Bashundhara Kings emerged as the champion of the Bangladesh Championship League with a game in hand after beating Agrani Bank Limited Sporting Club 2-1 in their 17th match at Birsreshtha Mostafa Kamal Stadium in Kamalapur Saturday.
In-form veteran forward Rokonuzzaman Kanchan netted a second-half brace to help his side come from behind and register their fifth straight victory this season, which also ensured the club's maiden title in their first ever appearance in the second-tier league. They had already confirmed their promotion to the top-flight after winning their previous match against Bangladesh Police Thursday. They now have 35 points, seven more than second-placed Nofel Sporting Club.
The brace took skipper Kanchan to the summit of the top scorers' list with 11 goals, leapfrogging Nofel's Ariful Islam, who has 10 strikes to his name. After forward Amir Hakim put Agrani Bank ahead in the 63rd minute, Kanchan, who is the most experienced player in the second tier, scored two goals in the 68th and 82nd minute, having been completely unmarked inside the box on both occasions.
The club's official head coach is SM Asifuzzaman but it is Premier League outfit Sheikh Russel Krira Chakra head coach Shafiqul Islam Manik who played a key role in recruiting some of the players, including the likes of former Muktjoddha Sangsad Krira Chakra forward Kanchan and former Arambagh Krira Sangha defender Badshah Mia. But the club struggled in the first phase and managed four wins, five draws and two losses in 12 matches.
They suffered a huge 5-1 defeat against Nofel in their 12th match on October 14 this year following which, they brought in Rahmatganj Muslim Friends Society head coach Kamal Babu as their coaching advisor. A number of changes were made to the squad including the inclusions of players like Jumman Hossain, Shamim Reza, Rocky and Arif Hossain in their regular playing XI. Since then, they have won all of their five matches.
"After conceding five goals (against Nofel) they kind of forced me to give them the time I could manage. On my first day, after watching their game I advised them to shuffle their playing XI. I included some young and inexperienced players like Arif, Tushar and Jumman in the team. They followed my advises and the changes worked out fine,” said Babu.
Babu added, "As a coach of Rahmatganj, I couldn't join them. The premier league was ongoing at that time and my club were in vacation for around 10-12 days. Hence I gave time to Bashundhara. I have been there as only an advisor and since I have been here, they didn't lose a single match."
BFF general secretary Abu Nayeem Shohag told Dhaka Tribune that the federation was not officially informed regarding the new role of Babu. Bashundhara's player-cum-president Mohammad Imrul Hasan, who featured in the last few minutes as a substitute Saturday, said after the match, "He (Babu) is a big fan of Bashundhara and he helped us with his experience after the second leg. He brought some changes in the regular playing XI."
Club general secretary Minhajul Islam Minhaj said, "5-1 loss was a lesson for us. We were determined to come back. Babu joined with us as advisor after that loss. Three players were dropped and some new players were included from the sideline. We want to give him special thanks for helping the side."
Having been formed in 2013 with no notable activity in the first couple of years, Bashundhara played in the Pioneer League last year where they finished third to get promoted to the third division league, where they later didn't take part in. After “fulfilling the conditions and criterion” given by the BFF, the club enrolled for BCL for the first time this year. Only one player from the Pioneer league, winger Arif remained in the current squad.
Meanwhile, Bashundhara will play their last match against Fakirerpool Wednesday.