Just like the rest of the world, basketball fans in Bangladesh are keenly following the NBA finals currently being held in the United States.
The likes of Stephen Curry and LeBron James have simply lit up the ongoing final series, in the process capturing the imagination of the basketball fans around the globe.
It is no different in Bangladesh where thousands of youngsters, if not more, stay glued to their TV sets, despite the unfavourable timings of the early mornings, and watch on their heroes’ heroics, hoping to emulate them someday.
However, in spite of their passion and enthusiasm for basketball, little do they know about the grim future awaiting the sport in Bangladesh.
Currently, there might be many quarters – Bengali- and English-medium schools and the services teams to name but a few – playing the game. With that said, one would really be shocked upon finding out that there is only one active basketball venue in the country – the Dhanmondi Wooden Floor Gymnasium.
The Bangladesh Basketball Federation owns the gymnasium, home to thousands of eager and ardent professional and semi-professional players. However, in a few months, even this solitary venue would be taken over as part of the under-construction Sheikh Kamal Sports Complex.
“It pains me to say that we only have one active gymnasium to carry out our activities. The players also practise here at different times for different tournaments. But, soon we will lose our ownership of the gymnasium when the Sheikh Kamal Sports Complex is ready.
Then, we have to depend on the National Sports Council. You can say we are heading towards an uncertain future. What would happen to all the basketball players? Where would they practise?” said Abhijith Sarkar, the BBF general secretary.
When queried if the BBF had been sitting idle as far as looking for an alternative gymnasium is concerned, Sarkar said, “Where would the money come from? The BBF certainly cannot afford such a big amount. The onus lie with the sponsors and banks. They should come forward and help out basketball. We can use all the help we can get.”
Keeping that in mind, that Bangladesh clinched their first ever international title in 2013 – the South Asian Basketball Championship – is a remarkable achievement. The bronze medal claimed in the 2010 South Asian Games can also be labelled as a creditable feat.
“India and Nepal have countless high-quality foreign coaches. They have modern equipment and facilities. We are far away compared to them. Still, the fact that we won three years ago and sealed bronze six years ago at home prove that talent is there. If only there was financial assistance,” he said.
However, for that to happen, and for basketball to flourish in this country, the BBF needs to be more proactive. In order to enhance the pipeline, the federation needs to do more in its power to raise the awareness of the game among the future participants.
There is a Facebook page titled “Bangladesh Basketball Federation Training School”, owned by the BBF. However, the last post there is dated January 20 this year so there has been close to no training activities organised by the BBF in the last six months.
Bangladesh have never qualified for the basketball event in the Olympics, the ultimate sporting stage. If the current situation persists, then it will be quite a while before we can even hope, let alone dream, of seeing our countryman in red and green battling it out against the very best in the greatest stage of them all.