Not too many sports have got the advantage that rugby has as it can be played throughout the year, even on a muddy field and all you need is just one ball.
In a country like Bangladesh, where sports is hindered by many limitations, it should have one of the popular games like many other parts in the world but unfortunately it is not.
Officials of Bangladesh Rugby Federation cited lack of interest from sponsors, absence of media coverage, lack of adequate support from sports authorities behind its unpopularity.
Despite starting its journey in Bangladesh 11 years ago, the game was still at its infancy in the country as it could not gain the full membership of Asia Rugby or World Rugby.
‘Asian Rugby set few criteria to award a country full membership but we are yet to fulfill some of them,’ said Moushum Ali, the general secretary of Bangladesh Rugby Federation.
‘We don’t have a female national team yet. We also can’t organise required number of tournaments due to lack of sponsors. Once we will be able to do this then we will be the full member of Asia Rugby. After that we can apply for the membership of World Rugby,’ he said.
Ali said they were struggling to retain their status as associate member of Asia Rugby, which was awarded to them in 2014.
‘We must play at least one international tournament every year to stay as the associate member of Asia Rugby. But it’s not always easy. It’s a team game but we can’t afford to take too many players aboard,’ he said.
In order to retain their status as associate member, Bangladesh Rugby Federation carefully avoided rugby 15s and rugby 10s and decided to trade their skills only in rugby sevens internationally.
A 14-member Bangladesh rugby team, comprised of 11 players and three officials, will fly to Singapore today to play in one such tournament, the Asia Rugby Sevens Trophy, scheduled on August 4-5 at the Queenstown Stadium.
Bangladesh, who are taking part in this tournament since 2015, have been drawn in Pool C of the Asia Rugby calendar tournament alongside hosts Singapore, Pakistan, Brunei and Laos.
Despite their little exposure and limited training opportunity, Bangladesh already had achieved some notable successes in international tournaments.
In 2015, Bangladesh took part in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games Pre-qualifying tournament in Chennai, India where they beat Nepal in their maiden appearance.
Next year they participated in the Asian Development Games at the same city and stunned Syria and Indonesia.
Last year they beat Nepal and lost to Jordan in the Ball Group deciding match and had to remain content with second position.
Bangladesh team head coach Ferdous Alam picked an 11-member squad and all the players that he picked were from the Bangladesh Army team.
Federation secretary Ali revealed for the national team they are completely dependent on the Army.
‘After introducing the game in 2007, we had to suffer a lot due to the lack of interest in people about rugby,’ he said. ‘We then approached Bangladesh Army to include rugby in their list in 2013 and they agreed to support us and gathered more than 300 players.
‘Among them they selected 50 players for the round the year training camp and started nursing them,’ he said.
Ali said without the support of army they could not make it to the Singapore tournament as Army Sports Authorities agreed to pay the airfare of their players.
Asia Rugby will provide the local hospitality in Singapore and First Security Islamic Bank agreed to bear part of other expenses.
Coach Ferdous said unlike some other Asian countries, Bangladesh are developing fast.
‘In the last 11 years we developed the game a lot,’ he said. ‘During this period, we defeated some higher ranked sides like Indonesia and Syria also ran many development programmes throughout the country.’
Former national team coach Abdul Kader Sumon said they have already brought more than 5,000 youths under Asia Rugby’s Get Into programme.
‘This year we reached 25 districts and included more than 5,000 male and female players under the Get Into programme.
‘Few months ago, Get Into programme coordinator Benjamin Van Rooyen visited Dhaka and watched our Under-16 team. He praised the team and said Bangladesh have bright future if we can run development programmes regularly.’
Federation secretary Ali pleaded to the Education Boards to include the game in sports curriculum.
‘In rainy season when we don’t have any choice but to play the indoor games, rugby can be a good alternative. It can be played in mud, rain, so it will help the kids continue their sports activities,’ he said.
Bangladesh national team captain Nadim Mahmud found another alternative option to raise interest about the game.
‘We believe we have the ability to beat teams like Pakistan and Brunei in the upcoming tournament,’ said Nadim, the fourth highest scorer in the last edition.
‘Due to lack of exposures and fund the game didn’t flourish here. But I am sure with some success it will be also popular because people in our country are generally sports lovers,’ he said.
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