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Dhaka Tribune

The man behind reformation of Bangladesh sports

During an exclusive interview the morning before his 90th birthday on March 1, 2022, Kazi Anisur Rahman told his story and provided information on reconstruction of sports after the birth of a new nation

Update : 16 Jan 2024, 01:55 PM

Less than three months after the liberation war, Kazi Anisur Rahman took responsibility of the national sports governing body upon the request of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Being an active sports organizer apart from business interests prior to the 1971 war, Anisur had vast experience in sports sector as a vital member of East Pakistan Sports Federation regulatory committee.

He was also football secretary of Azad Sporting Club when they became first division league champions in 1958 and maintained the connection until his last breath Friday.

During an exclusive interview the morning before his 90th birthday on March 1, 2022, Anisur told his story and provided information on reconstruction of sports after the birth of a new nation.

In early 1972, when Bangladesh government officials came to Dhaka airport from India after independence, many people associated with sports went there. Anisur was there too.

After two days, he left for port city Chittagong. He was a businessman. He was involved in import-export trade. He went to see if his imported goods had arrived properly.

He found out that the things were in scattered state. He did not recover anything and became upset.

Anisur went to the Chittagong stadium. The stadium official informed that government representatives from Dhaka were looking for him. He returned to the capital and saw people waiting for him at his home.

They informed that the secretary of Education, Culture and Sports Ministry wanted to speak.

“The secretary was Abul Kalam Mohammad Zakaria. Zakaria was like my friend. When I was a member of the governing committee of East Pakistan Sports Federation, I met Zakaria there. He hugged me after I went to meet him. He told me I have to take a responsibility,” Anisur told Dhaka Tribune.

“My condition was not good. The war also caused a lot of damage to business. I said I can't. Zakaria took me to Yusuf Ali. Yusuf Ali was the Minister of Education, Culture and Sports. I also knew him. He told me to take charge but couldn't convince me.

“The Minister took me to the third floor of the secretariat. The Prime Minister used to sit there. He took me there. Bangabandhu was sitting there. Bangabandhu said, 'Don’t you want to save the country? The country needs people like you. Sports activities should start. Whatever you have lost, save the country for now, everything else will be fine."

Anisur could not say no this time. He was offered remuneration but refused it. He also almost rejected the offer for an honorarium salary.

“Zakaria asked me how much I want to be paid. I said I have spent money in sports all my life. Now I can't take money. I said I can't start working before 11am rather I would work in the afternoon and night to make it up. He insisted that I take the salary. Since it was paid job of a Joint Secretary one must take salary. Then I said I will take one taka,” said Anisur.

Anisur was passionate for sports since childhood. He played football, kabaddi and swimming in school where he was class captain from eighth to 10th grade.

His organizing skills took shape during sports events in school and expanded it further by forming Ghorashal Friends Club where he was both a player and secretary.

His organizing ability took a new turn after he was admitted to university and got involved with Azad Sporting Club which was then dominated by Bangali players and popular among the college and university going students.

He served numerous posts for the club since then.

But it was a different and more challenging job to deal with all sports of a country affected vastly by war that took the lives of three million people.

“The first thing I did was get to know everyone. I called all respective sports persons. I had meetings with them and travelled from one district to another. My first task was to reorganize the district associations,” said Anisur.

“The second task was to automate them but we had no sports equipment. There was no football, no sports gear. To start things off, sports equipment has to be imported from India. We had to do whatever was necessary to rebuild the sport. I went to bring sports gears from Kolkata.”

The National Sports Council Act was introduced in 1974. According to the act, Anisur was made the secretary few months later. Along with sports gears, he arranged trainers from Patiala.

Anisur will also be remembered for his role behind the formation of a total of 21 sports bodies, first among them was football federation followed by hockey, volleyball, kabaddi and basketball.

“There was no office. It started with a room at the football federation. East Pakistan Sports Federation had an office at the stadium. There was a big hall. For the time being, all the federations were working there,” said Anisur.

“There was an inexhaustible spirit at work. I also had to work in business to support myself.

“I was a regular member in East Pakistan Sports Federation. I used to do all the work of the secretary. All clubs and federation members were my friends. I myself was the secretary of a club. I even knew everyone in the district. Those experiences came in handy.”

There were more questions left to be asked during the interview but Anisur was not able to be reached for those as he became ill before the next rendezvous.

After the brutal assassination of Bangabandhu and most of his family members on August 15, 1975, things did not stay the same as before and the sports arena was no different.

The political turmoil forced many people in the secretariat to leave the job including Zakaria. Anisur also left the NSC office in less than a year.

Anisur did not hide his frustration with how the NSC was run after the change in political situation of the country.

His last words were a reflection of this.

“One does not follow the other’s plan. Normally, things didn’t continue as we planned. No good work can be done as long as there is an authoritarian government. If it is not spontaneous it can’t be done forcefully. We wanted to make all federations independent but this plan was stopped.”

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