Football in Bangladesh

Football is the second-most popular sport in Bangladesh, after cricket,[1] and is governed by the Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF).

Football in Bangladesh
Governing bodyBangladesh Football Federation
National team(s)Men's national squad
National competitions
International competitions
Rural children playing football in a Bangladeshi village

An interest in cricket resulting from the nation's success in Test cricket and participation in the Cricket World Cup overshadowed the past fame in the nation's football legacy. However, this did not affect football's popularity. More and more football tournaments are being organised in and outside Dhaka than of any other sports and football fever grips the nation during every FIFA World Cup as well as Copa America and UEFA European Championship. Federation officials and experts are still hopeful about the development of football in the country within the next ten years despite huge financial obstacles, inadequate technical adaptation and lack of professionalism.[2]


Early Years (1971–1980)Edit

During the liberation war in 1971, football was the way to create international awareness about the war of independence. The Swadhin Bangla Football Team was established which played 16 matches in India and was officially received by the BFF in 2009.[3]

The period before the 1990s saw national soccer fever in league football, specifically in the Dhaka League, which possessed club teams which were famous both at home and abroad. League football was popular even before independence, from the 1940s to 1960s under Pakistan. There were quite a number of well established football clubs in Dhaka in the 1940s, notable clubs which participated in the historical Dhaka Football League from 1933 till the country's partition from Pakistan were Wari Club, Victoria SC, Lakshibazar Club, East End Club, Central Jail XI, Dhaka Wanderers Club and Tejgaon Friends Union, EP Gymkhana, Railways, and Fire service. A match between East Pakistan Governors XI vs. West Bengal XI was held at Dhaka in the late forties, which also attracted thousands of fans into the stadium.[4] The first Dhaka League was won by Bangladeshi club Victoria SC in 1948, three years prior to the Mother Language Movement while still under Pakistani rule. Many of Dhaka league teams went on to become among the most successful teams in the Asian continent (mostly between the 1970s to the early 1990s). The league also went as far as having players from top European teams. Football was played both in the domestic leagues and abroad. Bangladeshi clubs such as BKSP and Bangladesh Red played with success in international football tournaments like The late 1950s and 1960s saw, Bengali football starting to earn more popularity among the people, when the clubs took part in the Aga Khan Gold Cup, which was held Dhaka every year, the President Gold Cup, Dana Cup and Gothia Cup, were also popular competitions at the time, where clubs from all over Asia participated in. BKSP won the later two in 1990 while Bangladesh Red were runners-up in the first President Gold Cup in 1981 and won it in 1989. Except that, Bangladeshi clubs bagged three more titles abroad: Quaid-E-Azam Trophy of Pakistan in 1985, Four-nation invitational tournament of Myanmar in 1995 and Jigme Dorji Wangchuk Memorial Football of Bhutan in 2003.[3]

Bangladesh's best player of all time is Kazi Salahuddin, who played professional football in Hong Kong in 1979,[5] and is now president of the BFF.

After the establishment of BFF (Bangladesh Football Federation) in 1972, the national team played their first international match against Thailand in the 1973 Merdeka tournament in Malaysia. After its membership with FIFA in 1974 and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), the national team participated in the 1980 AFC Asian Cup and the 1986 FIFA World Cup qualifiers. But the nation's best results came at South Asian level where it won the SAFF Championship once and were gold medalists in South Asian Games twice.[3]

Golden Era (1982–2002)Edit

The early 80s and 90s was the country's golden period, the three traditional Dhaka League giants Mohammedan, Abahani Limited Dhaka and Brothers Union were competing in AFC competitions along with Asia's strongest teams. Along with the club teams, the national football team was also at the centre of attention of the football fans, who watched their beloved side to fight neck-to-neck before going down to the current Asian giants—Japan, South Korea, Iran, China, and the then strong teams like Syria and Thailand in competitions like Asian Cup qualifiers, World Cup pre-qualifiers and the country's President Gold Cup.[6]

