In the last one year, Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) under the leadership of Kazi Salahuddin has admirably brought back the game on track as well as fans to the venues. Just as a champion striker in his heydays, Salahuddin has proved himself as the visionary organiser who can revive the game’s glory. But he sees football in Bangladesh beyond that. In an exclusive interview with our senior reporter Al Musabbir Sadi, the BFF president spoke about his dreams and plans. Here is an excerpt of that interview.
DS:How would you describe Bangladesh Football Federation’s activities from April 2008-09?
Kazi Salahuddin(KS): How far we have advanced, or succeeded or whatever we have done in the past one year, you people are the best to evaluate. All I can tell is that under the circumstances we had taken over we literally had nothing but the building. Where we’ve reached today may not be the best of everybody’s expectations but I think we have tried our best.
All of you know what games we played, what sponsorship we’ve got or getting. Starting from the Federation Cup to B. League and Super Cup, the AFC Challenge Cup coming this month, the AFC club competition and national school and club championships coming in the next month and getting sponsors, I think our position is clear.
DS: You’ve said this is only the beginning of your dream. People are coming to watch football but don’t you think it’s harder to keep them?
KS: Two statements throughout the year that have made me feel good. The Mohammedan club president has appreciated our work. He has requested his club to support us all the way because of our performance. I was most pleased about their captain Arman Aziz’s comments that BFF has done their job well, so it is part of the players now to develop the quality of the game to keep the crowd.
These statements prove I have been able to motivate the whole social structure of developing football. Clubs, players, people and media have shown their support and if everyone works like this, it won’t be difficult.
DS: Sponsors are coming but you need more to fulfil future plans?
KS: That’s true but to go to a different level, I need more. The word ‘more’ has become a favourite word of mine but I know it is not a very attractive word. But that is the requirement of football. What I am asking is not for myself, for my country’s football and to motivate the youngsters coming into football. The concept was not created by me, it was created a long ago and it will remain as long as we are alive.
DS: In fact football in Dhaka got a facelift in the past year. But you need to go outside…
KS: The school football is coming soon. Why I concentrated on football in Dhaka first? There’s a simple logic in it. A lot of people told me to go to the grassroots at the beginning. But I took one year to go to the grassroots. Until and unless there is a show place, why should kids play football? Where will they show their talents? This was a concept I did not talk in public. Because those who advised me to go to grassroots did not realise that I had a plan. I know grassroots is basic, schooling is basic but IO waited. Today I am saying that I needed football in Dhaka going first. Because the school children who play now will realise they have a place to perform, show their talent and make money.
Now parents will allow their children to play football because there is a future. But had I gone grassroots first, no parent would allow it. This is something I didn’t say openly but I had it planned.
DS: Now you’ve go sponsors for district football. We need to start those leagues because not much players in the pipeline for future…
KS: We’ll be there within a month. I will give them options: to start now or after the rainy season. My advice for them is to wait for rains. August would be a good time to start. We should start preparing ourselves now because we don’t have much money and we don’t want to waste what we have. We won’t do anything for just publicity. It comes itself if you are successful. Waiting till August or September may make them unhappy but there is reason and purpose for this. I would ask them to organise from now also give them money but it should start after the monsoon.
DS: The district football associations and the district sports associations are not cooperating each other. You think there is a Communication gap?
KS: This is a very sad thing. I don’t know why they are quarrelling. But I understand that once I provide a little fund, things will get better. I’ve got the assurance of National Sports Council (NSC) chairman General Moeen U Ahmed who will allocate the grounds to me for a certain period of time. That is good enough for me.
DS: What about the academy you are trying to set up?
KS: I had a long discussion with the NSC chief about Sylhet BKSP, which has been built but is lying idle. He assured me that he would give me the place for five years with an extension of another five years. So I have already written to him and I believe the moment he has the time to go through it, I will get it. I will go immediately into the academy once I get it. People think the academy is far away but not me. If I get that complex, I would be there by September.
DS: How much money would you need?
KS: Not less than 10 to 15 crore. We don’t have any sponsors now but I hope we will get it. It’s not a question of confidence, its question of hard work and with the help of God, things are happening. If I put my honest and hard work, may be somebody will realise this is a product we are building, they may come in, plus I am also talking to some foreign people and we may have an understanding. Like if this academy produces top class players, we’d share the product…some kind of arrangement because funding is one of the biggest factors.
DS: What’s at the end of your dream?
KS: I think by the end of my term, I should be able to reach a point when I’ll have to increase ticket price for a match. That’s not far. People should understand that we would not do it for money. The product would be very expensive but I can’t afford more than 40,000 people in the stadium and I don’t want thousands to go home without getting a ticket. I will increase the price for fewer sales, so less people return from the ground. I believe we should be able to achieve that in three years. And by 2015, the national team should be a force to reckon with. When our team would be participating in a tournament, they would not be taken lightly. That is my ultimate dream.
Finally I want to say that I am grateful for the sponsors are coming. But my personal thanks to Citycell for joining hands when nobody would touch me. I appreciate that and I am very happy and glad with them. My sincere and best wishes to them.
Source: The Daily Star