The year that has passed provided Bangladesh some bright moments in age-level and women’s football as Bangladesh played the final of SAFF Under-18 final and Bangladeshi girls won SAFF Under-15 title at the end of the year.
But men’s national football team had no activities and the scenario in club football also remained unchanged with foreigners continuing to dominate the scene despite a reduced quota.
Bangladesh Football Federation reduced the quota of foreign players to two from three in the playing squad of a club but it did little to lift the performance of local footballers, who continued to lag behind.
As of 18th round of the ongoing Bangladesh Premier League, foreign players, who are lesser in number than local players, scored 58.43 per cent of goals in 108 matches.
So far 91 players of 12 participating teams scored a total of 253 goals and more than half of them were scored by 33 foreign players. While foreigners could find the back of the net 140 times, 58 local players managed to find their names on the score-sheet hitting the target 109 times.
Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club’s attacking duo Raphael Odoyin of Nigeria and Solomon King of Gambia scored 26 goals together in 18 matches with Raphael topping the list with 14 goals, including two hat-tricks.
Solomon on the other hand scored a dozen and only Abahani Limited could manage more goals than the overseas duo of Jamal.
In the list of top-10 scorers, only one local player, Chittagong Abahani striker Towhidul Alam Sabuz, could find a place.
Local strikers, who represented Bangladesh national team in the last few years, are spending a dull season with Shakhwat Hossain Rony of Chittagong Abahani and Zahid Hasan Ameli of Mohammedan Sporting Cup yet to score a goal.
Mithun Chowdhury, who rarely got a playing chance for Sheikh Russell this year, scored only two goals.
Jafar Iqbal, the young striker who came under the spotlights for his brilliant performance with the Under-19 national football team in the last two international tournaments, also got little chance to play for Chittagong Abahani and scored only two goals.
Veteran winger Zahid Hossain could be called as an exception having scored four goals and while making a number of assists.
Despite the lackluster performance, the players seemed relaxed as they got a handsome amount of money from their club and are confident of getting the same in the next season.
Newcomers Saif Sporting Club paid more than Tk 50 lakh to at least four local players but they failed to keep their side in the title race.
Other big spenders Chittagong Abahani also over-rated some players by offering money to the players more than their expectations.
Abahani Limited and Sheikh Jamal also spent huge amount to strengthen their local collections.
But their overall performance left the coaches and club officials frustrated understandably. Club officials said they had to pay huge money to some over-rated players as there was lack of fresh talents.
‘Due to lack of options we have to rely on some common faces in the last few years,’ said Chittagong Abahani coach Saiful Bari Titu. ‘The clubs are busy battling with each other to pick handful players which led to their unusual wages.’
Bangladesh Football Federation and professional clubs traded blames over who should produce talents but the debate did not help Bangladesh’s football at all as the country slipped to 197th in latest FIFA rankings.
Sheikh Russell Krira Chakra head coach Shafiqul Islam Manik said club should take some responsibilities for taking them into this situation.
‘No doubt our men’s football team is in terminal decline,’ said Manik. ‘It’s time to think differently and club should come forward to produce players without looking at BFF.’
Satyajit Das Rupu, manager of Abahani Limited, claimed they spent millions on the players only for passion for the football.
‘We spent more than Tk 10 crore for the football team only for passion, nothing else. We never get any return,’ he said. ‘I think without collective effort of BFF and clubs it would be difficult to overcome the situation,’ he said.
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