The opportunity to show one’s mettle in international leagues was unusual for Bangladeshi athletes, especially women. However, two female players now have such a chance after a difficult time that was preceded by great achievement.
A year after Bangladesh won the SAFF Women’s Championship for the first time in late 2022, Sabina Khatun, Krishna Rani Sarkar, Sanjida Akter, Sirat Jahan Swapna, and Akhi Khatun were given contracts to play in the Indian Women’s League. However, none of them obtained clearance from the Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) owing to the failure to develop a franchise-based Women’s Super League.
Nonetheless, with no domestic tournaments in Bangladesh, Indian club officials have resorted to two of the five players – captain Sabina and winger Sanjida – for their services in the present Indian Women’s Football League.
Sabina went for Bengaluru-based Kickstart yesterday, while Sanjida is awaiting the conclusion of her legalities to play for Kolkata-based East Bengal, who claim to be highly interested in Sanjida after previously rejecting her owing to Bangladesh national women’s team international obligations.
Striker Krishna, defender Akhi, and forward Swapna would have also been called, but although Krishna has been recovering from an injury, Akhi and Swapna retired from football last year.
Momen Munna, Sheikh Mohammad Aslam, Kaiser Hamid, Rummon Bin Wali Sabbir, Golam Gaus, Rizvi Karim, and Mahbubur Rahman Roxi were regulars in the Kolkata-based football league in the 1990s. But those were the days. Mamunul Islam was the most recent player to join with Atletico de Kolkata for the 2014 Indian Super League, however he did not appear in a single game.
The acquisition of Bangladeshi female players by Indian teams is now a good sign for the country’s women’s football, since the footballers will have a new platform to compete in the absence of a competitive local league, as well as financial rewards.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity to play in a new environment with a professional approach.” The girls will play home-away matches, traveling to various states, something our kids do not get to experience at home,” stated national women’s team coach Saiful Bari Titu.
“The girls will also get the opportunity to gain experience playing with other foreign players in the Indian Women’s League,” Titu said, adding that Sabina and others’ involvement in the Indian [Women’s] League would motivate more players to take advantage of similar opportunities in the future.
Sabina and Sanjida, according to assistant coach Mahbubur Rahman Litu, will be able to live up to their reputations in the Indian Women’s League.
“In Bangladesh, only two clubs competed for the title: Bashundhara Kings and Ataur Rahman Bhuiyan College team, while Sabina scored a lot of goals in domestic competitions.” So they may see how they compare to other players in the Indian league,” Litu said.
Litu also believes Sabina and Sanjida may assist other players get into other Indian teams in the future, similar to how Sabina brought Sumaya Matsushima to the Maldives Futsal tournament.
However, according to Saiful Bari Titu, football agents play a vital role in locating a foreign club for a footballer, and Bangladesh lacks such a system of choosing players’ representatives.