Captain of the new SAFF Women’s champions, Bangladesh’s Sabina Khatun, wants to keep entertaining the football-crazy fans of Bangladesh and also win more trophies in the future.
She was speaking at BFF’s official press conference to welcome back the triumphant Bangladesh team from the SAFF Women’s Championship 2022 in Nepal. By the time Sabina got the mic, night had fallen. She had just come off the euphoric high of an open-top bus parade through the city, for the country to welcome back its heroines in a befitting manner.
The scene at the BFF premises was chaotic, and the captain, as well as the highest goalscorer, and not to mention the best player of the tournament award winner, must have been tired, finally. In World Cup terms - she won the Golden Boot, the Golden Ball, and lifted the trophy.
State Minister for Youth and Sports Zahid Ahsan Russell MP, BFF and SAFF President Kazi Salahuddin, BFF Senior vice president Abdus Salam Murshedy MP, Chairman of the BFF Women's Football Committee Mahfuza Akhter Kiron, Head coach of Women's football team Golam Rabbani Chotan, among others, also addressed the press conference.
Sabina expressed her gratitude to the 160 million people of Bangladesh for giving them such a historic reception and providing all-out support.
"We are staying at the BFF camp together for the last four to five years, BFF President Kazi Salauddin told us to work hard to achieve success. We did that with the support of BFF and other authorities concerned, and at the end of the day we got the desired result," Sabina added.
Head Coach Golam Rabbani Choton said "Our turning point was the start of the countrywide talent hunt program, then came long-term training camp in 2016. From there we were then optimistic of reaping the fruit when the girls would turn to 19-20 years old."
"It wouldn’t have been possible for us to be the champions without the continuous support of BFF, the hard work of the players,” he acknowledged.
But he was keener to point out: “Our team won its first SAFF Women's trophy playing dominating football all throughout."
He is absolutely right of course. It’s a fact that has somewhat faded behind the euphoria of the first championship - it is how brilliantly the girls played.
Most people would have seen only the final - where it was clear that from the very first minute, Bangladesh were looking to attack, and did - winning a corner.
Once they went ahead, they didn’t even sit back - they kept looking for a second. Except for maybe a cagey 20-minute period in the second half that ended with Nepal pulling one back, Bangladesh were clearly the better side. The fact that it was being played in Kathmandu, seemed to be lost on our Tigresses.
All three goals were beautifully executed combining technical skill and footballing vision. Actually, this has been nurtured in this generation of footballers by their participation in the steady progress made through the age groups in South Asia since the middle of the last decade - Choton is right.
He has bred a generation of women footballers who press like demons, a team that moves forward working in neat triangles throughout the pitch, and with emphasis on technique from the first touch. The girls grew up idealising ‘tiki-taka’.
Let’s not forget, their goal record from the tournament was an incredible 23 scored to 1 against.
BFF President Kazi Salahuddin, who received the team at the BFF office Wednesday evening, gave all credit to the players and team management for their success.
“After winning the SAFF trophy, our next target is to play in the Asean and Asian level with teams like Thailand, Korea and Japan,” he said.
Earlier, the Bangladesh team was accorded a grand reception on arrival at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka from Kathmandu Wednesday afternoon.
The Tigresses earned the dream title for the first time beating five-times runners-up and hosts Nepal 3-1 in the final in Kathmandu Monday evening.
Bangladesh broke the complete domination of India through previous editions of the tournament - winning all five. Before the final, we knew the 6th edition would produce the first champion outside India, the regional giant.
And it turned out to be Bangladesh, and deservingly so. Everybody has been dazzled by their play in this tournament. It even won the Fair Play Award - as if any more proof were needed of their clean, beautiful brand of football.
India had been confronted earlier - and ruthlessly disposed of, 3-0, in the group phase. That game itself seemed to symbolise the end of an era. And the Bangladeshi girls did it themselves, shattering the confidence of their potentially most formidable rival, who came second in the group and were eliminated in the semifinal.