This article was published in the March issue of the Sports Tribune magazine
The country’s football has been in a morbid state for many years now, and it was often alleged that the lack of support from and for the clubs, the backbone of a nation’s football, has been the chief reason for the dire straits.
Long gone are the days of intense rivalry between Abahani Limited and Mohammedan Sporting Club Limited that used to bifurcate the football-crazy nation, and these days the local leagues fail to attract crowd.
But amid the murky conditions, there seems to be some light as new clubs are emerging in the horizon and one of them - Bashundhara Kings - have been a revelation in this season’s Bangladesh Premier League, the top domestic tournament.
The Kings, who became the champion of the Bangladesh Championship League in 2017 to qualify for the BPL, built a cash-rich side with foreign and local recruits, and kept the top position in their debut season at the top tier with sheer authority.
Before a month-long break of the league due to international friendlies and age-level tournaments, the Kings were leading the tournament, as the unbeaten team won eight out of their nine games.
The side, who won the Independence Cup this season prior to the league, is guided by Spanish coach Oscar Bruzon and they have included Costa Rica’s World Cup star Daniel Colindres and local talents like Matin Mia, among others.
Bangladesh Premier League leader Bashundhara Kings reacted to going a goal behind by scoring four times during their match against Bangladesh Muktijoddha Sangsad Krira Chakra in Nilphamari’s Sheikh Kamal Stadium Saturday.https://t.co/bxXlcOtEuY#BPL #BFF #FOOTBALL #BANGLADESH— Dhaka Tribune Sports (@Sport_DT) June 29, 2019
The meteoric inception of the Kings also brought some fresh air as they have chosen Nilphamari as their home ground, and they are maintaining their stadium in the northern part of the country with care, unlike many other venues outside Dhaka.
They have maintained 100% winning record in front of their inspiring home crowd at Sheikh Kamal Stadium so far, and their 3-0 win against Abahani, the holder and one of the top favorites, on January 23 might prove to be pivotal in the final outcome of the season.
Their only point loss occurred on February 19 when they were held to a goalless draw by Team BJMC, 12th in the 13-team league, at Shaheed Bhulu Stadium.
However, there are allegations that the Noakhali Stadium is under-prepared and not fit for top-level football.
Abahani, one of the most fan favorite clubs of the country, are in pursuit of their hat-trick of titles, but the Federation Cup winner not only lost to Bashundhara but also to Sheikh Russel Krira Chakra in another match to get into the backfoot.
Currently Abahani are second in the points table with 24 points from 10 matches with eight wins and the squad under the stewardship of Portuguese coach Mario Lemos.
Bashundhara Kings continued their unbeaten run in the Bangladesh Premier League to stay atop after beating Rahmatganj Muslim Friends Society 3-2 in a thrilling encounter at Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka Wednesday.https://t.co/kkN51LnBmh#FOOTBALL #BANGLADESH #BFF #BPL— Dhaka Tribune Sports (@Sport_DT) July 3, 2019
He will be eager to keep the championship fight alive after the break.
But their arch-rival Mohammedan have been observing further slumps.
The fallen giant, who last won the Dhaka League in 2002, are hovering around the relegation zone as they are 11th with just five points.
Another traditional club, Brothers Union are in even more danger as they are right at the bottom, winning just once and losing the other eight.
Last year’s runners-up and the second most successful team in the Premier League era, Lt. Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club Limited, who clinched the title thrice behind Abahani’s six, have been struggling this season and are seventh with 13 points from 10 games.
Like previous years, the foreign players are dominating the goal-scorers’ list as Abahani’s Nigerian striker Sunday Chizoba is on top with eight goals, followed by Rahmatganj Muslim Friends Society’s Congolese marksman Siyo Zunapiyo and Bangladesh Muktijoddha Sangsad Krira Chakra’s Ivory Coast recruit Ballo Famoussa, the first hat-trick scorer of the tournament, each scoring seven goals.
Abahani’s Nabib Newaj Jibon has six goals, including a hat-trick, and Arambagh Krira Sangha’s experienced campaigner Zahid Hossain, who scored the only other hat-trick in the tournament thus far, has struck the same amount of goals till date.