These players not only created history by making it into the Asiad knockout stage for the first time ever but their performance, fitness and attitude also offer realistic hope for a bright national team future
Although the Bangladesh Olympic team competing in the Asian Games 2018 comprise U-23 players except three senior members, almost all of them have been in national team contention for quite a while.
These players not only created history by making it into the Asiad knockout stage for the first time ever but their performance, fitness and attitude also offer realistic hope for a bright national team future.
Here we take a look at five key points behind Bangladesh football’s recent transformation.
Training camps for a longer term
Holding the national team training camp for longer time than before has been one of the key ingredients behind Bangladesh’s consistent improvements over time. Keeping the Saff Championship 2018 at home as their prime target, the national team began their training camp on February 13 after passing the previous year – 2017 – without playing a single match since the much-talked about defeat against Bhutan. There were however, different youth international tournaments from where a group of young talented booters were being groomed for national team contention. It was a transition period for the national side but the youth offered hope for the future. There were changes in coaching staff and training venues as well. There were breaks, but the camp carried on in different phases under different circumstances until the Asian Games began.
Camp and practice matches abroad
When the national camp was organised after more than a year, many senior players were hanging up their boots and the younger ones started training with the remaining senior members. In order to deal with the challenges of forming a new national team, unlike the past times, the BFF arranged a two-week long camp in Qatar followed by a week-long tour in Thailand. The results of the Qatar camp and two practice matches in Thailand and a promising international friendly away against Laos inspired the federation to make more such arrangements, despite the extra expenditure. Another similar length camp in Qatar and the latest South Korea tour brought more professionalism and discipline into the team, especially among the younger ones.
Hard work and dedication
Complaints were always there from the national players in the past for not arranging training camps and enough practice matches. But when there is a continuous camp and practice matches, especially abroad, there was no alternative to hard work. The junior members of the camp were the biggest beneficiaries among them, and with dedication and hard work, their determination of proving their worth was evident. Perhaps, that is why youngsters like Mahbubur Rahman Sufil, Saad Uddin, Mohammad Abdullah, Zafar Iqbal, Matin Miah, Bishwanath Ghosh and Atiqur Rahman Fahad managed to make their promotion from the lower divisions to top premier league clubs and in the national team within a year. Whenever asked, English head coach Jamie Day mentions the players’ hard work first for the success of the current U-23 side.
Improvement in fitness
What Day never stops talking about is the significant improvement of the fitness and running of the current players. Every time the camp resumed the fitness of the players were given the priority in the early stages of the camp. Day also admitted that the fitness they are now enjoying didn’t come in short period. Bangladesh players, for a long time were criticised for giving away matches in late stages of the game due to fatigue. But now, they can keep running with the ball or chasing the opponents from the beginning, to the final whistle. The tendency of never giving up has grown with the confidence created from improved fitness.
Efforts of the coaches
Former national team head coach Andrew Ord left the job after the Laos friendly as did the other foreign coaching staff with him. It was a challenging job for Day with less than three months in hand before two big events - the Asian Games and the Saff Championship. Assistant coach Stuart Watkiss played a big role in the recent improvements of the Bangladesh defence, while fitness coach Lindsay Davis made a big impact in a short time. But above everything else, Day worked like a magician in the team. He earlier talked about getting four points from the tough group fixtures in the Asiad, with all the opponents being ranked at least 50 places above Bangladesh in the Fifa ranking. His strategy, game plan and analysis of the opponent teams have so far proved to be fruitful and if this continues Bangladesh can expect something big in the Saff Championship, starting next month.