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NEWS ANALYSIS

Politics rears its ugly head in Bangladesh football

Azad Majumder | Published: 23:19, Mar 22,2019 | Updated: 17:06, Mar 23,2019

 
 

Tarafdar Ruhul Amin and Kazi Salahuddin

Ranked 192nd in the world just above the likes of Samoa, Montserrat, Cayman Island and struggling neighbours Pakistan and Sri Lanka, Bangladesh football can rarely hit international headlines.
One exception came last week when FIFA council member Mahfuza Akther Kiron was arrested for allegedly defaming prime minister Sheikh Hasina with her comments.
Whilst this remained as a sub-judice matter if Kiron’s comment, in which she was found to be accusing the prime minister of neglecting football for cricket, was at all libellous, the entire episode that led to her arrest made it clear that everything was not going well within the Bangladesh Football Federation.
The plaintiff of the case against Kiron, Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club member Abu Hasan Prince, accused the BFF member of making the comment that hurt his sentiment at a press conference on March 8.
BFF officials contradicted the claim saying that they held no press conference on March 8. New Age has credible information that the audio is nearly two-year-old and the comments were made only during private conversations, not in any public forum.
A question can be raised why such old audio had come to the fore at a time when football organisers were rather expected to work hand in hand to lift the game from abyss.
Some recent developments in the country’s football arena might give an answer.
The election in BFF is due in April 2020 and the incumbent BFF president Kazi Salahuddin is expected to face a tough challenge this time, unlike his previous three terms.
In 2016, Salahuddin got an easy way when his opposition group, led by his friend-turned-foe Manzur Kader, could find none but a complete stranger in Kamrul Ashraf Khan Poton to compete against him.
Poton, who had no credential in football, still managed 50 votes against Salahuddin’s 83, meaning the scenario could have been different with a strong candidate.
This time, this ‘strong candidate’ could be Tarafdar Ruhul Amin, who despite being a relatively new face in football, has invested a lot in the game in recent years. Until last year he sponsored Bangladesh Premier League, bankrolled Chattogram Abahani and promoted his own team Saif Sporting Club in top-flight football.
He has not stopped just investing in football but threw a strong challenge to BFF incumbents last year by assembling district and divisional sports organisers in herds to a gathering in his home town Chattogram last year.
A new organisation called Bangladesh District and Divisional Football Association emerged from the meeting at hotel Agrabad on May 29, 2018, with Chattogram city mayor AJM Nasiruddin as its president and Amin as the general secretary.
Amin took the role of president of a similar platform of clubs called Bangladesh Football Club Association, which was launched in a Dhaka hotel on January 23. This time he found Arambagh Krira Sangha president Mominul Haque Saeed as his general secretary.
It was notable that some 200 men, who demonstrated before the BFF house on Thursday demanding the ousting of Kiron, were mostly Arambagh supporters and loyal to Saeed, also the commissioner of Dhaka South City Corporation Ward-9.
Within few hours of the demonstration, news came that the BFF launched a match-fixing probe against Chattogram Abahani and Saif Sporting, two clubs financed and run by Amin, for their goalless draw in Bangladesh Premier League on February 23.
It’s not too tough to find a connection between the developments against key Salahudin-aide Kiron and match-fixing probe against two Amin-run clubs. Both the groups have now started playing their cards, possibly at the expense of the very game football.

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