In 1982, after a year and a half without any matches, Bangladesh played four games in Karachi, Pakistan, suffering 3 defeats and a draw, with a heavy 9–0 defeat at the hands of Iran grabbing the headlines. The next five friendlies yielded 2 victories and 3 defeats, and by the 1984, the team had only 4 victories, in 10 years. The qualifiers for the 1984 AFC Asian Cup took place in August of that year, with Bangladesh again being matched with Iran and Syria from the 1980 tournament alongside Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines. Bangladesh lost all but one of their games, the victory came against the Philippines, thanks goals from the star strikers Sheikh Mohammad Aslam and Khandoker Wasim Iqbal.[7] A month later, the team played friendlies against Maldives and Nepal and handed out two thrashings of their own for a change, winning both games 5–0.

Ashraf Uddin Ahmed Chunnu is Bangladesh's top goalscorer with 17 goals.

In 1985, the team took part in the 1986 FIFA World Cup qualifiers (AFC), in their first attempt to qualify for the FIFA World Cup and were grouped along with India, Indonesia and Thailand. Bangladesh got their first ever win in a World Cup qualifier against Indonesia. The game took place at the Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka, and even though the team were trailing with 15 minutes left, defender Kaiser Hamid made good use of his height to score with a header and equalize for Bangladesh, and with 5 minutes to go from full time, Ashraf Chunnu scored the winner from a free kick just outside the box. The country's second win in the qualifiers came over Thailand, with Elias Hossein scoring the only goal of the match. Bangladesh also displayed an impressive performance against India, at the Salt Lake Stadium, during the last matchday of the qualifiers. In the first half, Ashish Bhadra gave Bangladesh the lead, however the team failed to hold onto the lead and suffered a 2-1 defeat, with two wins from six games, Bangladesh finish bottom of their group. Nonetheless, it was a highly satisfactory debut in the World Cup qualifiers for the country.[8] From April 1985 to November 1987 the team played 13 games, registering 4 victories, 2 draws and 7 defeats, before failing to qualify for either the 1988 AFC Asian Cup or the 1990 FIFA World Cup, posting just one win in the eleven games they played over both tournaments, the win came in a 3-1 thrashing of Thailand during the World Cup qualifiers.

From 1989 to 1991, the team played 8 matches, gaining 3 victories, 1 draw and 4 defeats, before failing once again to qualify for the 1992 AFC Asian Cup, this time thanks to a 6–0 drubbing by South Korea. The year 1993 saw Bangladesh take part in the qualifying tournament for the 1994 FIFA World Cup, the qualifiers included 8 matches which was Bangladesh's longest ever campaign till then, but none the more successful, as only a pair of victories over Sri lanka prevented a complete whitewash, which included 8–0 and 7–0 thrashings at the hands of Japan and United Arab Emirates respectively. However, the return game against Japan saw Bangladesh display a decent performance, the Japanese took the lead within 2 minutes and after great build up play from the Bangladesh team, Rizvi Karim Rumi equalized. Nonetheless, after two blunders from substitute keeper Sayeed Hassan Kanan and a red card handed out to Rezaul Karim Rehan, the game finished as a 4-1 defeat.[9] Bangladesh also took part in the 1990 Asian Games, failing to win a single match during the entirety of the tournament.

On 4 November 1995, under the guidance of coach Otto Pfister and legendary captain Monem Munna, Bangladesh won the 4-nation Tiger Trophy held in Myanmar, this was the nations very first major trophy.[10][11] Bangladesh also won silver during the South Asian Games, losing in the final to hosts India. The year 1996 saw Bangladesh reach their highest FIFA ranking to date with the team climbing up to 110, after numerous impressive performances.[12] Nevertheless, the country once again left fans disappointed, as qualification for 1998 FIFA World Cup did not bode well, with Bangladesh even losing to Chinese Taipei, who were one of the weakest teams taking part in the qualification round. In contrast to the their performances during the World cup qualifiers the team's fortunes in regional competitions improved, the 1999 SAFF Gold Cup, held in Goa, saw Bangladesh again reach the final and lose to India, picking up another silver medal, and at 1999 South Asian Games held in Kathmandu the team finally took the extra step and won the gold medal. However, continental success was again hard to find, as the 2000 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers saw a huge damp in form, with the teams only win coming against lowly ranked Sri Lanka.

