The fiery girls!


‘Women, you flames of fire, wake up, wake up’, national poet Kazi Nazrul Islam had once called for an awakening of our women. The recent win at South Asian Football Federation Under-15 Women’s Championship justly showcases that spirit, writes Shaikha Shuhada Panzeree


It was an unbeaten championship for Bangladesh scoring 13 goals and conceding none throughout the tournament, being the first of such big title win for Bangladeshi girls in south Asian level, as a bunch of fiery 15-year olds unlocked this achievement.

Give or take, these very same girls clinched two more titles for the country before, even then being the first in our history, they were crowned champions of Asian Football Confederation Under-14 Regional Championship both in 2015 and 2016. Earlier in 2017, they had qualified for the final round of the 2017 AFC Under-16 Women’s Championship in China and also secured a place in the super eight Asian teams.

They have reached the 100th position on the FIFA ranking towards the end of 2017, almost putting their experienced male counterparts to a shame who currently hold the 192nd position on FIFA ranking. It is not to compare or put men’s football into question, but just to make a clear point — Bangladesh women’s football has seen more wins and first title wins in the last few years whereas men’s football has remained a failure in this regard.

However, about a decade back, when women’s football started its journey in the country, they have faced backlash from the fundamentalists, protests were made to stop women’s football; the whole idea of women playing football is unacceptable to the conservatives of the country. Credits must go to some football officials who could not be scared away from holding women’s football tournaments.

The captain of Bangladesh team at SAFF Under-15 Women’s Championship, Maria Manda, sharply states, ‘We brought some good results, it was evident that girls can play too, they can achieve as much as boys can or we can do more. We have shown it to them that we work hard and break barriers, that we are no less than boys’. On the same note, defender Akhi Khatun adds, ‘The very people who complained before, came to just see us, apologised for being too harsh earlier and appreciated our success. Their perspective changed and instead of negative comments, they have offered their blessings for more successes.’

The story of this success travels back in time, a rather fascinating story of some ten-year old girls, from the remotest parts of the country and from extremely underprivileged families, marking away the path of sports that they have taken with golden steps, little golden steps of children making it big for the country.

Bangamata Gold Cup, a gold digger indeed!


In 2010, at the final match of Bangabandhu Gold Cup tournament, which is for boys’ football, prime minister Sheikh Hasina made an announcement that from 2011, there will be a nationwide girls’ football tournament too, namely, Bangamata Gold Cup.

This nationwide tournament has found gems for the national women’s football team. Every year, lacs of girls take part from almost 64 thousand schools of the country. Among them, one school in particular stood out, Kalashindur Government Primary School from Mymensingh had snatched away the cup time and again. A total of 39 women footballers are currently training under BFF women’s wing, 11 of them came from Kalashindur School including the SAFF Under-15 captain Maria Manda.

Bangamata Gold Cup’s biggest find was this school. New Age Youth has contacted Mafiz Uddin, the primary school teacher who was the light-bearer for these girls, for a background story of their journey.

As Mafiz Uddin came to know about the nationwide girls’ football competition through a letter from the Directorate of Primary Education in 2011, being an avid follower of the sport, he took up the responsibility on his shoulders. He had arranged matches between classes and sections, at the beginning he had to select girls who could kick the ball or could run well. Within 30 days they started their practice. The matches took place first within the union, then in upazila level to district level. In the upazila level competition, it had happened so that none of the players from any of the teams could score a goal; they had to go for tie-breakers. But for Kalashindur girls, they could score from the beginning; every win gave them the boost to win the next game.

The local people did not give any importance to them, some made jokes and some threw bitter words towards them. When these girls became the district champion, brought trophies to their home and observed a victory rally in the area, the guardians and other students grew an interest in the sport. When the division championship came under their belt, the upazila chairman along with people from all around gave them a grand motorcade reception. This was just the recognition for the girls, it was a due. The final match was shown live from ATN Bangla, people had watched it to their mesmerisation that such young girls could play so well.


But obstacles had worn the path anyways. The first obstacle came from the girls themselves, they were not willing to wear short pants for the practice sessions, initially they played wearing salwar-kameez, later they agreed to wear jerseys over the kameez. It took a long time to convince them to wear shorts, when the eagerness for playing football increased in them, only then they agreed to wear jersey and short pants. Another obstacle came from the parents, their plan usually is to get the daughters married as early as possible, their girls playing football didn’t mean anything to them. Some opposed to the required dress-up, some were completely unwilling to let the girls play.

