Bangladesh's national women’s team produced something stellar in Nepal. It has already been repeated time and time over the media, especially after the grand reception they got with an open-deck bus parade throughout the city.
But there’s something more to this team. This whole team is made of fighters. And they fought in Nepal.
While the men’s team disappointed the fans in the past decade, the girls have done it from the age to the international level.
They won the 2022 SAFF Championship with utmost style. They scored 23 goals and conceded just one. Their tactical awareness is top-notch as they utilised various formations throughout and didn’t budge under pressure.
For example, in the final, Nepal made it 2-1 by scoring the first goal Bangladesh conceded in the tournament. Such situations often create unrealistic pressure, leading to a breakdown.
But Bangladesh scored the third goal, killing the tie off and claiming the trophy.
But the biggest thing is, the Queens of South Asia did not just win on the field; they did it off it too.
For example, eight players of this team - Sanjida Akhter, Maria Manda, Shiuli Azim, Sumsunnahar Sr, Sumsunnahar Jr, Tohura Khatun, Sajeda Khatun, and Marjia Akhter – come from a village along the Bangladesh-India border in Mymensingh, Kalsindur.
In an interview with a national daily, the coach of those eight girls, Mafiz Uddin, revealed that people called him mad, and parents did not want the girls to play.
“When we were picking the players, we had to face many hurdles. As our’s one is a Muslim country, many guardians did not want their daughters to play football. Then, the girls also did not want to wear shorts. They wanted to play in salwar-kameez. The headmaster and I had to go to the footballers’ homes to convince the parents.
“We did not face any resistance directly, but we were mocked and teased. One evening, I was watering the field during summer to keep it fresh for the players. People at the marketplace used to say, ‘Mofiz master (commonly used to address teachers) has gone mad’,” he said.
Rupna Chakma, the national team's goalkeeper, saw the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, giving out instructions to fix the goalie’s house, which was in a fragile state.
The girls from Kalsindur had already brought electric connections to their village in 2015. Those achievements beat any trophy on any given day.
But one thing beats that too. The hope they gave to the girls of the country.
In a country where women live in fear and grow up being ostracised at every level of their life, Sabina Khatun and co did not just tell them that they can let go of their fears, but also that they can beat all the hurdles that come in their path and go all the way.
And that is huge. They will go a long way if they have the proper guidance. Until then, cherish them, relish them, celebrate them.