Bangladesh Olympic Association secretary general Syed Shahed Reza received Japan’s Association of National Olympic Committee award in Tokyo in late November for his successful leadership in promoting Olympic movement in Bangladesh and successfully hosting the first ever National Youth Games last year. Reza spoke to New Age’s Wahid Ullah Bakul at length about the award and other different issues during a recent interview. Here are the excerpts.
NA: At first, congratulations to you for winning the ANOC [Association of National Olympic Committee] award. Would you please tell us, how significant winning this award is for BOA?
SR: It’s not just for the Olympics; it’s a great achievement for the country. It is a great achievement because no one has ever got it [award] from Bangladesh before. This is the first time we got it and the credit of this achievement is just not only mine. Achievement credit goes to all of our sports organisers. By the directives of honourable prime minister and her support [patronage] we hosted Youth Games and we are participating in different games. It will not be wise if I say the achievement is only mine. All members of the Olympic Association, all, who are involved with different federations, this achievement is for all of them.
NA: It’s about one year since the first ever Youth Games was held. What is the success or outcome of this meet and when the next Youth Games will be held?
SR: Of course there is success. You see, for this reason, we are being honoured inside the country as well as internationally [abroad]. Players, who came out [whom we found through National Youth Games], all are taking part in different national events through the respective federations. Those, who performed well [in Youth Games], we have arranged long-term training for them at BKSP. Of them, who wants to stay there will reside there, study there. We discussed with their families [guardians] and their parents agreed and supported it. We will shift them at BKSP from next January . Who have done well in his/her discipline, they will continue in that discipline. Not any other institution, only at BKSP.
NA: Who will bear their expenses?
SR: BOA will bear all their expenses.
NA: What is the number of such athletes?
SR: Uhmmm…. The figure will be around 26. BKSP will include them in team event and individual event after scrutinising through competition against BKSP players.
NA: What are the current programmes of BOA?
SR: We are hoping that …uhmm SA Games (South Asian Games), which is scheduled to be held in Nepal in 2019. We did not get the official letter yet, the date is not fixed yet that when it will be held. As it will be fixed, they [players] will participate there [SAG].
NA: In the last Asian Games, Bangladesh did not get any medal for the first time in 36 years. Did you review why this had happened?
SR: Thank you for this question. You have to see, in what events we won medals in 36 years. When we have sent teams, usually the medal only came from kabaddi or from women kabaddi. Later, when cricket was included, we won two successive medals from cricket and from women’s kabaddi. This time cricket was not included. Then remains women’s kabaddi and they also didn’t perform well. So, we missed the medal. But still there is success for us.
NA: On what ground?
SR: Team-wise, we sent the hockey team. Hockey team performed very well and because of their performance, they got direct entry in the next Asian Games. Come to football, in the past we made exit from the first round, this time we played in the second round. And, we became able to beat a team like Qatar. It is our big success. Not only that, in archery we reached up to the quarter-finals. More or less, almost in all games, we played in the second round. If you analyse on that perspective, our success is more than before.
NA: And what steps BOA or you have taken to avoid medal-less campaign again?
SR: You see, 206 countries play games in Olympic. Of them, all 206 countries do not win medals. You see, Sri Lanka was also medal-less this time.
NA: Shahed bhai, do we want to remain in the list of medal-less nations? Hope not, is it?
SR: Of course not. We want to develop day by day. And we got ANOC, due to two reasons. After forming the current committee, we took part in almost all events in a small or in a big size. We have sent teams in all events. We never sent children ever before, and for the first time we sent them [children] to Russia and they won gold. We won both gold and silver. And this is the first time we got direct entry in Olympic [Rio 2016], without a wildcard through Siddikur Rahman, our golfer. He directly qualified to participate there, it is our great achievement.
Then come to international meet, the terms and conditions in the Olympic charter, we follow all of those. We brought [BOA] in a discipline. We were able to hold AGM for the first time. We hosted Youth Games for the first time. We hosted Bangladesh games after 12 years. Institutionally and in terms of games we are able to do many things.
Except for cricket, you see, cricket has reached at a high level internationally. But the others, you see, basketball, we are arranging international level competition here. It is also happening in handball and in volleyball.
Volleyball team has already come from the overseas campaign. So, all federations are vibrant now, very much vibrant. And we are hosting international events. We hosted archery. We did not get medals in SA Games or in Commonwealth Games or Olympic Games. But, we won gold medals in Islamic Solidarity, in archery, and in shooting. We got in commonwealth also. So, games are onwards.
We are being considered as a host country. We are hosting different games [international events] in Bangladesh.
NA: What events have been identified for potentially wining gold medals in the next Asian Games?
SR: Our new president has taken the seat only recently. He has taken the responsibility. We have the national election ahead. After the election, our executive meeting will be held. Then we will take the decision that how we will prioritise and what teams will be given preference and how we will take part in the future.
NA: According to you, in what events we have potential?
SR: In our shooting, archery and we have to reshape kabaddi. We have already sat with secretaries of all federations in the meantime. They are very active. All federations are active in providing training within their limited budget and resources. Different federations are sending their team in overseas competitions. We hope it will definitely bring good results. And cricket is coming back in Asian Games, so we have hope, inshallah.
NA: Our female players are doing well in different games in recent times, especially in last four to five years. Do you have any special plans for them, focusing on the Asian Games?
SR: We have it always. You have to bear it in mind if there is any big event after the Olympic it is the Asian Games. Around 40 to 50 per cent medals in Olympics are won by Asians. So, to participate in an event like Asian Games, if we [our women] have such efficiency to achieve something at this level, definitely we will send.
NA: Do you have any initiative?
SR: We have and we are doing so. We are giving priority to women so that they can do better. We instructed all the federations to give priority to women during team formation and provide them facilities.
NA: [about the horrible rape issue of a weightlifter] Case has been filed against accused Sohag Ali. He escaped arrest and is on the run. In this context what BOA can do?
SR: You have heard it. [But] It’s an isolated event. We are here for a long time and there have been very few incidents like this. And a committee has already been formed in this regard, investigation committee, two investigation committees in fact. We have to wait for their reports. Then we will take steps.
NA: BOA always depends on government fund. Have you ever taken any initiative for alternative sources of funds in addition?
SR: Well, you see, I’m telling you. We are actually, National Olympic Committee (NOC); I mean Bangladesh Olympic Association (BOA) is affiliated by IOC (International Olympic Committee). Providing training [to players] is not the responsibility of NOC. We perform additional duties. And for the fund, National Sports Council (NSC) provides funds to different federations for training. Those funds come through us (BOA), we release it among federations. And, it is happening on a regular basis and will be.
During Youth Games what we did, we did not take any taka [fund] from the government. We took taka [raised fund] from sponsors. We were able to arrange [host] the total Games through sponsors’ money. Sometime we did not get our expected support from the government for international meet. We did not stop training and did not take a step back to send the teams. And, in that situation, we had sent them with our (Olympic) own fund.
NA: Thank you for your valuable time and vivid conversation.
SR: Thank you.
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