Rafi had been dreaming to resurrect the fortune of his humble family through earning money by playing in the top level
The global pandemic of Covid-19 has hit the sporting sector hard and the rising talent of Bangladesh footballRiyadul Hasan Rafi is feeling it harder by every passing day. The national team defender expressed his frustration as it was increased manifold by the recent decision of professional league committee over payment of premier league players.
Rafi had been dreaming to resurrect the fortune of his humble family through earning money by playing in the top level. His father, a high school teacher, passed away 15 years ago and their family was depended upon the income of his elder brother, a migrant worker in Dubai. But, the pandemic dried the remittance as plethora of workers like Rafi’s brother lost their income source and job and the little saving of young Rafi became the last resort for the family.
“The situation would be better if I’d played 7-8 years. But my career just started three years ago. I have been surviving the corona days with the savings. Even the king’s hoard gets empty in such time with no income for long time.” the Saif Sporting Limited center-back became philosophical with extreme distress while he was speaking to Dhaka Tribune.
“My elder brother is outside the country and his situation is also worse due to corona. He couldn’t send money to family last few months. I’m running the family with the savings singlehandedly. We didn’t get any bonus money during the two Eids when it costs extra money.” added the 21-year-old.
The injury of regular defender Topu Barman paved the way for Rafi to prove his worth. Rafi marked his international debut with a clean-sheet and a comfortable win over Bhutan during a FIFA friendly on October 3 last year. Only two friendly matches were enough to convince head coach Jamie Day to field the former U-19 defender for the tougher World Cup and Asian Cup joint qualifying fixtures.
Rafi started in the last three Group E World Cup qualifying games- fought bravely against Qatar during 2-0 defeat at home, was brilliant during the 1-1 draw against India in front of full-packed crowds at the famous Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata, and also featured in South Asian Games 2019 in Nepal and Bangabandhu Gold Cup 2020 at home to make himself established in the side.
Since the Covid-19 forced the Bangladesh Premier League to be abandoned in mid of March, he has been staying at his village in Rupsha located in Faridganj Upazila of Chandpur district. “It was both good and bad. Good in that sense that I got more times with family but it’s not good for a professional footballer without matches. The whole life is there for family but not enough time for football. Overall, it has been really bad time for footballer.”
The 2019-20 season was called off last month. The Bangladesh Football Federation sat with both players and clubs to settle the payment issue of annulled season. The league committee on September 17 decided to ask the clubs to provide remuneration of 25% of the previous contract for next season although the players’ proposal was to make it at least 50%.
“Footballers have no extra income,” Rafi reacted. He continued, “We are frustrated about the decision. Clubs want to survive. We also want to play. It would be better if it settled through mutual understandings. I hope it’s not final verdict. If there is a good decision then it would reduce mental pressure caused by corona and also boost our confidence in the coming days.”
The decision of the league committee awaits the approval of the executive committee slated to be held after the BFF Elective Congress on 3 October. Like Rafi, hundreds of BPL footballers are waiting for the final verdict and a representative group of them want to push the federation formally for the reconsideration of league committee decision after the much-awaited election.