Nofel Sporting Club, who ensured a place in next season's Bangladesh Premier League with a 1-0 win over Uttar Baridhara Club Sunday, do not have a permanent residence, as well as their own playing ground, but still managed to finish among the top two teams with a game in hand in the ongoing Bangladesh Championship League. The newly-formed club also failed to meet at least 30% of the total criterion of the “BFF Club Licensing 2017”.
The other newly-promoted club, champion Bashundhara Kings, also do not have a permanent home and a designated playing ground but riding on their financial stability, they managed to arrange a residential camp at the club's owners’ den.
But Nofel couldn't make sufficient arrangement for all of their players during the camp. These two clubs are the only two teams out of 10 who are playing in the second-tier league for the very first time in history. They began their race in the BCL with a heavier budget compared to the other eight clubs.
Nofel have been holding their residential camp at the century-old Wari Club, situated at the eastern boundary of the BFF artificial turf in Motijheel. The club hired only four rooms at Wari Club for the accommodation of 30 players of the squad, excluding the coaching staff. There are only 25 single beds in those rooms and the club have been camping there for the last five months.
"There are four rooms and 12-13 people can stay in each room. There are two-three players hailing from Narayanganj who do not always stay at the club (Wari). We are a new team. The situation is temporary. It will change soon," said club general secretary-cum-team manager Shakhawat Hossain Bhuiyan Shahin after they sealed their berth in the top-flight Sunday.
"One of the problems staying here is the insufficient space. Wari Club have been very helpful but there are only 25 beds for around 30 players. The situation worsens when the players of Wari Club come to camp here. There are currently around 10 of them. Sometimes, we share the beds and other times, we have to make sleeping arrangement on the floor. We are living like Rohingya refugees," said Nofel's most experienced player Akbor Hossain Ridon at the club premises Saturday.
Having been formed less than six months ago, Nofel never played in any lower division league but what brought them directly to the Championship League is by meeting national club licensing regulations, prepared by the BFF in accordance with AFC guidelines. But the club failed to submit five documents out of 15 required by the federation. Shahin said they submitted all the documents but according to the BFF, they didn't submit the CV and qualification document of assistant coach Murad Ahmed Milon, the biodata of the marketing director and club co-ordinator and also copy of valid legal status of the club. Besides this, the club doesn't have any trainer, fitness coach or even a physio.
When asked how the club got enrolled to BCL without meeting the criterion, BFF official Zaber bin Ansary replied, "Meeting majority of the criterion is acceptable for the time being but the federation will make the procedure more restricted in future."
Both Shahin and Ridon, the former manager and captain of Feni Soccer Club respectively, echoed the same tune regarding their main crisis, which is playing ground. The club do not have their own playing ground or training field. Like the majority of BCL clubs, they have been training mainly at BFF astroturf and sometimes at Kamalapur Stadium.
"The BFF turf is near to us but we don't get more than one and half hours for practice every day. No way you can say it is enough," said the club's top-scorer, striker Ariful Islam, who netted 10 goals, including two hat-tricks this season.
The astroturf however, rarely gets the chance to rest as it has been the main practice ground for at least seven other BCL clubs and six premier league sides. The turf has also been used for different activities of BFF, including coaching courses, different men's and women's team training sessions and also for local clubs, informed BFF general secretary Abu Nayeem Shohag. The BCL clubs generally get two days before their respective match for practice.
Meanwhile, bid-budget club Bashundhara submitted all the documents for club licensing, with the exception of valid legal status. It was also learnt that majority of the BCL clubs do not have valid legal status and at least three premier league clubs – Arambagh Krira Sangha, Rahmatganj Muslim Friends Society and Farashganj Sporting Club - do not have one as well.
Bashundhara team have been staying temporarily at a five-storey building in the F Block of Bashundhara residential area. Premier League side Saif Sporting Club also stay in the same building.
The club carry out their training session at the field in N Block of the same area. Their president Imrul Hasan said Saturday that the construction work for the permanent residence-cum-complex has already started near the 300-ft road. He also added that the club are likely to move to the new place in three months’ time.
It might raise curiosity as to how these two newly-formed clubs with no playing tradition outraced the other eight clubs, some of whom have a long history. The simple answer is money. The BFF also gives most priority to the financial stability of the clubs while providing the license. Bashundhara's budget for the ongoing BCL is Tk 1.15 crore and Nofel's budget is the second-most – Tk 94 lakh - while majority of the clubs fail to cross the Tk 50 lakh mark. These two clubs also have most number of players with premier league experience.