On 12 January 2001, a historic moment occurred for the Bangladesh team, when they played their first match against European country, a Sahara Cup encounter against Bosnia and Herzegovina, who won the game 2–0. On 18 March 2001, Firoz Mahmud Titu became the first Bangladeshi player to score against European opposition, when Bangladesh suffered a 4-1 defeat at the hands of Yugoslavia, in the same competition.[13] Bangladesh yet again failed to qualify for the FIFA World Cup, as the team got knocked out from the 2002 World Cup qualifiers First Round, with only 1 win from 4 games.


The last ten years saw a series of managerial changes in the national team and many famous coaches were appointed like the Austrian György Kottán and German Otto Pfister, who coached Ivory Coast to qualification of their first FIFA World Cup finals in 2006. However, in 2006, Bangladesh reached the quarterfinals of the AFC Challenge Cup under Argentine coach Andres Cruciani and in 2010, Bangladesh won the 11th South Asian Games on home soil under the Serbian Zoran Đorđević, who left in February the same year.

6 September 2011 was the most unforgettable moment of Bangladeshi football. Lionel Messi and his national team Argentina, played a friendly match against Nigeria at Bangabandhu National Stadium. Bangladeshi footballers were privileged to see the match and practic Bangladeshi footballers were encouraged and motivated by Argentine footballers. They believe Bangladesh football can go far ahead if world class facilities are brought into the footballing system.[14]

On 4 April, Bangladeshi football legend Kazi Salauddin was re-elected as the president of Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF).He has been enlightening Bangladesh football since he took the charge of the BFF board. He took the first initiative of Bangladesh Super League known as "Koti Takar League". His initiations attract international players as well as highly rated international coaches.[15] However, the Super league failed to come into existence.

Downward Spiral (2011–present)Edit

From 2010 to 2020, Bangladeshi football saw an all-time low, with a total of 15 head coaches being sacked by the BFF. This led to domestic football losing popularity among fans and the county falling to its lowest FIFA rank in its history. On 29 June 2011 at the Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka, Bangladesh beat Pakistan 3–0 in the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, the game took place only four days after Nikola Ilievski was appointed as the teams head coach.[16] On 3 July 2011, Bangladesh went on to play Pakistan again at Punjab Stadium, Lahore where they drew 0–0. This allowed Bangladesh to advance to the second round to play against Lebanon. The first game was played in Camille Chamoun Sports City Stadium, Beirut on 23 July 2011 where Bangladesh lost 4–0. The second game was played in Bangabandhu National Stadium, Dhaka where Bangladesh won 2–0. Since Lebanon were able to score more goals out of the two games they progressed into the third round eliminating Bangladesh.[17] Bangladesh were not able to reach the semifinals of 2011 SAFF Championship as they were held to a goalless draw by Pakistan and were defeated by both Nepal and Maldives in group stages.[18] On 22 December 2011, Ilievski resigned as head coach and was replaced by intern caoch Saiful Bari Titu. Bangladesh played three international friendly matches in 2012. During the first of the three matches, they managed to earn a 1-1 draw against Nepal. They started their South-east Asian tour with a heavy 5–0 defeat to Thailand and another (1-1) draw, this time against Malaysia.

