2019 is an exciting time to be a football fan in Bangladesh. Bangladesh made it to the second round of qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup 2023 Preliminary Joint Qualification. This tremendous feat came after winning the two-legged tie against Laos at the Bangabandhu National Stadium on the 13th of June, spearheaded by our talismanic captain Jamal Bhuyan.
Although Bangladesh is still a long way from securing their place for Qatar 2022, the Danish-born midfielder has been a revelation for team Bangladesh and Bangladesh football as a whole since his debut in 2013. And it’s time we finally give this man the limelight he deserves.
Not your average Bangladeshi upbringing
The story of our captain begins in the Danish town of Glostrup where he was born to Bangladeshi immigrant parents. He was involved in football from a very young age. At the age of 15, Jamal was playing for the Danish outfit Brøndby IF. After scoring against Denmark’s most prestigious club, F.C. Copenhagen (FCK), he was offered a place in the FCK’s youth academy.
After playing for a number of Danish sides, he moved to play in Philippines and China, before finally signing for Sheik Jamal in 2014, becoming the highest paid footballer in the country. As of 2017, he is playing for the Bangladeshi club Saif Sporting Club.
Leaving Denmark to represent Bangladesh
Being eligible to play for Denmark and Bangladesh, Jamal ended up choosing Bangladesh out of love for his father’s country. A country where he’s never been to. Jamal Bhuyan had a tough choice ahead of him. Keep playing for Denmark and F.C. Copenhagen where he would be catapulted into footballing glory. Or, come to Bangladesh and try to revive its bleak footballing scenario from dust and ashes. Jamal chose the latter.
Jamal Bhuyan chose country over personal glory.
He debuted for the Bangladesh national team, leaving the Danish luxury behind, in 2013 against Nepal in the 2013 SAF games. He became the first non-resident player to represent the national side.
Jamal Bhuyan was named the best defensive midfielder in South Asia in 2018 and remains so till this day, arguably.
He was also part of the commentary team as a guest commentator for Barcelona’s last La Liga match against Eibar last May. All in all, it’s safe to say that Jamal is truly making a mark in world football in our colours.
Future of Bangladesh football
It is quite disappointing to admit that football in Bangladesh has been brushed aside with the rise of cricket. Gone are the days when Dhaka would split down the middle whenever there was an Abahani vs. Mohammedan match. Match attendance in stadiums are dwindling and lack of proper funding, talent scouting and football academies have been weighing down the progress of Bangladesh football.
But with the recent upturn in form, football in the country has been promising lately. With team Bangladesh going through to the second round of WC qualifier, the overall ranking has also gone up from 188th to 183rd.
Our love for cricket overshadows our footballing heroes
Cricketers are our superstars. We idolize the likes of Mashrafe, Shakib-Al-Hasan and Tamim Iqbal. And they deserve every last bit of our love and respect. But on a different frontline, a whole different bunch of heroes are fighting with blood, sweat and dedication to uphold Bangladesh’s name in the world stage. And if nothing else, they at least deserve our love and support as much as our cricketers.
Bangladesh has never lacked football fans and it’s quite evident with the huge fan following of numerous European clubs all over the country and whenever the World Cup rolls around the corner. So it’s time we develop and support our domestic football scene. And with Jamal Bhuyan at the helm, it seems like the time is now.
Here’s to Jamal and the boys, for the next match and all the matches to come, we’ll roar with you.