OF JOY AND AGONY: 2016 IN RETROSPECT

Published: 23:33, Dec 31,2016 | Updated: 00:19, Jan 01,2017

 
 

FEBRUARY
From nowhere to spotlight

Three unheralded athletes– swimmer Mahfuza Khatun Shila, weightlifter Mabia Akter Simanta and shooter Shakil Ahmed – saved Bangladesh’s face in the 12th SA Games, winning four gold medals coming out of almost nowhere. Simanta, the 17-years-old girl, won the heart of every Bangladeshi when she uncontrollably sobbed in the podium while accepting her gold medal in 63kg category of women’s weightlifting on February 7. On the same day swimmer Shila stunned all by winning the 100-metre breaststroke event and followed her feat later in 50-metre breaststroke event. Two days later, shooter Shakil Ahmed clinched the fourth gold medal for Bangladesh with a stunning shoot-off performance in 50-metre free pistol individual event. Shakil became the first pistol shooter to win an international gold for Bangladesh in 23-years since Atiqur Rahman won it in 1993 Dhaka SAF Games.

Asia Cup Twenty20 final
After some remarkable success in 2015, Bangladesh cricket team also began their campaign in 2016 on a bright note when they reached the final in the Asia Cup Twenty20 tournament in Dhaka. Until this tournament, Twenty20 was considered as Bangladesh’s weakest link but the Tigers proved their critics wrong by posting successive wins against UAE, Sri Lanka and Pakistan in round robin league phase to join India in the final. In the rain-affected final on March 6, they lost to India by eight wickets but still carried a lot of positives to the subsequent World Twenty20.

MARCH
Ban on Taskin and Sunny

The International Cricket Council triggered a huge outcry in Bangladesh during the ICC World Twenty20 in India when it banned paceman Taskin Ahmed and left-arm spinner Arafat Sunny for illegal bowling action on March 19. Taskin and Sunny were reported with suspect action after Bangladesh’s first match in the tournament against the Netherlands on March 9. Bangladesh made a frenetic attempt to have Taskin’s ban overturned without any success. The duo went through a remedial process before appearing for a retest in September. ICC finally cleared their bowling action on September 23.

Heartbreak in Bangalore

Bangladesh failed to win a single game beyond the qualification stage in the ICC World Twenty20 in India, yet they were one of the most-talked-about teams in the tournament. Their biggest setback came in the Super-10 phase against India on March 23 when they lost by one run in Bangalore. This was the first time Bangladesh lost a game by one run in any format, but the defeat was more than that. Bangladesh needed just two runs from the last three balls, which they agonisingly failed to collect. Three wickets fell in last three balls as India maintained their perfect record against Bangladesh in Twenty20 format. Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah bore the brunt of criticisms as they were among the batsmen dismissed in the last three balls.

Flying Dutchman Johan Cruyff dies
Football lost one of its master practitioners in March with the death of Johan Cruyff, the Dutch legend who epitomised the all-out attack Total Football system. Cruyff won three European Cups as a player with Ajax and Ballon d’Or titles in 1971 with Ajax and 1973 and 1974 with Barcelona, where he starred from 1973 to 1978. As a coach, Cruyff led Barcelona to their first European Cup title in 1992. A one-time heavy smoker, Cruyff revealed in October last year that he had lung cancer. Cruyff was one of the all-time greats alongside Pele of Brazil, Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi of Argentina. He died at the age of 68.

Braithwaite stuns England in World T20 final
West Indies, with six wickets in hand, needed 19 runs off the last over of the ICC World Twenty20 final at Eden Gardens. Marlon Samuels, on 85, had missed the last delivery of the penultimate over to leave Carlos Brathwaite, aged 27 and playing his eighth T20I, with the huge task. Nineteen of six balls? Surely you had to back the fielding side. What happened next will become the stuff of T20 legend. In four balls from Ben Stokes, Brathwaite finished the game. When he connected on the fourth hit and sent the ball rows behind midwicket, the West Indies dugout cleared, the man of the moment was mobbed by delirious team-mates, and the firecrackers went off. It was hair-raising, goosebumps stuff.

