Bangladesh Tennis Federation general secretary Golam Morshed was recently named as the tournament director of SAARC Open Tennis Tournament. Morshed spoke to New Age’s Wahidullah Bakul about the prospects and problems of tennis at length during a recent interview. Here are the excerpts:
New Age: Congratulations for being named as SAARC Open Tennis Tournament’s tournament director, how significant this is for you?
Golam Morshed: Welcome, there are two posts actually, one is organising committee chairman for five years and other is tournament director for two years. Committee chair for five years to lead the SAARC tournament up to the maximum high as the Asian Tennis Federation was looking our seven-nation body to get some success. Its significant and actually an honour for Bangladesh. I have to coordinate among seven nations – Bangladesh India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Afghanistan. Through my initiative I can show we too have players, we also have high-performance trainers and we also can compete. Yes, I can do little bit extra for Bangladesh.
NA: A general question, what is the prospect of tennis in Bangladesh?
GM: Well, you see it was a country that had prospect in tennis and till today it has potentials. I took over the responsibilities for the last two years. I was inspired as I used to play tennis here from my childhood. I have many children here, who belong to lower middle class or from poor families. Some have nothing for livelihood. Today, a son of my security guard went to play in ITF World Junior Under-14 Competition in Colombo. Where are the upper middleclass, upper class and rich people? That’s the problem. We see prospect when players come from grassroots level [from lower class]. But higher class people also have to join for further development. We have no other choice.
NA: Can you please specify about the prospect of Bangladesh tennis?
GM: We have a country of 16 crores people. We have to focus on two sides. Firstly we have to see who can share responsibilities as organisers. Then, we have to find out talents from grassroots level. There are talent hunt programmes in grassroots level and it is a continuous process. After hunting the talents, we have to bring them here to groom up…we have to nurture them. It is a huge task, long-term processes. To make it possible, we should have coordination among, players, trainers, coaches and organisers. Tennis is a noncontact game. There is no physical clash in tennis. Tennis has got a tremendous future compared to team game like, cricket, football or basketball.
NA: Can you please describe the ongoing initiative to take the game forward?
GM: Under current programmes there are four international tournaments for juniors and two to three tournaments for local levels. All are sanctioned-tournaments by ATF and ITF. They wanted me to give six more tournaments, but my tennis courts [at Ramna] are now under renovation. So I will not be able to host those tournaments this year.
NA: How many professional and amateur tennis players we have in our country?
GM: if you ask me, we cannot tell them professional as we do not pay our players. If we call them players, the number of players we have, sadly, ranged from 100 to 150 only, including age-level players. It will be difficult for me to find out 150 good players, who can fight in the competitions. Roughly they can perform. You have seen some elderly people are playing at the court. They all are amateur players. They play in different clubs. We have no lack of amateur players. The unfortunate thing is that, amateur clubs are not supporting me for the developments of my players. There are many players in this locality, who hesitate whether they should come to federation or not. I am telling them, membership opportunity is open for all in my federation. Anybody can join and play here. There is no other federation who gives this open membership opportunity. But I made it in my federation. To make a tennis court, I need to spent Tk 32 to 40 lakhs. I cannot lease it out for cattle market. I need players to play here.
NA: So you are saying that including age-level players the number of players with a professional mindset in no more than 150?
GM: Yes, I mean who are able to perform roughly. After the qualifying round I can expect 50 players for a tournament. In India, when they throw any tournament, they get 700 to 800 players after qualifying round.
NA: From 150 players, the number we have, what is the ratio of male and female?
GM: You have asked a dangerous question. It’s a serious question. If you take a look at 10 years back, the percentage of female players might be one to two per cent. Now it is even less, may be around 0.2 per cent. They do not feel comfortable here for various reasons. In district level club we have courts, but they remain idle all the day, they do not allow playing the school going kids. In some cases, the court is open only when Deputy Commissioners comes. I have become tired fighting with social clubs to allow kids. Now they have started hating me. Kids want to play tennis. You look these seven year old girls, who don’t know about the ‘T’ of tennis. How I will nurture them? If these clubs come forward and allow players during their spare time, from 10:00am to 2:00pm, it could be different. They treat poor players as their servant.
NA: But we know, sport is the only place where there is no discrimination, like master or servant ….
GM: Yes, there is no boss and servant, but they made it. One of them makes 34 blazers, but do not give it to national players. I asked what you will do with all these blazers. Do you have enough places to keep all these? The policy is being set by them. Players will come up from the ground. If we do not correct our mindset, players will not come up even if you wrap up tennis federation with gold. It is your mindset what is important. Look at the cricket. There are many players from lower middle class, but they are now earning much. Give them opportunity to earn.
NA: Despite being a popular game, why Bangladesh is in legging behind in tennis? Can you tell it briefly?
GM: We have players, we have places. It would be better, if you ask them, who played tennis in the past or organised tennis. Tennis federation is being blamed each time. There were other organisers, what they did? We get balls and rackets from ITF. I distribute all those, but in the past where all those had gone, I did not know it. As an organiser, now I’m trying to bring tennis to an upper standard from existing slandered. I need support. Some of my committee members understand well, some do not, but I need support from all of them. If, I can bring out at least four top players, by utilising full backup, management and physio, it will be a big achievement.
NA: Tennis is popular worldwide. Why Bangladesh Tennis Federation cannot attract sponsors?
GM: Now I am taking time for completing my infrastructure. If, my infrastructure is not okay, why sponsors will come here? I can manage temporarily, but don’t want to. It has to be a sustainable and continuous process.
NA: Can you expect regular sponsorship after accomplishment of infrastructures here?
GM: Look, I have already approached before local sponsors. I have approached before international level equipment’s sponsors, who provide balls, rackets. They said build up you structure first. I cannot call them to sponsor at broken court.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Interview