On 29 January 2013, Lodewijk de Kruif took charge of the team, under him Bangladesh failed to qualify into the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup as they lost to Palestine by 0–1 despite their wins against the host Nepal and Northern Mariana Islands in 2014 AFC Challenge Cup qualification stage held in March 2013. Bangladesh could not qualify into the semifinal of 2013 SAFF Championship as they lost to Nepal and Pakistan in group matches. Although they had a consolation draw against tournament runner-up India in group stage, it was the second consecutive SAFF Championship where they failed to qualify into knockout stage. On 5 March 2014 Bangladesh tied a thrilling 2–2 friendly against India at the Fatorda Stadium in Goa. During the 2015 Bangabandhu Cup, Bangladesh became the runners-up of the tournament as they lost against Malaysia U-23 by 2–3 in the final match. In the group stage, Bangladesh lost in the very first match against Malaysia U-23 but won against Sri Lanka which led them to qualify in the semi final round where they beat Thailand U-23s by 1–0. On 30 May and 2 June 2015 Bangladesh played a couple of friendlies against Singapore and Afghanistan, as preparation of the upcoming FIFA 2018 World Cup qualifiers which started from May 2015. They lost the first match 2–1 and had drawn the second one 1–1. On 29 August, Bangladesh played another friendly against Malaysia at the Shah Alam Stadium which concluded with a goalless draw. Bangladesh played their first four matches of the FIFA 2018 World Cup qualifiers against Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Australia and Jordan losing all of the matches apart from the home game against Tajikistan where they drew 1–1. These results lead to De Kruif being sacked, On 8 September 2015.[19]

On 23 February 2016, Gonzalo Moreno replaced De Kruif as the teams head coach. Under Moreno, Bangladesh ended their FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifying campaign with a disastrous performance, as they suffered a huge 8–0 defeat to a Jordan team managed by Harry Redknapp, at the Amman National Stadium on 24 March 2016.[20] With seven defeats and a solitary draw against Tajikistan, Bangladesh conceded 32 goals and scored only twice, once apiece against Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. In May 2016, De Kruif returned to take charge of the national team for a third time, which ended in failure once again, as the AFC Asia Cup 2019 qualification playoff round 1 saw Bangladesh lose both home and away matches to Tajikistan. It was reported that he favored the older players from his previous run with the team rather giving opportunities to younger players.

On 29 June 2016, the BFF appointed Belgian coach Tom Saintfiet, initially on a short-term contract to guide the national team to the AFC Asia Cup 2019 qualification playoff round 2 matches against Bhutan.[21][22] Coach Saintfiet called up the veteran striking pair of Jahid Hasan Ameli and Enamul Haque for the match, but to no avail. Following a 0–0 draw in the first leg in Dhaka, Bhutan inflicted a 3–1 defeat on Bangladesh at the Changlimithang Stadium in Thimphu during the second leg. The result in the Asian Cup qualifying play-off meant Bangladesh will not be a part of any AFC and FIFA tournaments for the next couple of years, until the launching of the 2022 World Cup and the 2023 Asian Cup qualifiers.

"It was very bad for Bangladesh football. I think Bhutan showed that despite being a small nation, with good fundamentals and hard work, you can still reach somewhere. I think some well-paid Bangladesh players should start thinking if they are ready to play at this level. I would like to apologize to Bangladesh Football Federation and all the football loving people,"

Tom Saintfiet after losing against Bhutan[23][24]

Following a six-month period with no National Team coach Andrew Ord was appointed on 18 May 2017.[25] His reputation in Asia for promoting young players and giving them an opportunity was part of a long-term strategy from the Federation to rebuild the National Team. Ord oversaw an upswing in results at AFC youth tournaments and then fast tracked these young players into the Senior side. By February 2018, Bangladesh dropped to 197 in the FIFA World Rankings, this was the country's lowest ever rank since its inception. On 27 March 2018, the team travelled to Laos and fielded five players who had played in the 2018 AFC U-19 Championship qualification three months previously.[26] The 2–2 draw finally put the Bhutan debacle into the past and was seen as the start of new dawn for Bangladesh Football with a vibrant young team. However, On 4 April 2018, Ord resigned as the coach due to family reasons.[27]

On 4 November 2018, Bangladesh national under-15 football team won the 2018 SAFF U-15 Championship, defeating Pakistan national under-15 football team in the final.[28]

On 17 May 2018, Jamie Day was took charge of the team.[29] The team failed to reach the semi-finals of 2018 SAFF Championship, as the hosts, with 2 wins and 1 loss. The defeat came against Nepal, where only a draw was needed to reach the next round.