APRIL
Salahuddin re-elected as BFF president
Kazi Salahuddin was re-elected as the Bangladesh Football Federation president for a third term overcoming strong challenge from parliamentarian and businessman Kamrul Ashraf Poton. Poton got his backing from Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club president Manzoor Kader and Mohammedan Sporting Club’s director in-charge Lokman Hossain Bhuiyan among others but still lost the election by 50-83 votes to Salahuddin. Abdus Salam Murshedy was elected as senior vice-president as an uncontested candidate while Kazi Nabil Ahmed, Badal Roy, Tabith Awal and Mohiuddin Ahmed Mohi were elected as four vice-presidents.

Success in women’s football

In a disappointing year for football, women’s footballers brought whatever the little success Bangladesh enjoyed in the past 12 months. Bangladesh Under-14 team retained the AFC Under-14 Regional Championship in Tajikistan in April but their biggest success came in September when Bangladesh Under-16 women’s team qualified for the AFC Under-16 Championship final round. A prolific Bangladesh put an unbelievable effort to beat few Asian giants including Iran, United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Kyrgyzstan and Chinese Taipei and 26 goals in five matches in the process.

MAY
Leicester City win EPL

The definitive sports story of the year. Before the 2015-16 EPL season, there were reports of some bookmakers marking Leicester City at odds of 5000-1 to win the title. The club took the form book and tossed it out the window, in the process scripting a stunning tale of success in the face of history and heavyweights with several times larger bank balances and star-studded lineups. What Leicester paid to acquire its squad’s starting 11, football’s richest teams often spend on one player. In a tale for the ages, Leicester defied all odds to win the EPL for the first time in 132 year of playing, providing English football with it biggest shock since 1992 when Ipswich won the title just 12 months after gaining promotion.

JUNE
The death of Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali, one of the most iconic sporting heroes of the 20th century who died aged 74 after a long battle against Parkinson’s Disease on June 3. Ali’s fame transcended sport, celebrated as much for his three world heavyweight titles as for his fight outside the ring. His refusal to serve in Vietnam earned him prosecution for draft evasion. Vilified in some quarters for that and his earlier conversion to Islam, when he dropped his name Cassius Clay, he later earned accolades as a civil rights activist. Ali’s career from 1960 to 1981 saw him retire with a record of 56-5, including such historic bouts as the Rumble in the Jungle against George Foreman.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal defy predictions

Very few had expected that Portugal would win the 2016 Euro Championship in France. Their extra-time 1-0 win over Croatia in the round of 16 saw them finish third in the group stage and sent them into the quarter-finals where they met Poland. It was a dreary final match, in which Portugal looked content to maneuver the ball around a stumbling Croatia, and added to a Euro campaign riddled with draws and losses. In the final four, Cristiano Ronaldo’s side beat Denmark and Wales to make the final, where the hosts France lay in wait. When Ronaldo exited the game early with an injury, it appeared like France were on course for a famous win but in the end Portugal snatched a historic victory through an extra-time goal from Eder.

Heartbreak for Lionel Messi & Co

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The football world was on its toes to watch the final of Copa America between Argentina and defending champions Chile. Not only because both the teams were in the final again, but because Argentina win would have sealed Barcelona striker Lionel Messi’s legacy forever. The heartbreak for Argentines turned into a shock when Messi announced his retirement from International football after failing to bring glory to the national team under his leadership in nine years. He, however, reversed his decision after appeals from fans worldwide.

AUGUST
Russia banned from Rio Olympics
Doping continues to be the scourge of Olympic movement, but nobody would have imagined Russia – undoubtedly one of the greatest sporting nations – finding most of its champion athletes debarred from competing in the 2016 Rio Olympics. And it remained one of the biggest talking points of the year. It’s worth noting that German broadcaster ARD, in 2014, reported that Kremlin had been sponsoring doping at an unprecedented level. But it became all too public when the International Olympic Committee, subsequent to publishing of Richard McLaren-authored WADA report, declared that the eligibility of all Russian athletes participating in Rio Games should be based on an individual case by case, approved by the respective international federation/governing body of each sport.

