The crisis prevailing in Bangladesh football right now is nothing new. It has been several years since the decline began while some would even argue that it stretches back as far as a decade. But Monday's humiliating defeat against Bhutan was so abject that it was labelled in many quarters as the death of Bangladesh football.
Let's face the facts first. Bangladesh were never among the top 100 teams in the world ever since the creation of the ranking system in 1993. They had never been a big team in Asia as well. They were one of the best teams in South Asia but that was more than a decade ago. In recent years, they were outplayed regularly against the likes of Afghanistan, India, Maldives and Nepal.
Losing to Bhutan for the first time in history was not the biggest concern. It can happen to any team in the world but what was difficult to accept was their soulless performance.
[caption id="attachment_21552" align="alignnone" width="887"]
Bangladesh coaching staff and the substitutes line up for the national anthem prior to the Bhutan clash COURTESY
The time has thus come for Bangladesh football to rebuild from scratch.
Looking back to the year 2003, Bangladesh had won their first and only South Asian Football Federation title till date. They finished runners-up in the following edition two years later. Most of the players were at their peak.
However, since then, almost all the players of the title-winning squad have retired. A new generation of players are being groomed by the Bangladesh Football Federation.
With that said, it is well known that the BFF has failed to predict the future of the country's football scenario. Football's governing body in the country seems to be lacking the word “development” in its vocabulary. They somehow managed to make domestic league regular on the pitch but has rarely made any attempt to produce players. It took 43 years for them to finally build a football academy but since then three years have elapsed with absolutely no activity taking place there. Looking back in time, it is no surprise to see Bangladesh struggling.
What's more, the BFF has failed to add any glamour to domestic football. Questions regarding the players' professionalism are refusing to go away. There has also been allegations of match-fixing for a long time now.
The BFF's lack of attention towards the players' development and non-professional behaviour of the clubs have ensured that the new generation of footballers would be vulnerable technically, physically and psychologically in a football field. Majority of the players these days have rarely contributed to the national team's cause.
Bangladesh have no major Fifa/Afc events at least for the next two years, right until the beginning of the qualifying round of the 2022 World Cup and the 2023 Asian Cup. This period should be utilised properly by the relevant authorities.
[caption id="attachment_21557" align="alignnone" width="887"]
Bangladesh goalkeeper Ashraful Islam Rana prevents an effort from the opposition COURTESY
Ten among 23 players in the latest squad against Bhutan will be over 30 years old in the next two years, including the likes of Mamunul Islam, Jahid Hasan Ameli and Mamun Miah, among others. BFF general secretary Abu Nayeem Shohag admitted that they are currently at the point of no return.
However, he went on to speak with authority, informing that the BFF will “look after everything, make overall planning and assessment”. The words however, are nothing new.
There maybe a new group of players around but what about the situation of the footballers in the pipeline? Apparently, they are nowhere near good enough.
Who are to blame? The federation, the clubs or the players? Whoever may be the guilty party, there is plenty of time now to ponder and rebuild again.
Along with the results and performances, there has been instability of head coaches in the national team. The coach has been changed as many as 19 times in the last 10 years, including four in the previous 12 months. Bangladesh must now appoint a permanent coach for the long term, at least for three to four years.
The Asian Football Confederation will introduce the Solidarity Cup next month with the participation of teams who have failed to qualify for the Asian Cup Qualifiers. The opportunity to play international friendlies has increased over the years so there will still be some platform to see how the newly-shaped football team would do in the upcoming years.
From next year onward, the football federation will get more than double the financial support from Fifa than they used to previously. They are preparing a plan of their future activities which they will present to the world football's regulatory body in a month. In the context of the current situation, the national team and development of the players should be the top-most priorities in the proposal.
Will the BFF finally learn the lessons and get serious moving forward? For if they don't act shortly, the country's football will soon come to a standstill.