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বাংলা
Dhaka Tribune

Of women's football and unseen struggles

Update : 24 Aug 2016, 08:32 PM
Bangladesh men's football team might have played their first official match in 1973, less than two years after independence but it took the women's senior national side nearly 37 years to contest their first official game in 2010. The occasion was the 2010 South Asian Games where Bangladesh lost 1-0 against neighbours Nepal. The women in red and green though fared better as the Games wore on, winning two and losing one in their remaining matches. In the same year, Bangladesh hosted the first edition of the South Asian Football Federation Women's Championship in Cox's Bazar where they reached the semi-finals, having earned their biggest win so far against Bhutan (9-0). However, despite a promising display in the inaugural edition, Bangladesh exited in the group stages in the following edition two years later, losing against India and Sri Lanka. Fast forward two years, Bangladesh took part in the Women's Asian Cup Qualifiers for the first time in history but lost all their games, against Iran, Philippines and Thailand, including their biggest defeat against the Thais, conceding 15 goals without reply. This is the brief summary of the women's team, a tale littered with inspiring wins and near misses. However, it all started to change last year when a spirited group of girls from Kolsindur, a remote village near the Indian border in Mymensingh, set their footprints in the international level. Bangladesh made history by winning their first ever international title when they emerged as the champions in the Asian Football Confederation Under-14 Girls' Regional (South and Central) Championship. They won the same title this year for the second time in a row, remaining unbeaten, and more impressively, defeating India for the first time ever. The Bangladesh girls netted a record 25 goals in the tournament. Since 2010, Bangladesh gradually went from strength to strength but it was anything but a smooth ride before that time. Following instruction from world football governing body Federation of International Football Association in the early 2000s, Bangladesh Football Federation decided to promote women's football in the country. But the fundamentalist groups protested against the project, threatening with dire consequences. Other women's sports like swimming and wrestling also faced warnings from the fanatic groups. Sports organisers protested till 2004 to introduce women's football on the pitch and finally on October 4, 2004, they were successful in their pursuit as the first ever women's football tournament kicked off with the participation of eight teams. In the tournament opener, Dhaka beat VDP 1-0. The tournament ended successfully without any incident. Six months later in April 2005, for the first time in history, Bangladesh women's team participated in the AFC U-17 Championship in South Korea. Bangladesh lost all the matches, against Hong Kong, Guam and the mighty Japan, due to a lack of preparation. The Bangladesh girls' heroic effort did not go unnoticed as the AFC paid tribute to them for partaking in the tournament. Sports organisers showed determination to move ahead with the development project of women's football against all odds. During that time, there was no regular women's team. The teams were formed with players from different disciplines like handball, volleyball, swimming and athletics. Slow progress ensued but in 2009, Bangladesh finally launched the first ever national women's football championship, comprising 25 teams from as many as 23 districts, across four different venues in the country. Women's football events are now held regularly throughout the country but spare a thought or two for all the female footballers of the recent past who made it possible through their courage and ever-lasting determination.
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