Bangladesh ready for a football frenzy with Australia visit: ‘160 million people are excited’

Australia will arrive for a World Cup qualifier against Bangladesh in Dhaka on September 3, the first welcome party for an Asian heavyweight side since Japan visited in 1993.
Bangladeshi children play with a football at a railway track in Dhaka last year. Andrew Biraj / Reuters / May 29, 2014
Bangladeshi children play with a football at a railway track in Dhaka last year. Andrew Biraj / Reuters / May 29, 2014

Bangladesh are just hoping to lose by no more than three goals when they take on Asian champions Australia for the first time in next week’s highly-anticipated World Cup qualifier in Perth.

The “Bengal Tigers”, ranked 170th by Fifa and who fell to a 3-1 home defeat by Kyrgyzstan in their opening qualifier in June, are nonetheless desperately keen for the September 3 clash even if a landslide loss is expected.

“Everybody is excited. 160 million are excited,” Bangladesh Football Federation technical director Nipu Bayazid Alam Zubair told Reuters in a recent interview.

“We are going to play against Australia in a World Cup match. Yes, definitely,” he said, confirming Australia were who Bangladesh wanted to play before the draw

“This is as big as it gets.”

Zubair said his young team, under the guidance of new Dutch coach Lodewijk de Kruif, would aim to do better than the last time they faced one of Asia’s heavyweights, Japan, at this level.

That was back in 1993, when Japan roasted Bangladesh 8-1 in Tokyo before winning the return in the UAE 4-1.

“We are looking forward to playing with Australia and how many goals we can concede,” Zubair said.

“Because Australia are a much better team than us. We played Japan last time a few years ago and conceded four goals, we are looking for our defence not to concede as many.”

Zubair was in Kuala Lumpur last week for the Asian Football Confederation’s first coaching conference where he sat next to Socceroos manager Ange Postecoglou, who went on stage to give insight to all on the Asian Cup triumph in January.

Such aspirations remain far off for Bangladesh, whose biggest footballing success came in 2003 when they beat the Maldives on penalties to win the South Asian championship for the first and only time.

They almost beat Tajikistan in their second Group B qualifier in June but conceded a late equaliser to draw 1-1 in Dhaka, where they will host Jordan on September 8.

A top three finish would keep alive their hopes of qualifying for a first Asian Cup since 1980, though they lost all four games and conceded 17 goals in Kuwait.

Zubair said that football, once the most popular sport, had dipped behind cricket at home as fans flock to watch the ever-improving national side compete in World Cups and Test matches against regional powers.

“Once upon a time football was number one,” he bemoaned.

“Football is a little bit behind.

“But still football is popular in my country. If you go, just not Dhaka but outside, it is still much more (popular).”

Interest, however, is reserved mainly for Argentina and their skipper Lionel Messi, who was mobbed by supporters when he visited the country to play a friendly in 2011 against Nigeria.

Zubair said he hoped improving the professionalism of domestic football might attract more fans to the local game.

“The pro league has been going for eight years now. We are looking at (improving) professionalism in our country but problem is that no club is up to the mark,” he said.

“Our president is trying to improve things. We are going better than before.

“We need better facilities and better coach education, club licensing. Professionalism in every club.”

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Published: August 27, 2015 04:00 AM

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