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Football makes cosmopolitan fete in Cox’s Bazar

  • Published at 09:58 pm October 10th, 2018
Cox's Bazar Football Stadium
The stands of the Cox's Bazar football stadium were brimming with fans Md Manik

Mohammad Islam, a Rohingya, whose family left Myanmar in the early 1990s, came from Kutupalong refugee camp which is one-and-a-half hours away from the city located in Ukhia upazila

The semi-final matches of ongoing Bangabandhu Gold Cup tournament were the biggest international matches in the beach city Cox’s Bazar and it became a cosmopolitan fete as many Rakhaine and Rohingya people joined the party.

It was not the first time for local footballer Aung Chow Than as he witnessed the inaugural Saff Women’s Championship, the first international football tournament held in Cox’s Bazar eight years ago at recently renamed Bir Shreshtha Ruhul Amin Stadium.

But Aung was accompanied with five more friends and cousins from the Rakhaine community and for those it was the first time in the city, including the youngest one named Monai, who studies in class five of Burmese Govt. Primary School.

“I never watched our men’s national team’s matches live from the stadium. It’s very interesting and exciting for me as I grew up playing in this ground. Jamal Bhuiyan, Topu Barman are my favourite footballers. I can’t wait to watch them play.” said Aung who plays as midfielder for local outfits Town Club and featured in Cox’s Bazar Pauroshova team in the Bangabandhu Gold Cup U-17 football last month.

Mohammad Islam, a Rohingya, whose family left Myanmar in the early 1990s, came from Kutupalong refugee camp which is one-and-a-half hours away from the city located in Ukhia upazila. During the half-time, he informed over the phone that around 30 more Rohingya people of the same refugee camp watched the game from the eastern gallery. For the majority among them including Islam himself, it was the first time watching Jamal Bhuiyan and co.

There were also many local footballers gathered at the venue to taste the similar first time experience. Md Arafat Sunny plays as full-back for All Stars Club, where he once played alongside current national team players from Cox’s Bazar, Md Ibrahim and Anisur Rahman Zico. He said before the game, “Ibrahim is my friend, he went to BKSP while I stayed back here. This is my first live match. I can’t express how happy I am.”

Arafat pointed at Md Ariful Islam who was standing in front of the ticket counter. Ariful is a familiar face in the Dhaka football scenario for his remarkable feats in the second-tier Bangladesh Championship League. He was top scorer last season helping newly-formed NoFel Sporting Club get promoted to the premier league for this season. The striker made a similar feat for Cox’s City, Chittagong Abahani, Wari Club, Saif Sporting Club in the last eight years. Except Wari, all other clubs finished champions in the second tier.  

Ariful remarked, “There are lots of changes now in the national team. The young and upcoming players are getting priority which is a good thing. The fitness levels have improved. Bangladesh are playing really well.”

Meanwhile, there was an arrangement for around 10,000 spectators inside the stadium. As it was raining umbrellas was a common thing among them. The rooftops of the surrounding buildings were also filled up. Jamie Day and the players walked around the field after the game to a huge cheer from the crowd despite the loss showed the level of enthusiasm from an exuberant crowd.