football and created a number of opportunities,” said the young striker.
The dream came true with one tournament but now the question is about sustainability and it can only be ensured if the game continues to produce quality.