Continuous wins and live-telecasting of the matches had the lead roles in convincing people, not only that they were convinced, they were now eager for the girls going forward too. A backward area like Kalashindur had never seen any representation of themselves on the TV. But these little girls were shown on TV winning away games after games, this gave a push to the people.

Yes, there is another kind of gold diggers too!

As the girls got fame across the country, some people are trying to use it to their profit saying that they had worked for these girls. Relatives of the players, who paid little attention to them before, are now trying to take credit, posting pictures on Facebook with them stating that they are proud of their success.

In 2015, when Prothom Alo made a documentary on these girls, based on which nine villages of this area were provided with electricity connection, this is when it struck to the high school authority and teachers of Kalashindur that if they could get the girls under their supervision, they can get government registration and support for their school. They gave the girls a reception where all they said was about the same. The fact that these girls are players, that they need sports equipment, was completely out of their speech.

Exploitations of such kind cannot be encouraged anywhere in the country, a healthy environment is a must for the players to grow mature about their stature.

The financial background, a food for thought!

The financial background of these girls is that of a struggle. National player Sanjida has a somewhat good financial condition, a lower middle class family. There are girls who do not have their own homestead, Sabina who died was one of them. Maria’s father only has a homestead, no other properties whatsoever. Mahmuda’s father has some land which does not produce enough money for the family to sustain. Nazma, a player of the national team, her father is a tea-seller. Marzia, captain of the national U-16 team, her father is a rickshaw-puller. It so happened once that, Maria, captain of the U-15 team, didn’t have the money to buy boots, so she didn’t come to practice one day, instead she laboured in someone’s farmland and earned 300 taka with which she wished to buy the boots she needed to play.

Financial condition of the players who played in the national team in 2014 and 2015 took a slight upswing in the later days. BFF and some companies commissioned them some money with which they tried to bring some changes in their families.

It is a matter of contemplation that, provided with just a little scope and arrangement to play, what underprivileged girls of our country can do.

This is not a new story, we have seen girls from poor families shooting big stars at swimming, hockey and other sports at international level. This is the budding time to uplift the nation in girls’ sports.

How the bigger picture changed!

New Age Youth has contacted the coach of girls’ football team Golam Rahman Choton who gives an insight on how the bigger picture changed and became a realistic possibility for Bangladesh.


In 2013, BFF women’s wing, sponsored by Pran, organised a country-wise tournament, 40 districts took part in that tournament from where BFF selected 210 girls. In seven venues across the country, 14 BFF trained coaches went to train up these girls for one month. Later, these 210 girls were divided in 14 teams, and these teams played each other. And from that, they finalised 46 players and brought them to Dhaka. And these girls took part in 2014’s U-16 where they faced strong teams like Jordan, Iran, India, and Arab Emirates. Jordan made an announcement right after coming here that they are here to win. But our girls defeated Jordan in the very first match, defeated Arab Emirates by 6-0, lost to India by 2-0 after presenting a rather tough game. This was the beginning for the girls.

BFF women’s wing regularly organised games within age-groups, keeping them under training, the coaches tried to keep the girls together despite all odds, these efforts have resulted into this success today.

One significant aspect about women’s football is that they have maintained a continuous track of improvement. If credits have to be given, the continuous effort from the women’s wing of BFF, especially mentally strong and uncompromising Mahfuza Akhter Kiron worked hard for this, she dealt with every problem that came along the way. BFF’s president Kazi Salahuddin was helpful throughout and the coaching staff tried their best.

When limitation is the constant!

BFF has acknowledged about their financial crisis time and again. Even FIFA, the main organisation that represents world-wide football, made a regulation that only 15 per cent of the overall budget can be reserved for women’s football. But BFF itself, along with its president Kazi Salahuddin, was keen on developing the girls’ team which has resulted in this position.

