People of Bangladesh at home and abroad celebrated the centenary birth anniversary of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on Wednesday. 50 years ago, Bangabandhu was dreamt that Bangladesh will be recognised one day to the whole world through sports. He was a sportsman himself. It was learnt from his autobiography ‘Unfinished Memoirs’ (Oshomapto Attojiboni) that he was not only an ardent football fan but also used to play football beside Volleyball and Hockey. He had also played for a club in Dhaka during his days. National Crickter Tamim Iqbal in a video message mentioned while recalling the month of bangabandhu.
“I used to play football, volleyball and hockey. I wasn’t a very good player but I was in a good place in the school team. I was not that much into politics back then,” wrote Sheikh Mujib in his autobiography.
Bangabandhu also shared another interesting detail of his football career in his autobiography about his rivalry as a footballer with his father. Sheikh Lutfar was also a very good player, according to Sheikh Mujib.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina wrote in her book, ‘Sheikh Mujib Amar Pita’, “When my father played, my grandfather went to see the match. He told us, “Your Abba was so thin that when he kicked the ball, he slipped on the ground.” If Abba was nearby then, he would be agitated and we enjoyed their arguing.”
Bangabandhu was the skipper of his school whereas his father was the secretary of the local ‘Officer’s Club’. Sheikh Mujib wrote that whenever there were matches between his school team and his father’s team, the crowd would be very excited for the clash and enjoyed it.
In 1940, the school team led by Bangabandhu beat his father’s team in almost every game. At the end of the year, there were five consecutive draws. The Officer’s Club team hired players as they had money whereas it was the same eleven throughout the year for the school-going Sheikh Mujib's team.
It was the last match of the ‘A Z Khan Shield’ and the school team were yet to lose. As hired players were waiting, Sheikh Lutfar pressured his son to play the next morning as it would be too costly to keep them waiting for long. Bangabandhu protested as his players were tired and asked for rest.
The secretary of Gopalganj Sporting Club tried to intervene but opted out saying that it was a family matter between Sheikh Lutfar and Sheikh Mujib. Bangabandhu’s school’s headmaster, Babu Rasranjan Sengupta was dragged into the matter and he requested young Sheikh Mujib to give in to his father. Sheikh Mujib protested saying, “Sir, we all are tired. We, the 11 players, have played on the trot for a year. Our legs hurt, we need to rest for 2-4 days. Or else we will lose.”
But as rebellious as he was, Bangabandhu had to honour his headmaster’s request and decided to take the field the next day. But that does not end the story of football in Sheikh Mujib’s life. He participated in tournaments for his district team. But what is even more spectacular is, he played professional football for Dhaka Wanderers in the 1940s. He regularly featured for them from 1941 to 1948. It was under his captaincy, Wanderers won the Bogura Cup and in the final, Bangabandhu scored a brace, leading his side to a 5-0 victory.
Reputed footballer Ghaznavi saw Sheikh Mujib play and said in an interview, “As he was busy in politics, he was not able to play football. If he had continued, he would have been the best striker of Asia in the 40’s.”
Though Bangladesh national cricket team is now in Queenstown, New Zealand, a few hundred miles away from the country for over a month-long tour, they didn’t forget the birth centenary of the Bangabandhu. Tigers’ ODI captain Tamim Iqbal had a message for all sportsmen of the country on the auspicious day from there.
“We’re remembering Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman with respect on the occasion of his birth centenary. He dreamt that Bangladesh will be recognised one day to the whole world through sports,” said Tamim Iqbal under his leadership Bangladesh will launch an uphill mission against the host New Zealand in Dunedin.
“On this special day, we want to congratulate and send good wishes to all the sportsperson of Bangladesh,” Tamim said in a video message.
Although the Tigers could not celebrate the occasion at home, Tamim, who has been helping out sportsperson during the pandemic by his own means, wanted to send his and the team’s regards for sportseperson in the country in order to mark the occasion.
The Tigers played in their first intra-squad warm-up match on Tuesday. After completing their camp in Queenstown on Wednesday, the Tigers will travel to Dunedin, for the first ODI of the three-match ODI series against New Zealand starting from March 20.