Usain’s Bolt’s unprecedented ‘triple-triple’

The Olympics gave fans of sporting excellence no shortage of opportunities to cheer. You only had to tune in each day during the summer Games to catch a glimpse of a host of memorable performances, but for sheer impact in bringing the world to a standstill, there was no greater athlete than Usain Bolt. The Jamaican superstar added the 4x100m title to his 100m and 200m gold medals and became the first person to win all three events at consecutive Olympic Games. And he made it look easy, not in the least when, during the 100m final, he had time to turn his head left and flash a smile for the shutterbugs. It was arguably the defining image of the Olympics.

Phelps dives into immortality

The most decorated Olympian wanted to go out on a high in his last appearance at the summer Games, and did just that. Writing the farewell he cherished, Michael Phelps signed off his glittering career with five golds and a silver in Rio de Janeiro to make it 28 medals overall. Having come out of retirement to compete in Rio, the 31-year-old’s achievements were stunning.

SEPTEMBER
Worst ever show in Chess Olympiad
Both Bangladesh men’s and women’s chess teams produced worst ever performance in country’s history in the 42nd edition of Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan in September. Men’s team became 76th among 150 teams while women’s team finished in 77th among 140 participating teams. Bangladesh became 73rd in 2010 Russia Olympiad which was their previous low in Chess Olympiad. Meanwhile, Bangladesh women’s team lost their last game against lowly Kyrgyzstan to be placed at 77th. Bangladesh women’s team finished 58th in the previous Olympiad in Norway.

OCTOBER
Football dead and buried in Bhutan
Bangladesh’s World Cup Qualifiers campaign ended with a huge 8-0 defeat against Jordan in March, but they still stood with a chance to qualify for the qualifying round of 2019 Asian Cup. In the first phase play-offs of Asian Cup Qualification, Bangladesh lost both fixtures against Tajikistan. But their chance to qualify in the next round had still persisted as they were pitted against Bhutan in the second phase play-offs. Bhutan held Bangladesh to a goalless draw before romping to 3-1 win at Thimpu to take Bangladesh’s slot in the Asian Cup qualifiers. The defeat against Bhutan was considered as the lowest point of Bangladesh football, which drew widespread criticism.

Maiden Test victory against England
Bangladesh’s home series against England in October was a huge success both on and off the field. There was an uncertainty over the series following the terrorists’ attack in fancy restaurant in Gulshan that left 22 people dead on July 1. England agreed to tour only after Bangladesh offered an unprecedented security. The series ended without any incident and with Bangladesh’s first ever Test victory against a full-strength opponent on October 30. Teenage prodigy Mehedi Hasan starred with the ball to pick 12 wickets in a match as Bangladesh dismissed England in the second innings in a session on the third day to eke out 108-run win.

DECEMBER
Chapecoense don’t live to play their dream game
The players of Chapecoense, a Brazilian club, were headed to play the biggest game of their lives - the Copa Sudamericana final - when most of the team died in a tragic plane crash. The South American tournament can be equated to Europa League. The world came together to pay tribute to the club that had reached the final for the first time in their history but could not live to play their dream game.

Maiden international glory in volleyball
Hosts Bangladesh lifted their maiden international volleyball title with a comfortable 3-0 set win over Kyrgyzstan in the final of the Bangabandhu Asian Senior Men’s Central Zone International Volleyball Championship in Dhaka in late December. The men in Red and Green won the first two sets by 25-22 and 25-23 points before Kyrgyzstan pulled out from the game due to an unexpected injury of a player that left them with little option. Kyrgyzstan defeated Bangladesh in the round robin league phase but the hosts exacted revenge in the final.

*Azad Majumder, Mehedi Hassan, Atif Azam, Sudipta Ananda, Syed Faiz Ahmed and Sharif Adnan contributed to this report.

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