Bangladesh advanced to the second round of 2022 World Cup qualifying when they defeated Laos 1–0 on aggregate.[30] During the qualifiers, Bangladesh was grouped together with neighbors India, alongside Asian powerhouse Qatar and two other difficult rivals, Afghanistan and Oman. Bangladesh managed to earn a well deserved draw against India 1–1, where they conceded in the dying minutes of the game. Nonetheless, they lost the remaining matches, but their losses were not as heavy as expected; they even caused hardship to Qatar and Oman. A hard fought draw against Afghanistan, saw Bangladesh reach the third Round of 2023 AFC qualifers, as the one of the three best fifth-position teams.[31]

On September 2021, Bangladesh took part in the 2021 Three Nations Cup (Kyrgyzstan), the team lost all 3 games, conceding a total of 9 goals and only managing to score 3. These results led to Day being "put on leave" just before the 2021 SAFF Championship, held in Maldives.[32]

On 17 September 2021, Bashundhara Kings manager was appointed as the teams interim head coach for the 2021 SAFF Championship.[33] However, Bangladesh once again failed to reach the semi-finals due to conceding a late penalty against Nepal, in a game the team had to win to reach the knockout-stages.[34] On 21 October 2021, Dhaka Abahani manager Mário Lemos was given the role of interim head coach, for the 2021 Four Nations Football Tournament held in Sri Lanka.[35] However, It was another disappointing tournament for Bangladesh, as this time they were knocked out by Sri Lanka.[36]

Governing bodyEdit

The Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) was established on 15 July 1972 as the governing body, and has been a member of the FIFA since 1974 and AFC in 1973. The federation is responsible for organising all club championships and the professional league. It is currently working with AFC's Vision Asia programme to improve the domestic football infrastructure.

The BFF is presided by Kazi Salahuddin since April 2008.[37]

Clubs, leagues and championshipsEdit


Successful ones among earlier clubs were BKSP and Dhaka Wanderers, Victoria SC, Wari Club, East Pakistan Gymkhana and Azad SC. Among a total of 4,100 clubs,[38] the most renowned clubs today are namely Abahani Limited, Mohammedan SC, Muktijoddha SKS, Brothers Union, Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club , Bashundhara Kings and Sheikh Russel KC.

Domestic tournamentsEdit

Other regional leagues include the Dhaka League, Chittagong League, Rajshahi League, Cox's Bazar League and the Comilla League.

International tournamentsEdit

Former playersEdit

National team achievementsEdit

Women's footballEdit

In a country whose population is predominantly Muslim, there is some resistance towards women's football. The women's game has struggled to gain a foothold in Bangladesh in the past and many tournaments dedicated to women have failed. Women's football finally saw light in Bangladesh when the first ever women's football tournament was staged under the Vision Asia programme in November 2007. Eight teams from different districts all over the country took part in the tournament and made it a success amidst security threats.[39]

In October 2008, first women's school football tournament was held under the Vision Bangladesh programme with BFF hopeful of continuing and developing the women's game in the country.[40]

Women's football was included in the 2010 South Asian Games hosted in Dhaka, while the first Women's SAFF Championship was to be held that December in the country. Bangladesh had their first women's national team in the AFC U-19 Women's Championship qualifiers with India, Jordan and Iran in their group.

