Muhammad Ali has passed away at the age of 74.
He was suffering from a respiratory illness, a condition that was complicated by Parkinson’s disease.
The funeral will take place in Ali’s hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, his family said in a statement.
The death of the people’s champion Ali took Bangladesh back to 38 years ago when one of the greatest athletes of the 20th century visited the country, leaving not only his footprints behind but a “lifetime experience” for some people.
Accompanied by close family members including wife Veronica Porsche, daughter Laila Ali and his parents, the boxing legend landed in Bangladesh, back then in political turmoil, on February 19, 1978 for a five-day tour. Ali was greeted by millions of his jubilant fans at the airport.
The National Boxing Stadium (Muhammad Ali Boxing Stadium) in Paltan still carries the legend’s name. Ali himself inaugurated the venue and during the occasion staged a “boxing match” with a certain 12-year old boy named Mohammad Giasuddin.
Ali was originally supposed to fight with Abdul Halim, who was known as “Muhammad Ali of Bengal” but he refused to join a real fight and instead asked for a younger one for some “fun boxing”. In came Giasuddin.
Cherishing the memory, Giasuddin said, “I could not believe that I would share the same ring with Muhammad Ali but later I prepared quickly to get into the ring.”
He continued, “I saw a scar on his face and he told me not to hit on his face. Although my hand would not reach the well built Ali, I tried hard to punch on his belly and chest. And his lightning speed amazed me. It was the most memorable moment of my life and I will never forget the experience.”
A documentary was made filming his five-day stay titled “Muhammad Ali Goes East: Bangladesh, I Love You,” and during his time in Bangladesh, Ali travelled to some remote but beautiful areas of the country, including the Sundarbans, Sylhet, Rangamati and Cox’s Bazar. He was also awarded a plot of land in the coastal town of Cox’s Bazar.
Ali left behind hundreds of memories in Bangladesh and after witnessing the warm hospitality and the country’s beauty, he had this to say, “If you want to go to heaven, come to Bangladesh,”. He expressed his wish to return to Bangladesh and build a home here.
He has another famous quote regarding Bangladesh - “If I get kicked out of America, I have another home.”
He was honoured with the Bangladeshi citizenship, courtesy of a passport.