The highs and lows of Bangladesh football in 2019

The year 2019 was tumultuous year for Bangladesh football, which witnessed its fair share of highs and lows over the past 12 months. Overall though, it has to be said that under Englishman Jamie Day, the men's national team seem to be on to a good thing for the first time in years. It remains to be seen how much further the team can progress under his tutelage. Before turning the page to 2020, let's look back at the year that was for Bangladesh football.

Slight improvement in FIFA rankings

The Bangladesh Men's National football team started the year 2019 ranked a dismal 192nd out of 210 nations in the FIFA rankings. They moved to 188th slot in April and then jumped up five place to move 183rd in June and then 182nd in July. That would remain the peak for the year however, as they again slipped down to 184th in October and finally ended the year at 187th with 915 points � so not all that much better in the end, but certainly not worse.

Bangladesh Women's National football team started the year ranked 125th out of 155 nations in FIFA rankings. They lost their position in March and slipped down to 127th. The women's team ended the year at 130th slot with 1008 points.

Casino cloud's shadow

Not only football, rather the whole sports arena of the country was rocked by the 'Casino Hazard' in the last three or four months of the year. Bangladesh Premier League football clubs including Arambagh Krira Sangha, Dhaka Mohammedan Limited, Muktijoddha Sangsad Krira Chakra; Bangladesh Championship League football clubs Fakirerpool Youngmen's Club, Victoria Sporting Club and Dhaka Senior Division League clubs Dhaka Wanderers Club were just some of the established names who became tainted due to the activities of unscrupulous management in the clubhouse.

Director in-charge of Dhaka Mohammedan Lokman Hossain Bhuiyan is now under police custody and Arambagh KS President AKM Mominul Haque Sayeed, also the General Secretary of Bangladesh Hockey Federation (BHF), is one of the key accused for leading the casino syndicate and is believed to have fled the country fearing arrest in the wake of the 'cleansing drive' ordered by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for the political arena.

FIFA boss Infantino swings by

FIFA President Gianni Infantino for the first time visited Bangladesh in October as part of his 'Goodwill tour' through Asia. During his day-long stay in the capital, the boss of world football's governing body met with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at her office. Infantino expressed his observations on the improved performances of Bangladeshi football teams, including the senior men's side and girls at junior level, to the Prime Minister and assured that the FIFA will continue their support to Bangladesh for the promotion of its football.

Accompanying Infantino were FIFA Deputy Secretary General (Football) Mattias Grafstrom, Chief of Communications Onofre Costa, Director of Member Associations (Asia and Oceania) Sanjeevan Balasingam, and President's Office Manager Federico Raviglione, as well as 1998 French World Cup winner Youri Djorkaeff

The two national teams

Bangladesh National football team started the year with an international friendly match against Cambodia in Dhaka. The men in red and green beat Cambodia 1-0 in the one-off match.

Bangladesh reached round 2 of the preliminary joint qualifications for FIFA World Cup 2022 and AFC Asian Cup 2023 beating Laos in round 1. Bangladesh beat Laos 1-0 in their away match while the men in red and green played a goalless (0-0) draw against Laos in the home match.

When not focusing on the FIFA+ AFC joint qualification campaign, Bangladesh played two friendly matches (Tier-1) against Bhutan in Dhaka. They beat Bhutan 4-1 in the first match and by 2-0 in the second match.

Bangladesh team started their campaign in the round 2 of FIFA and AFC meets with a 0-1 defeat against Afghanistan in the first match in the Tajik capital of Dushanbe. They then fought valiantly but conceded a 0-2 defeat against Asian champions Qatar in their second match in Dhaka. The team were even more unlucky in their next fixture, as they looked set to register their first 3 points with a victory against India in an away fixture played in Kolkata, dominating their opponents for most of the 90 minutes only to concede a late, late equalizer. They followed that up however with their most disappointing performance of the campaign, capitulating to a 4-1 defeat against Oman in another away fixture. That set of results leaves them bottom of the table, but the return fixtures in 2020 will mostly be on home soil, with only Qatar away.

