Thursday, June 20, 2024


Dhaka Tribune

An exemplary initiative behind the rise of CHT girls

The story of how 5 Bangladesh national women's team footballers were discovered in the Chittagong Hill Tracts

Update : 07 Oct 2022, 09:14 PM

A self-funded initiative by a school teacher and the toils of a local coach built a solid foundation for some ethnic girls of Chittagong Hill Tracts to get into the national camp, display their talents, and make the nation proud on several occasions over the years.

Women's football's latest triumph came at the Saff Championship in Nepal last month and as many as five female footballers out of the 23-member squad hail from two ethnic communities of CHT – Chakma and Marma.

The five national women’s team members are striker Anuching Mogini, midfielder Monika Chakma, winger Rituparna Chakma, defender Anai Mogini and much-talked goalkeeper Rupna Chakma.

The five triumphant footballers with the Saff Championship trophy

They all read in the same schools – Mogachhari primary school and Ghaghra high school.

Both schools are located in Kawkhali upazila of the Rangamati district.

Four already graduated from school and went to college and university while Rupna is in her final year.

The decade-long journey has made the five footballers who they are today but at the beginning, there was an exemplary initiative led by two football-loving minds that played a vital role in their success.

The five footballers with Bir Sen Chakma

Scouting and persuading parents

Bir Sen Chakma was the headmaster of Mogachhari primary school in Rangamati with a passionate eye for football.

He moved around many places of CHT to watch football matches of the Bangamata Gold Cup primary school football tournament since this mega competition's inauguration in 2011 to promote women's football in the country.

Having thought deeply about the future of raw young talents, Bir Sen came up with an idea.

He scouted the promising footballers of hill tracts and gathered them at one place, all at his own cost.

It was not easy.

Bir Sen went to different places to meet the guardians of the budding footballers and convinced them to admit their girls to his school so that they study and play together regularly.

"I used to watch the matches of upazila, district and divisional level and look for the young talented footballers. I thought if I could bring them together at one place, they can demonstrate their true potential," Bir Sen told Dhaka Tribune.

Monika, Anai and Anuching were brought from Khagrachhari.

The trio impressed Bir Sen during the school football tournament at the divisional level. They were studying at different schools.

Bir Sen talked to respective persons before meeting the guardians and convincing them.

He took Monika to Rangamati along with her sister but later her sister returned home due to some difficulties.

Anai and Anuching are twin sisters. They were too young and didn't want to stay away from their parents but Bir Sen didn't stop there.

"They are big talents. I wanted to nurture them so I brought their father as well. We keep both father and daughters," he said.

"Rituparna has been playing since 2012 when she was reading in class three. She is my close relative so it was easy. She was also studying in my school."

It was however, not easy persuading Rupna's parents.

Bir Sen along with coach Shanti Moni Chakma discovered her knack for the game during a school football match at Rangamati Stadium in 2011. 

Shanti Moni became hopeful. Bir Sen too wanted Rupna to join but her parents didn't agree at the first time of asking.

He tried again the following year but failed.

Rupna lived in a different upazila named Naniarchar in the same district.

A relative of Bir Sen was Rupna's neighbor upon whose insistence she was finally transferred to Kawkhali. 

Bir Sen Chakma made the five footballers who they are today 

Training and accommodation

Mogachhari primary school emerged champions of the inaugural Bangamata Gold Cup.

They were not only the best in CHT but the whole country.

But the headmaster wanted more. He included the likes of Monika, Anai, Anuching and Rupna in his school.

Rituparna was already there.

Shanti Moni was the coach of Mogachhari girls during the title-winning campaign.

He was a striker and played for Rangamati district team in the Chittagong pioneer league so the girls were in reliable hands.

It was to his credit Rupna transformed from forward to goalkeeper; a position where she was recently adjudged the best in South Asia.

Four footballers were from remote areas so they required accommodation and food in a new place. 

Their parents couldn't bear the cost but Bir Sen managed a place for them to stay, and the expenses too, except for the case of Rupna.

Rupna's expenses were borne by Nalini Mohan Chakma who was the headmaster of a nearby school. 

Rupna also stayed in Nalini Mohan's house and carried on her practice from there.

With new recruitments, Mogachhari became runners-up in the Bangamata football tournament in 2013 but exhibited better performance than in previous years.

"When they were promoted to class six we discussed we should keep them at same high school so that they grow in right direction. We talked to Ghaghra high school and admitted them there free of cost. I also moved there," Shanti Moni told Dhaka Tribune.

Ghaghra is around two miles away from Mogachhari. There was no field to practice in Mogachhari but in Ghaghra.

An abandoned room of Ghaghra high school was arranged for the girls when they were students of Mogachhari.

They stayed there and trained at the school field.

Shanti Moni continued, "An uninhibited building of Ghaghra high school was repaired to accommodate 17 girls at that time. All stay in a single room. There was a kitchen beside the room. Bir Sen da bear all the expenses."

He added, "I like sports. I'm a self-taught football coach. Whenever I get time, I coach them. I trained them in the morning and afternoon. They worked hard and now they brought glory. I feel proud when I see them succeed."

Mogachhari primary school headmaster Bir Sen Chakma has always been passionate about football

Social resistance, and pledge to carry on

Women's football was not new to the people of Rangamati when this journey began.

A month-long training camp was arranged by Bangladesh Football Federation in the hilly district in 2005.

The majority of the girls of this camp came from Chakma and Marma communities.

These two ethnic groups also dominated different national sides at and around that time.

Lina Chakma was one of them.

Yet, Bir Sen had to hear harsh words from the people of the locality when he started gathering female footballers.

He said, "Many people said many things. They asked why girls should play football. Sometimes we brought Lina to the field to show people that women too can play football. She also helped us in many ways."

He also expressed gratitude to Ansar women's team coach Sui Hla Mong Marma, who gave tips to the girls while at home for vacation, encouraging and helping them overcome social obstacles.

Bir Sen had to spend money from his salary frequently and sometimes broke his bank savings to run the goodwill of Rituparna, Monika, Rupna, Anuching, Anai and other female footballers.

He promised to continue.

"I never played football but I have a weakness in sport. I'm retiring after a month. Even after retirement, I hope to carry on such work with Shanti babu," said Bir Sen.

The 59-year old concluded, "If such initiative is taken across the country – keeping and training the players together, it will not only bring out footballers but bombs (superstars)."

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