Along the way, it came to BFF’s realisation that the level of our team would revolve around the level of the expertise of the teams we are playing with. Bangladesh is used to play with countries from central and south Asia and never played with world champions. Thus Kazi Salahuddin arranged a camp for the girls for one year. The team has visited quite a few countries to have training under them, they had been to Japan twice for training and also had a friendly match with them, and to South Korea, Singapore and China once each.

Coming to parents’ support, Choton says, ‘One pleasant thing about the guardians is that they were always helpful. After the U-16 qualification, the girls were given a grand reception where all their parents too were invited, they emerged on the stage by the side of their daughters. They visited the place where their girls stay and had a look around to ensure that the girls were kept under supervision and safety along with proper care. After speculating all this, they were convinced and grew a confidence too’.

How was the experience for the coach?

The proud coach only had positive words for the girls, he says, ‘When I started working with women’s football in 2009, I only made them practice push passing and receiving, we were busy learning just the techniques then. But today, these girls are playing high pressing football, it was beyond our imagination to play a 90-minute game pressing the opposition, to continue the effort physically and tactically against strong opponents like India, Nepal whose football legacy go way back in time, to be crowned the champion defeating such teams is an achievement unlocked for us’.

This year, most of the experienced players from the U-16 team could not participate because of the age limitation, there were eight players who had never played in the national team before. Even then, it is interesting that a team like India, who would score six to seven goals against Bangladesh within the first 20 minutes of a match and Bangladesh team had to pray for a less tragic loss, is now playing tactically to prevent Bangladesh from scoring high. It is clear what it points at.

One important thing about this team is, these girls can play anywhere in the field, although they have their expertise in a specific positions. Samsunnahar played left-back at last SAFF game which took place in Shiliguri, but the coaching staff saw a natural talent in her for left-forward; Monika used to play left-forward or right-forward, but was set at the central midfield with Maria which turned out to be the best combination, Akhi played central midfield but as she is very tall, something that the team does not have the luck of much, was moved to central defense; this reshuffling worked out just fine.

Among other significant notes, it has to be mentioned that the girls maintain a score of 2000 to 2100 meters in the Cooper Test which is used to measure their fitness, whereas the standard for fitness is 1800 meters, the coach shares with New Age Youth.

Reasons behind the victory!

The girls underwent three shifted rigorous practice sessions every day under the supervision of strict coaching staff. These little girls living apart from family and friends put all their attention into football, even after all this hard work, they have maintained their studies very well. All this vouches for the invested and hard working nature of this team. The girls, their parents’ support and the coaching staff’s continuous effort altogether resulted into this win.

What are our plans?


Choton says, ‘BFF president very well realises the value of these girls, which is why he sat on a discussion with us after the SAFF U-15 cup. He has a plan scheme of four years, currently we have 39 girls under our training, we will select a few more players from around the country. A total of 50 girls will be trained for four years till 2020, the process already started in 2017 as you have seen.’ He adds, ‘We are aiming to play at the FIFA U-20 women’s world cup qualifiers. If one year of training could bring such results, it will be no wonder if we hit big with a several more years of training’.

A note of regret!

In 2014 two girls from Nilphamari camp were brought to Dhaka, Irine and Rasheda who trained with the team for a year and became experienced. Before the AFC U-16 qualifiers, the coach was informed that both of them were married off. In 2016 setting off for SA games in Shilong, BFF had to take Maria, Samsunnahar, Marzia, little girls of their age to compete with the super experienced older team of India. Players like Suinu and Trishna, who are comparatively experienced and were to play in the national team, got married and had children. The team had lost a valuable member too, Sabina Yasmin passed away from high fever. The girls dedicated the SAFF U-15 championship to Sabina, a friend and a sister to them.

Coach Choton says, ‘This is our loss. We are facing such adverse situations regularly, and yet we are trying our best, women’s wing head Mahfuza Akhter Kiron is working with patience and mental strength, BFF’s genuine interest in girls’ football and the media’s support are the sole things that are pushing us to move forward’.

The ending note!

Would you believe that the same nation, who once protested against girls’ football, has presented a crowd of 12,000 audiences in the stadium? That is how the girls’ have changed and affected our country. It has to be mentioned that, along with the marginalised, a large portion of the players come from ethnic minorities of the country, who are naturally fit for the adverse natural environment they grow up in. However, regardless of the background of these girls, they have a new identity, they are football players and they are here to make us proud.

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