Bangladesh women's national team only took part in the SAFF Women's Championship in Nepal on March. They were eliminated from the meet after conceding 0-4 goals defeat against India in the second semifinal.

Age level football

Bangladesh Under-23 National football team clinched bronze medal in the recently concluded 13th South Asian Games in Nepal. The Bangladeshi side started campaign in the football discipline of the regional meet conceding 0-1 goal defeat against Bhutan, played 1-1 draw with Maldives, beat Sri Lanka by 1-0 goals and conceded 0-1 goal defeat against hosts Nepal.

Bangladesh and Laos were declared the joint champions of the first edition of Bangamata U-19 Women's International Gold Cup Football, a six-nation soccer meet named after Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib. Hosts Bangladesh, Laos, Mongolia, Tajikistan, UAE, and Kyrgyzstan competed in the tournament. Bangladesh emerged as Group B champions beating the UAE by 2-0 goals in the opening match and managed a 2-1 victory over Kyrgyzstan in the second match. The hosts reached the final eliminating Mongolia by 3-0 goals in the second semifinal.

Bangladesh U-19 men's team eliminated from the four-team Group E of AFC U-19 Championship qualification in Bahrain. They conceded 3-0 goals defeat against hosts Bahrain in the first game, played1-1 draw with Jordan in the second and conceded shocking 1-2 goals defeat to Bhutan in the third match.

Bangladesh U-18 men's team finished runners-up in the SAFF U-18 Championship conceding 1-2 goals defeat against India in the nail-biting final in Nepal.

Bangladesh U-16 girls were eliminated from the extremely tough Group A of AFC U-16 Women's Championship in Thailand. Bangladeshi girls conceded 0-1 goal defeat against hosts Thailand, 0-9 goals defeat against eventual champions Japan who went on to clinch the title for a 4th time, and fought out a very creditable 2-2 draw with Australia in their three matches. The Japan result was a bit of an outlier shocker, but the girls performed admirably in the other two fixtures against two very strong sides. The team had qualified for this tournament by winning the previous year's SAFF equivalent.

Bangladesh U-16 boys emerged champions in the four-team UEFA Assist Development Tournament, crushing Cambodia U-16s by 2-0 goals in their first match, European side Faroe Islands by 3-1 goals in their second match and Maldives U-16s in the final 6-0 goals in their third and last match, all in Dhaka.

Bangladesh U-15 girls finished runners-up in the SAFF U-15 Women's Championship, their hearts broken by India on penalties after a hard-fought final ended in a draw.

Bangladesh U-15 boys finished third in the SAFF Under-15 Championship after conceding 0-4 goals defeat against their giant neighbors India in the last league match in the Indian state West Bengal.

Domestically, Lalmonirhat clinched the title in the BFF UNICEF U-16 National Women's Football Championship beating 4-0 Magura by 4-0 goals in the final.

Rangpur clinched the title in the JFA U-14 Women's National Football Championship defeating Mymensingh by 4-2 goals in tie breaker in the final. Both competitions further demonstrated the continued rise and potential of women's football in the country.

Among other achievements, former national booter Mirona Khatun became the first female coach of a men's football team. Mirona was appointed coach of BCL football club Dhaka City FC.

Joya Chakma is set to become the first female referee from Bangladesh to officiate international matches from January 1, 2020.

Domestic club football

Dhaka Abahani Limited lifted the season's curtain raiser Federation Cup trophy for a record 11th time beating Bashundhara Kings 3-1 in the final.

Bashundhara Kings emerged new champions in their first appearance in the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) Football securing 63 points and Dhaka Abahani Ltd finished runners-up earning 58 points.

Bangladesh Police Football emerged champions in the Bangladesh Championship League securing 39 points and Uttar Baridhara Sporting Club finished runners-up earning 33 points.

Dhaka Abahani Limited were eliminated from the Inter-zone play-off semi-finals of AFC Cup. The Dhanmondi outfit outplayed April 25 SC of North Korea by 4-3 goals in the first-leg home match but conceded 0-2 goals defeat against the North Korean club in the second-leg away match.

Source: United News of Bangladesh