Subimal Chandra Das came to Dhaka in 1973, the same year he started his kabaddi playing career. He continued to feature for the national side in different championships and regional tournaments till he retired in 1982. Subimal hails from Bikrampur, Munshiganj but played for Comilla in the national championship in the early 1970s before featuring for Dhaka district and Dhaka metropolitan. He started his coaching career soon after retirement and has continued to selflessly serve the nation till today. He has witnessed both the good and bad times of the country's national sport since independence.
managed to get hold of the veteran coach for an interview. Here are the excerpts:
How was the situation of the country's kabaddi when you were a player?
Not every district were involved in the national championship. Only a few districts took part like Khulna, Jessore, Rajshahi, Tangail, Comilla and Dhaka. The league didn't take place on a regular basis. Back in our times, two or three national leagues were held. The national championship was held almost every year.
The national side got very little opportunities to play in international events until 1980 when the Asian Championship was introduced in Kolkata. Bangladesh participated and finished runners-up. Before that, a team from India came to Bangladesh and I was part of that home side. We played two matches in Dhaka, a test in Dinajpur, Faridpur, Jessore and Comilla and a regional game in Tangail. We drew two and lost three and won the regional game in Tangail.
How did you get into coaching?
After I finished my playing career, I went to Patiala for higher training in 1982. When I returned a year later, the second edition of the South Asian Federation Games was held in Dhaka in 1985. We finished runners-up. Then in 1987 in Kolkata, we again finished runners-up. In 1988, during the second Asian Championship in Jaipur, I was the coach of the team. I was also the coach in 1985. That is how I started my coaching career.
It would not be right to say I have been consistently the head coach of the national kabaddi team as there were one or two coaches who took the job for a short period. For instance, in 1990 I was part of the coaching team but couldn't travel with the main side.
Kabaddi was introduced in the Asian Games in 1990 in China where Bangladesh won silver. It was the first time Bangladesh, as a team, claimed a medal in the Asian Games. We continued to win medals in 1994, 1998, 2002 and 2006.
Do you remember the time when kabaddi was declared the national sport of Bangladesh?
The national championship began in 1973. Probably, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman announced the game of kabaddi as the national sport in 1974.
How were you introduced to kabaddi? Did you play it in your childhood?
I was a boy hailing from a small town. I used to play football in my childhood. It was difficult to play football during the rainy season. During that time, we used to play ha-du-du. I came to Dhaka in 1973 and since then, I only played kabaddi.
Your playing and coaching career; which time do you think the country's kabaddi was at its finest?
The game was probably doing better when I was a player. Our results were good. There were majority of civil players during that time. After that, those civil players got jobs in different service teams. As a result, kabaddi struggled. There were still some civil players till 1990 but after four years, there were none in the national team.
What are the reasons behind this downfall?
Those civil players who played well got jobs in defence where they practised kabaddi along with their official responsibilities. They kept their fitness in good shape. Civil teams don't provide enough training facilities to their players. It's not my personal observation, rather it's a fact that no player from civil teams have been included in the national team since 1994. Asghar from Tangail was the last player who found a place in the national side in 1994. When a player from a civil team performs well, the defence sides take him and give him a job.
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Action from the 2016 Kabaddi World Cup game between Bangladesh and Korea INTERNET
Bangladesh crashed out in the group stages in the recently concluded Kabaddi World Cup. How do you evaluate their display?
The performance was very disappointing. We had a good team. There was a nice mixture of youth and experience. Out of 14 players, three had the experience of playing in the South Asian Games and Asian Games while three had SA Games experience. The rest of the players got called up to the side for the first time. They started well but experience and patience cost us the game against Korea. We had to be more patient.
Why is kabaddi not developing in Bangladesh, despite the game being a part of the country's culture. Look at India, who are doing remarkably well.....
Not only India, Iran, Korea, Japan and Thailand are also doing great. They give importance to kabaddi. For instance, the Korean team spent three-four months in India. Another main reason is that 64 districts in our country play the game with 128 different rules. They follow regional rules, like kechki and bhugli. Kechki and bhugli are not allowed in professional kabaddi. That is why we don't get enough players in national level.
In Iran, Korea, Japan and Thailand, from school to everywhere else, the rules are the same. India, meanwhile, have been playing with the same style since 1950. Another reason is media. Kabaddi has no live telecast and don't get much attention in daily news coverage, like cricket or football.
We only have five coaches who were trained abroad in India. India have kabaddi institutions in every state. They are now providing two-year courses to the players. We don't even have kabaddi in BKSP. The guardians are also not interested.