• Saturday, Mar 23, 2019
  • Last Update : 03:04 am

Dearth of strikers a major concern in South Asia

  • Published at 07:47 pm September 10th, 2018
Bimal Gharti Magar and Muhammad Ali
Md Manik

The problem is not only in Bangladesh but throughout the region as even India and Maldives are struggling to find new strikers who can fill the shoes of their respective veterans like Sunil Chhetri and Ali Ashfaq

Hosts Bangladesh were eliminated from the group stage of Saff Championship 2018 despite winning two matches, but inability to score and lack of a quality striker was once again evident and proved to be one of the biggest problems.

The problem is not only in Bangladesh but throughout the region as even India and Maldives are struggling to find new strikers who can fill the shoes of their respective veterans like Sunil Chhetri and Ali Ashfaq.

As a matter of fact, if the scarcity of strikers, most priced people of the game, are scrutinised closely it will be found that the modern training and capacities of Europe is making a yawning gap with rest of the world in this regard.

The fact was evident in the World Cup 2018 as most of the Latin American teams, who were once considered as hotbed of producing great strikers, were relied upon the Europe-based strikers.

However, the natural talent and reputation of Latin footballers help their cause of honing their skill in Europe but things are extremely difficult for a player of South Asia, the backwater of footballing globe.

Holding only the passport of a South Asian country made the task more difficult for a youth prodigy to sharpen and get nurtured his talent through modern academy facilities at European clubs. One of the best instances is perhaps Nepal forward Bimal Gharti Magar.

Bangladesh midfielder Hemanta Vincent Biswas was also part of at the beginning of Bimal’s endeavor in Europe.  Both of them were invited for a trial at Dutch club FC Twente in late 2013, impressed there but couldn’t make it further due to Fifa’s regulations on youth transfers.

Bimal, the youngest Nepalese player to debut at 14, was called for a trial in Belgian club Anderlecht’s  under-16 team the following year before signing an one-year deal with their U-19 team but the contracts fell through in five months due to Fifa regulations and EU work permit law for the foreign players.

Bimal, whose free-kick slipped through Bangladesh goalkeeper Shahidul Alam Sohel’s hands and became the key moment for hosts’ elimination, talked to Dhaka Tribune after their Monday’s training session at Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club ground ahead of their Wednesday’s semifinal clash against Maldives regarding his experience in Europe and the debacles a South Asian faces.

A conversation was also made with Pakistan striker Muhammad Ali, who was born, brought up and spent his entire career in Denmark.

Md ManikBimal Gharti Magar celebrates a goal at the Saff Championship in Bangabandhu National Stadium. Md Manik

Bimal Gharti Magar

DT: How was your experience of playing in Europe?

Bimal Gharti Magar : My Europe experience was very good. All the other clubs in Europe helped me a lot to improve my game. The training that I got from Europe helped me a lot to improve my skills.

Q. Apart from playing for top Nepal outfits Three Stars Club, you also played for Mohun Bagan in Indian League last season. What are the differences in training facility you saw in Europe comparing to that of South Asia?

BGM : There is a big difference between Europe and South Asian region. They are ruling the football world whereas South Asia is a small part. It has its difference but it has also helped me while I was in India playing for Mohun Bagan. All things were helpful in Europe, so there were of course lots of benefits there.

Q. Don’t you think your performance would improve more day by day if you stay in Europe for longer period?

BGM: I agree with that. You don’t fill the gap, right? If I had stayed there for longer I could have improved a lot more.

Q. Do the strikers grow up in South Asia have lack of opportunities comparing to Europe?

BGM: We are little less professional the way up training in Europe offers. There are different coaches for strikers, different coaches for defenders. But in our country there is only one coach looking over everything. That’s a big difference.

Q. You grew up in Anfa Academyin Nepal, how did it help you building your career?

BGM: Anfa Academy is for training and it is like starting phase. It is where you get your first training. It was my first big step to be in the academy and it has helped me a lot.

Q. How is the experience of playing in the Saff Championships so far?

BGM: Saff Suzuki Cup is a big tournament in South Asia here. Playing this atmosphere is good for me. It is a proud moment to play in this tournament. We can’t compare it with European championships or tournaments but it’s big time to play here.Muhammad Ali celebrates a goal at the Saff Championship in Bangabandhu National Stadium. Md Manik

Muhammad Ali

DT: How is your career setting up in Europe?

MA: I have been playing in Denmark my whole life. There are ups and down in my career. I’ve been playing in the Super League, I played in the first and second division. It’s difficult to get success over there because when I was in the super league I got injured and there was a long way up again. I needed to actually do very well to up again.

Q. Is your experience of playing in Europe helped you get a place in the national team?

MA: The level I play in Europe could be second or third but they are still better and the conditions are also better. So I think, for now, I have a good opportunity playing for Pakistan but may be in the future there might be greater Europe-based players available.

Q. How is Pakistan football rebuilding after coming back from the long ban?

MA: When I started playing for national team in 2012 and we were actually doing good, we had a champion coach and we were actually moving quickly in Fifa ranking. Then the team couldn’t play for three years due to the ban, they changed the coach and most of the foreign based players were not there. Now we are trying to build it up again and I think we have very good chances now, even better now. We are now more mature. We have senior players and lot of young players now.