The Nepalese sports commentator was ecstatic as the third goal by Bangladesh was scored against India. “It’s the golden girls from Bangladesh who represent the golden era of the sports who are playing here.” It could very well be true.
With hard work, a sense of national duty and a resolve to beat the top team in South Asia, Bangladesh did exactly that in the SAFF Football championship. They defeated India in the final group game by a 3-0 margin. It was an incredible historic victory because India had never been beaten before in the SAFF women’s football championship.
Bangladesh had met India 10 times and lost 9 times with just one draw. Whether at the semi-final or the finals, Bangladesh’s nemesis was India. On Tuesday 13th of September, that spell ended and Bangladesh beat India not just comprehensively but went to the top of the team with 9 points. 1-0 would have been fine but the margin indicated the growing strength of the Bangladeshis team.
The Indian team expected a fight perhaps but not a defeat. Its manager told the media that the match plan was to go to the top of the table. More importantly though for India, the records spoke for itself. They had beaten Bangladesh every time bar once so why not once more?
Here is what Indian sports website khelnow.com had said about the forthcoming India-BD match.
“The Indian women’s team is dominating the ongoing 2022 SAFF Women’s Championship. The tournament is taking place in Kathmandu, Nepal and attracting a lot of attention. India is the defending champion; in fact, the nation has won all five of the previous editions of the tournament. Judging by the opening two matches and their outcomes, it will be difficult for any opposition to stop the juggernaut that is the Indian women’s football team.”
“The upcoming match against Bangladesh will be the final Group A fixture, one that India will hope to win comfortably and finish as group leaders. Their opponents have also won their opening two matches and have a good chance to cause an upset on Tuesday.”
So very confident but just ensuring they didn’t sound over-confident.
Bangladesh had beaten Maldives 3-0 and Pakistan 6-0 while India beat the same teams 9-0 and 3-0 so the two were definitely the two top teams. But once the game began, India seemed below par, often outclassed. Here is an excerpt from an Indian live blog on the game after the second goal was scored.
“IND 0-2 BAN, 25 min: Bangladesh deserve their two-goal lead. Watching them play, you wouldn’t say they are ranked 147 in the Fifa rankings, 89 places below India. Ashalata Devi and Co looks shell shocked here. The passes aren’t coming off and they are not able to resist the Bangladeshi press." (The Wire)
In the pre-match interview Bangladesh team captain Sabina Khatun had said something significant. “We know India is a very strong and professional team with lots of experience. They are ranked above us. But we beat Malaysia who was also ranked above us. We will give our best. “It’s this quiet confidence that saw them win.
Chances of Bangladesh stumbling against Bhutan in the semi-final are there though the chances are remote given the form it has now. However, one can never say for sure because Bangladesh’s victory against India was also unexpected. Nevertheless, one thinks Bangladesh will make it.
The Bangladesh team is definitely showing more maturity as the team players and management told the media. Sirat Jahan Swapna, who scored twice for Bangladesh against India said, “All the celebration was done and finished in the field. Once we returned to our hotel, treated our injured and iced our muscle aches and pain. We know how important the semifinal is. We are entirely focused on the semis. There is no question of taking Bhutan lightly. They reached the semis based on their merit and we shall treat them with the respect they deserve.”
In many ways, the soccer team sounds very different from the overrated cricket team. They are full of bluster and money and often are in news for out of sports matters. Their press conferences are full of bluster, whether it’s Papon the head honcho or the fresher in the team. Sadly, they haven’t been able to match the bluster with their performance. To many they are both overrated and overfed while the women’s soccer or cricket teams are examples of neglect.
A reputation beyond borders
Former Pakistan senior men’s team assistant coach and Masha United women team coach Nasir Ismail Nasir told ‘The News’ that he would hire the services of Bangladesh skipper Sabina Khatun for Masha United for the National Championship. “InshaAllah we will hire the services of Sabina for national event. We are making a strong team.”
Now the Bangladesh men’s team is under pressure from the girls' victory. Travelling abroad for a tournament Choton mentioned that expectation from the audience has gone way high because of the women team’s performance.
But it’s in the finals that the next round of David and Goliath will be launched. And if they reach the final India will go hell for leather seeking revenge. But the win drought is gone, the jinx is broken. It’s a strongly improving team and everyone will take Bangladesh seriously next time both teams meet.