Shadhin Bangla Football Team

The Shadhin Bangla Football Team did exactly that. Not guns, not grenades but these men and boys used football as a weapon to fight the war.These bold footballers stepped up their game and decided to spread the word of independence from Pakistan as the War of Liberation raged on in 1971.
The idea was to let the world know about our Independence. Shamsul Haq was responsible to form a sports association, Bangladesh Krira Samity. On that very day, it decided to organise a football team that would go on to tour around India in order to raise awareness of the situation.
Soon enough a popular radio channel in Kolkata, Aakashbani, promoted this cause and asked for anyone who could help this team in any way possible.
Bangladesh Krira Samity’s first secretary Lutfor Rahman, former footballer and coach Ali Imam and former East End Club footballer Saidur Rahman Patel were the founding fathers of this glorious movement.
Things started to look bright as around thirty players answered the public calls and signed up for trials as Nani Bashak took charge as the coach. Jharna Bashak then selected 25 players to attend a special training camp for the players as a few others joined in after the tour kicked off.
The team had their debut against West Bengal’s Nadia district at the Khishnanagar Stadium on the 24th of July as Zakaria Pintoo led the footballers from the front line. It ended in a 2-2 draw.
The team was managed by the ex BCB Vice President Tanveer Mazhar Islam Tannam as they went on to play 16 matches all across India.
The most beautiful part of it all was when all the venues showcased a certain red and green flag with a map of a country that was yet to be born. We were yet to be recognised as a country and yet all the players were kissing the flag.
But it wasn’t as simple. The India football administration were criticised after the first match at Nadia which resulted the suspension of the District Magistrate of Nadia by the government for fielding an official team.
Nadia District Sports Association also lost their place in the Indian Football Association for hosting the Shadhin Bangla team.
Zakaria Pintoo, the skipper, in an exclusive interview with Daily Star’s Hasan Masood in 2003, had to say this;“I still remember that day. It is the most memorable moment of my life being the first person to hoist the Bangladesh flag outside the country.
It was also a historic moment for Bangladesh football. After that incident (of the Indian Footbal Association) the teams we played against did not use their official name.
Famous Mohun Bagan had to play under the banner of Goshtopal Eleven. The match in Bombay against Maharashtra Eleven was also very interesting as former Indian captain and Nawab of Pataudi Mansur Ali Khan led the side and scored one goal.
“I can still remember Indian film icon Dilip Kumar appearing in the game against Maharashtra and donated one lakh rupees to the team.”The solid centre back from Naogaon also recalled the day Bangladesh won the war, “We were about leave for Delhi to play another match when we heard the news that we had been waiting for nine months.
The day was December 16, the air was full of euphoria and we joined the never ending celebration.”
The current President of Bangladesh Football Federation, Kazi Salahuddin also played an important role in this team. The then young man played his first match for Shadhin Bangla Football Dal against Mohun Bagan.
Initially Salahuddin joined a camp across the border to fight the war. It is only there where he heard about the football team from a photo journalist from Kolkota. Salahuddin then travelled to Kolkata in an Indian Air Force cargo plane and started playing for the team where he reunited with a lot of his old teammates from Dhaka.
Today, many of these heroes have passed away. The ones who are alive are in different parts of the country and abroad. This little effort is a tribute to them and their heroics as they made the best use of whatever they could offer when Bangladesh needed them the most.
The Shadhin Bangla Football Team – Players: Zakaria Pintoo (captain), Protap Shankar Hazra (vice-captain), Kazi Salahuddin, Nowsheruzzaman, Lt Nurunnabi, Taslim, Ainul Haque, Khokon (Rajshahi), Lutfor (Jessore), Sheikh Ashraf Ali, Amalesh Sen, Hakim (Jessore), Aminul Islam Suruz (Barisal), Bimal (Chittagong), Shuvash Chandra Shaha (Narshingdi), Mujibur Rahman, Kaikobad, Siru, Sattar, Sanjit, Momen Joarder (Chuadanga), Saidur Rahman Patel, Piara (former secretary, Kushtia DSA), Enayetur Rahman Khan, Shahjahan, Aniruddha, Nihar, Govinda Kundu, late Ali Imam, late Mahmud and late Lalu (as of 2003).
Officials: Late Lutfor Rahman (Secretary, Bangladesh Krira Samity), Tanveer Mazhar Islam Tanna (manager) and late Nani Bashak (coach).
Sources : Zakaria Pintoo. Bangla football. Bangladesh Football Federation.

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