“In terms of shooting, passing, scoring, tactics, over-laps and corners, Bangladesh girls are the best,” praised Azzam Ghotok, the Syrian head coach of United Arab Emirates on Saturday after watching the home side's displays in the Asian Football Confederation Under-16 Women's Championship 2017 Qualifiers. Azzam happens to be the most experienced coach among the six participating nations.
When the Bangladesh men's football team are going through one of their worst times in history, a group of young girls are lifting the image of the country's football in the international arena through eye-catching performances.
Since September last year, in different Fifa/Afc tournaments and qualifiers, Bangladesh men's team conceded eight defeats in as many attempts, leaking 44 goals, and scoring none.
The girls, in contrast, have won all of their eight matches, scoring 35 goals, shipping only two and winning two historic titles.
They scored three against Iran, five against Singapore and 10 against Kyrgyzstan in the ongoing AFC U-16 Women's Championship 2017 Qualifiers and are improving significantly with each passing game.
It is no more a question of how good the girls are, but rather, why are they so good?
There might be many answers flying around but the spirit, determination and dedication of the girls should be the key reasons behind their recent successes. After all, history suggests that the women's national side contested their first official match only six years ago in 2010 whereas the men's team started their journey back in 1973.
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Bangladesh captain Krishna Rani Sarkar takes a shot at goal against Kyrgyzstan during their AFC Under-16 Women's Championship 2017 Qualifiers at Bangabandhu National Stadium on Wednesday Mainoor Islam Manik[/caption]
Another reason behind their triumphs is that most of the players from this group of young Bangladesh girls have been playing together for the best part of two years now, under the guidance of head coach Golam Rabbani Choton. Choton has been the head coach of the women's national team since 2010 and guided them in all three editions of the South Asian Football Federation Women's Championship.
Choton recruited most of the girls in the current U-16 squad from different parts of the country. He knows the ins and outs of the girls. And the girls also have great rapport with the coach, always referring to him as “Sir”.
For the current qualifying event, the trial began on June 13 this year with 43 players. Three days later, the squad was reduced to 32 members. They trained together for more than two months before the best 23 players were selected. Most of them have been retained from the famous U-14 national team.
It all started in April 2015 when the Bangladesh girls took part in the AFC U-14 Girls’ Regional Championship in Nepal, reaching the final of the tournament ahead of teams like Iran and India.
But the final was postponed due to a 7.9 magnitude earthquake. The grand finale was played later in December and Bangladesh made history, beating hosts Nepal to clinch their first ever title.
As the days went by, they continued to shine brightly and rewrote history by retaining their title this year in Tajikistan. This time around, they were more aggressive and dominated their opposition. They beat India for the first time in history and repeated the feat again in the final with a massive 4-0 victory. Twelve players from the latest title-winning squad have been retained in the current squad.
This Bangladesh team have a very strong attacking line-up, a lively midfield and a solid defence. Shamsunnahar and Masura Parvin are strong presences in defence, Maria Manda and Mousumi Jahan sit in front of the defence and thread passes through to the forward line while the likes of Sanjida Akhter and Krishna Rani Sarkar continuously threaten the opponents' terrain.
Just like any other Bangladeshi fan, Syrian tactician Azzam also predicted a bright future for women's football in Bangladesh.
“If this group continue for the next few years, playing together, and adding some players of quality, Bangladesh should be a good team in Asia. They will then play in the U-17, U-19 and step by step, will be a big team in Asia.”