Interviewed by Sudipta Ananda
Translated by Faisal Haidere
Our youth teams have been doing well recently. Do you think our youth development teams are on the right track?
Youth development is a continuous process. Youth development is a club program. The federation is responsible for helping the clubs do better. Yes, they have started improving and it is going good so far. But it’s only the beginning. One thing we need to understand is that, under the youth development program, the federation can only train 30 players of U16 boys, 30 players of U19 boys, and 30 to 40 women players. This is not enough, we need at least 200 players to do better. 10 other people should come forward to help develop players. This is how we can get top-notch players. It can be overly ambitious for one federation to win with just 30 players. I am worried because it’s likely that some players might get injured and some are not going to pursue football as a career. It will become really hard and time-consuming to train new players. Moreover, if the development program is conducted by 10 organization then only 20 players will be available, this is a huge drawback. We definitely need more players in order to do better.
The U18 team did well in Bhutan. We had a great chance to win the title. How do you think our team is doing?
There are good players, however, most of the players are now playing in the leagues and I am unable to train them. I only get 4-5 days to train them. If the club allows them to join us for training, I can come up with a feasible long-term plan. Otherwise, I might have to cancel the league and the clubs might not be too happy about it. But the players have many prospects, within 4-5 years the players will become national team players.
Do you think to reach our objective, we need an all rounded collective effort?
Yes, it has to be done collectively. Once again, whoever gets appointed as the BFF president needs to understand that to compete in the world standard, professional development is needed. It needs to be taken seriously, as this game is played in 211 countries and is highly popular in 200 countries. Players need to be paid more hence, everyone needs to work towards making football relevant.
From an economic perspective, football is one of the most profitable businesses. What do you think?
It can be a profitable business, however, there is a lack of public participation. When I used to play, there were at least 50,000 people in the stadium which were profitable. But these days we lack the development. After I started working, there were less than 1,000 spectators in the stadium. The matches got cancelled frequently. To do better, clubs need to start focusing on marketing.
What challenges do you face when you are trying to get sponsorship?
Getting sponsorship can be challenging. The fund provided by the sports ministry is not enough and we do not have many sponsors like India and Korea. Japan and Korea are doing really well these days. Korea is doing well because they are being sponsored by big companies like Hyundai and Samsung. Similarly, Japan has sponsors like Honda, Toyota and Suzuki. India will soon become a powerful team as they are being sponsored by groups like Reliance. Bangladesh lacks support from such corporate entities.
Where do you get your finances from? Do you think it is sufficient for the whole year?
We get our finances from FIFA and AFC. I worked really hard to get that. However, it is not sustainable or sufficient. We need more sponsors to step up and support football.
What can be done to improve the circumstances at this point?
In order to do well at the international level, the government needs to provide more funds, like China. I was invited by the president of the Chinese Football Federation, where the Chinese told me that they are targeting to win the WC 2030. The current president of China has taken interest in sports and wants to contribute to sports like football. He felt that China is not being recognized for their sports. He appointed the president of Chinese Football federation and granted 50 million USD. The Chinese football federation has affiliations with 22 foreign football federation. They are very serious about football and Bangladesh needs to follow in their footsteps if they want to succeed in this field.
What can be done to convey this message to the PM?
The ministry of sports needs to get involved directly. They need to discuss plans with the finance minister and prime minister and come up with a feasible budget.
What are the income and expenses of BFF?
BFF gets about five lakhs from the government, two and a half lakhs dollars from AFC, and five lakhs dollars from FIFA. This amount equates to six crore taka and is fixed, this is what costs to run the office. Three to four crore is spent on the office. We spend at least 70 lakhs for every foreign trip for a whole team. Every year, 10 teams go abroad. Women training camps cost about two crores per year. For recruiting foreign coaches and technical directors, two crores are needed. At least 30 crore taka is needed for the overall annual expenses.
What are some obstacles you face while trying to help the players develop professionally?
I think financial. Because, except two or three clubs, we are struggling financially. When you are struggling financially it is hard to improve and help others. Being able to play is irrelevant without proper finances.
The youth team lost to Bhutan. Do you see this loss as a setback?
Losses are part of the game. Yes, it is a setback, but with proper training and seriousness, we can make a comeback. We did have great wins like the SA game in Dhaka.
Do you think the national team will make a comeback?
It’s not going happen in one or two days. We need to work hard, train hard and do better. Good things take time. We are all working towards winning.
Next September we are going to host the SAF championship. What are your plans?
We are working on it. I have had meetings with the director of the strategy and we are working on it. September is a big month for us and we are planning to do well and succeed.
We have seen two successful tournaments of Bangabandhu Gold Cup arranged by you. Are you planning to do something similar this year?
I Hope so. It’s a very difficult job in today’s world. All countries have professional leagues so they have proper support. The FIFA-AFC program has been so big at the year; UEFA and others also have their own programs. It can difficult to arrange such events due to time constraint and other responsibilities. But we are thinking of doing another one. Let’s see what happens.