By Syed Anik:
Shuvo used to play for an underground football team. I first met him when he regularly participated in competitions around the city, as well as attended games as a spectator. When I saw him again a few days back, I was curious to learn if he was still playing, and how his team fared. The news was grave, as he replied, ‘Unfortunately, the Bangladesh Cricket Board has seized our playing field and instead, planted grass on it. Because of this incident, the team wound up taking a long break. I, however, am no longer with the team.’ How does he spend his leisure time now? He replied, ‘Right now, PC games are my only form of recreation.’
Like Shuvo, many young people in Dhaka face the same problem, a lack of sports and recreation facilities. Dhaka City Corporation has provided only 11 playing fields throughout the different areas of the city. Due to unplanned urbanization, these fields have been put to use for commercial use, resulting in an increasing numbers of youth looking for alternate forms of recreation, namely, shisha bars, billiard zones, gaming zones, etc.
In the past, the youth would spend their leisure time playing sports, but the current generation faces a tougher time because of insufficient space and opportunity. Most fields are supposed to be for recreational use but are being utilized instead for commercial and political reasons. Still, there are a few groups that try to stay involved in sports, and keep playing regularly despite the obstacles. Strikers United is one such football club; the team is still struggling to reach its dream of playing football regularly.
For Strikers United, the idea of playing football as a team came out of a conversation during a regular hangout at TNT field in 2006. Asiful Azam, Ashikur Rahman Rifat, Maruf, Nahian Bin Amzad, Shafiul Nasir Shakiv and a few of their friends were gathered here when, unexpectedly, Asif, who played for the Soccer Knights (SK) football club, proposed a friendly match with SK. Asif’s friends accepted the proposal, gathered a few friends together for the match. Unfortunately, the new team lost to SK by a score of 6-0. Upset, they decided to beat SK at any rate. With that goal in mind, they decided to meet at Iqbal Road playing field, also known by Strikers field, to practice.
Upon walking out onto Strikers field, they were coldly received. None of the other players there were accepting of the new team, and so, the new team started to practice in the corner of the field, or on the road beside the field. Another match with SK was scheduled soon after, but the new team lost again. Determined to defeat SK, the new team redoubled their efforts and practiced harder. Third time was the charm and in the next match-up, victory was theirs. Who could imagine that one day they would form a club?
They were playing football as a team, but without having formed an official club; that process took almost two years. In early 2008, Shakiv and Rifat first brought up the idea of an official club, and notified Asif about it. A final decision was taken which marked the birth of a new football club, Strikers United.
As time went on, the club participated in different competitions and tournaments. Yet, their journey was not smooth. At times, they would face financial crises when registering for a tournament or purchasing necessities for the club. To solve these crises, members would pool together the money from their own pockets. In mid-2009, the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCC) took over Strikers field and planted grass there. And so, the club faced another crisis. Since Strikers United had only a few options left, it took a break and began to search for another field in which to practice. After six months, they found Lalmatia Boys School field and began to play there.
Currently, they play in the gymnasium/playing field of Dhaka University. Since most of the senior players are busy with their professions, they are available to play only on Fridays. Currently, the club has about 20 players and most are new. The key players visit the practice session held every Friday and supervise the newcomers.
When asked about their future plans, Rifat replied, ‘Though all of our senior players are busy working, I wish to continue to play football once every week with all of our members. At the same time, the club will try to establish other sporting activities for our recruits.’
Like Strikers United, there are many other sport clubs that struggle to create better recreational opportunities for those interested in sports. All they need is the playing space that remains open to all budding sports players. ‘Dhaka City Corporation should work to expand the number of playing fields. Not only that, encouraging sports competitions in schools could make way toward creating a better future for the new generation of sports enthusiasts’, added Asif.
[box bg=”#fdf78c” color=”#000″]About the author:
Syed Anik is a journalism student at Stamford University Bangladesh. To read his other posts, click here.[/box]