Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Jafar brings fresh air to football

Little over a year ago, Jafar Iqbal was busy playing for Dilkusha Sporting Club in Dhaka’s third division football league. In a massive turnaround to his career, Jafar found himself as the new footballing hero of Bangladesh on Monday when his two goals helped the Under-18 national team beat India in SAFF Under-18 Championship in Bhutan. After a humiliating first-half when Bangladeshi boys conceded three goals, no one believed that a comeback was possible for them.
But, as it happened in some of the epic games in world football, Bangladesh turned the tide to seal a stunning 4-3 win, bringing a fresh air to country’s football.
The win came at a time when the environment in Bangladesh’s football was suffocating to say the least with so many negativities.
The poor on-field performances at a different level and even poorer organisational skills of Bangladesh Football Federation officials took the game to its lowest ebb with the country slipping to 196 in FIFA rankings.
Bangladesh needs someone like Jafar to rise from the ashes to show that the future of the country’s football is not as bleak as it may have seemed at the moment.
Jafar, with his two brilliant strikes and an assist for his attacking partner Mahbubur Rahman Sufil, showed that with proper care the new generation of footballers got the ability to bring the heydays back.
The 18-year old left winger from Bandarban, however, is not a complete stranger to Bangladesh football.
Jafar impressed national team’s former Belgian coach Tom Saintfiet with his pivotal performance for Arambagh Krira Sangha in the Federation Cup last year.
Saintfiet picked him in the Asian Cup Qualifying play-off squad for his role in Arambagh’s dream run in the tournament when they became runners-up.
Starting his playing career in Bandarban, the left-footer joined Feni Soccer Club’s Under-18 team in 2015.
Later, he took part in a trial organised by the BFF, where he caught the attention of the academy coach Syed Golam Jilani, who sent the winger to the third division outfit Dilkusha.
Jafar helped Dilkusha lift the third division title by scoring nine goals in 11 matches and eventually impressed Arambagh’s former coach Saiful Bari Titu to pick him for the last season.
Though he missed the season’s curtain raiser, the Independence Cup, for his HSC examination, Jafar put some brilliant performances and scored a fine goal against Team BJMC in the Federation Cup semi-final, which prompted Saintfiet to pick him in the national squad.
He impressed for Arambagh throughout the season and moved to big-spenders Chittagong Abahani with his coach Titu.
Though he struggled to find a place in starting line-up of Chittagong Abahani, the table-toppers in the Bangladesh Premier League, coach Titu said he possessed the quality to surprise the opponents always.
‘He is a speedy mover which is his main weapon I think,’ said Titu. ‘He has also scoring ability,’ Titu said of Jafar, who came as a substitute in three BPL matches this season but was yet to start.
Speaking over phone from Thimpu, Jafar claimed the match against India was the best of his career.
‘This kind of performance boosted my confidence and I hope I would continue my form in the next matches,’ he said.
Jafar thanked their luck for the sensational win against India.
‘In the second half, we played high-pressing football to bounce back after going down 0-3 at half-time,’ he said.
‘Playing all-out football was a great risk but I wanted to thank our luck because we availed all our chances to outplay India in the second half.’
Team head coach Mahbub Hossain Roxy was full of praise for Jafar.
‘His both goals were a result of great efforts that we put in at training sessions on set pieces,’ he said. ‘It would be a great challenge for him to put up a similar performance in the next matches but I believe he has that ability.’

-With New Age input

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