Bangladesh hosted at least four mega sports events in the year 2017, which garnered around a thousand athletes from 60 countries across the world but it is the young generation that earned the country its most notable achievements, providing glimpse of hope and promise for the future.
The 37-nation Roll Ball World Cup and the 33-nation Asian Archery Championship are the two big events Dhaka hosted for the first time while the capital was also entertained by the continent's biggest hockey event, the Asia Cup, after a span of 42 years. The Bashundhara Bangladesh Open also attracted 135 professional golfers from 35 countries.
The first ever Bangladesh Youth Games, which got underway across 64 districts at the end of the year, also managed to create a lot of buzz among the regional organisers, as well as the young enthusiastic athletes hailing from different parts of the country, and will continue to be held till the new year.
Above all, what got highlighted in the country's sports arena the most is a group of brave and confident young girls who form the youth national teams of Bangladesh football, with almost all of them being aged 16 or below. These girls didn't only prove them among Asia's top eight teams but also earned the country its first ever south Asian women's football title at the end of the year.
The girls in red and green toured Japan, South Korea, China and Singapore for different friendlies, which is the most by any Bangladesh women's team in a single calendar year. After qualifying for the AFC U-16 Women's Championship for the first time in 2016, the girls gathered immense experience playing in the final round in Thailand in September and the consequences saw them lift the Saff U-15 Championship title for the first time, that too with a 100% winning record.
The eye-catching performances of Maria Manda, Srimoti Krishna Rani Sarkar, Akhi Khatun and Co not only allowed Bangladesh women's team to rise into the top 100 in the Fifa world ranking but also overshadowed the men's senior national side’s absence in international football throughout the year. The U-15 and U-19 men's teams’ positive display in the respective age-group Saff tournaments in Bhutan and Nepal meant the senior side's lowest ever position in the ranking is not the only picture of the current situation of Bangladesh football.
The game of archery, that started its official journey in Bangladesh at the beginning of the millennium, had notable international activities in 2017. Starting with hosting the first edition of the ISSF International Solitary Championship in January with the participation of 15 countries, the archery federation hosted Asia's biggest archery event in November where around 300 archers from 33 countries vied for 10 titles. Abul Kashem Mamun was Bangladesh's best performer, reaching the quarter-final of the compound men's individual event.
Country's golfing sensation Siddikur Rahman continued his amazing form in 2017 as well, spreading his name from Asia to Europe. The two-time Asian Tour winner finished third in the European Open in Germany at the end of July, which is the best ever performance by a Bangladesh golfer. He aggregated an overall 11-under-par 277, which was only two shots behind the champion. Siddikur also finished runners-up in the Bangladesh Open in the capital's Kurmitola Golf Club in February.
Despite the game being new to the country's sports arena, the fourth edition of the Roll Ball World Cup brought in around 400 participants from 37 countries under the roof of Sheikh Russel Roller Skating Stadium, which was erected in the same year getting a portion of the historic Paltan maidan. Bangladesh men's team finished fourth while the women's side were placed seventh.
In shooting, 11th grade BKSP shooter Arnab Sharar Ladif achieved a rare feat, securing direct entry to the 2018 Youth Olympic Games, after the young shooter won silver medal in the men’s 10m air-rifle event in the Asian Airgun Championship in Japan early December. Senior shooting duo Abdullah Hel Baki and Atkia Hasan won gold in the 10m air-rifle event in the fourth Islamic Solidarity Games in Azerbaijan.
In athletics, Mohammad Jahir Rayhan achieved a brilliant feat for his country when the young athlete reached the semi-final in the 400m boys’ event of the IAAF World U-18 Championship in Kenya in July. The competition is one of the world’s biggest for the young athletes while Jahir's timing of 48s is best by any Bangladesh athlete at any age level.
In chess, country's youngest Fide Master Mohammad Fahad Rahman ended the year with a third-place finish in the opening board of the World Youth (U-16) Chess Olympiad in India two weeks ago. Earlier, the Grandmaster duo of Abdullah al Rakib and Ziaur Rahman finished first and second respectively in the Asian Zonal Championship in Kathmandu in March.
Even the Bangladesh bridge team qualified for the World Cup after finishing runners-up in the BFAMI Zonal Bridge Championship 2017 in Dubai but there were no notable international achievements from disciplines like kabaddi, gymnastics, volleyball, handball, table tennis, judo and taekwondo.
Did you know?
The football girls in red and green toured Japan, South Korea, China and Singapore for friendlies, which is the highest for any Bangladesh women's sport team in a single calendar year.