Notable players in foreign leaguesEdit


  1. ^ Melik, James (2011-04-28). "Bangladesh football vies with cricket for sponsorship". BBC News. Retrieved 2012-11-01.
  2. ^ "Bangladesh To Go Grassroots In '09". 2008-12-30. Retrieved 2012-11-01.
  3. ^ a b c "Football in Bangladesh - Azam Mahmood". Archived from the original on 2011-09-17. Retrieved 2012-11-01.
  4. ^ "Dhaka - visual records of its colourful past". Retrieved 2010-08-12.
  5. ^ "Goal Programme - Bangladesh Football Federation - 2005". Archived from the original on October 18, 2007.
  6. ^ sun, daily. "Dhaka Football League: Days of Glory | Daily Sun |". daily sun.
  7. ^ "Asian Nations Cup 1984".
  8. ^ Blitz, Desk (May 2, 2021). "SAFF Games gold medal, an illusion for the Bangladesh team".
  9. ^ "সাক্ষাৎকার : এই রুমি, সেই রুমি". সাক্ষাৎকার : এই রুমি, সেই রুমি -Deshebideshe.
  10. ^ "Monem Munna remembered". Daily Sun. 12 February 2020.
  11. ^ Islam, Rashedul. "Bangladesh would play better than India". Prothomalo.
  12. ^ "FIFA".
  13. ^ Reporter, Sports (October 14, 2012). "Titu retires from football". The Daily Star.
  14. ^ Rossi, Alex. "Bangladeshi Fans Priced Out Of Messi Game". Sky News. Retrieved 2012-11-01.
  15. ^ "Kazi Salahuddin re-elected BFF president". Archived from the original on 2012-08-28. Retrieved 2012-11-01.
  16. ^ Reporter, Sports (June 26, 2011). "Ilievski chapter begins". The Daily Star.
  17. ^ "Too good, but too late". The Daily Star. July 29, 2011.
  18. ^ "SAFF Cup - Nepal defeat Bangladesh, Pakistan hold Maldives". December 5, 2011.
  19. ^ Reporter, Sports (October 19, 2014). "De Kruif, Koster sacked". The Daily Star.
  20. ^ "Harry Redknapp: Jordan thrash Bangladesh in qualifier". BBC Sport. 24 March 2016. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
  21. ^ "Tom Saintfiet becoming next head coach of Bangladesh". The Daily Observer.
  22. ^ "New Bangladesh coach Saintfiet focuses on team discipline". Dhaka Tribune. 12 July 2016.
  23. ^ "Humiliation in Bhutan". The Daily Star. 11 October 2016. Retrieved 20 October 2016.
  24. ^ "'Saintfiet was a mistake'". The Daily Star. 22 February 2017.
  25. ^ "National football coach Andrew Ord arrives". Archived from the original on 5 January 2019. Retrieved 5 January 2019.
  26. ^ "Bangladesh stage brilliant comeback to draw 2-2". Dhaka Tribune. 27 March 2018.
  27. ^ Report, Star Online (April 4, 2018). "Andrew Ord leaves". The Daily Star.
  28. ^
  29. ^ "Jamie Day Bangladesh's new football coach". Risingbd Online Bangla News Portal.
  30. ^ "Bangladesh through after goalless draw". The Daily Star. 11 June 2019. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  31. ^ Anam, Atique (June 16, 2021). "Bangladesh into final round of Asian Cup Qualifiers". The Daily Star.
  32. ^ Nation, The New. "Head Coach of BD Football team Jamie Day sacked". The New Nation.
  33. ^ Reporter, Sports (September 18, 2021). "Football Head Coach: Bruzon replaces Jamie Day for 'two months'". The Daily Star.
  34. ^ "Late penalty heartbreak for 10-man Bangladesh as Nepal reach SAFF Championship final".
  35. ^ Nation, The New. "Mario Lemos new interim Head Coach of BD Football team". The New Nation.
  36. ^ "Bangladesh knocked out of Four Nations tournament after conceding late penalty against Sri Lanka". The Business Standard. November 17, 2021.
  37. ^ "Salahuddin takes charge as BFF president". The Financial Express. Retrieved 2010-08-12.
  38. ^ " - Bangladesh: Country info". Archived from the original on October 18, 2007.
  39. ^ "Women's football enters Bangladesh".
  40. ^ "New era for women in Bangladesh".

External linksEdit