Where lies the biggest success of women footballers
Azad Majumder || risingbd.com
Sanjida Akter is a wing player whose primary responsibility is to set up goals. On the job, Sanjida performed flawlessly. Sanjida, though, may have scored the most significant goal of the competition off the field before she kicked the ball in the final. Many football fans in Bangladesh were moved by her Facebook post, which emphasised the players’ struggles while also outlining their goals.
It increased the interest in the final dramatically. Thanks to a local sports channel, which was quick to realise the public sentiment, football fans could watch the game live. The quality of the broadcast was not that great. But people at least knew the result instantly.
Many of these spectators perhaps watched a women’s football game live for the first time. They were appropriately taken aback by Bangladesh’s women’s football team’s impeccable playing style in a slow-moving outfield. Any group of fans would be delighted with their team seeing how Sabina Khatun set up Bangladesh’s second goal against the run of play and Krishna Rani Sarkar finished it with a Messiesque left-footed drive.
The 3-1 win over Nepal for their maiden SAFF title, however, was not a surprise. Any team scoring 20 goals in four previous matches of the tournament without conceding would always expect this result. The surprising thing was their dominant playing style, their control of the game. In no aspect of life, Bangladesh’s women could show this much collective power or control things. The reaction back at home was therefore overwhelming.
The success of the women’s team created a banner headline in most of the newspapers and dominated the prime-time news bulletins of almost all television channels. Fans also shared their emotions on social media in an unprecedented way.
This reaction can seem excessive if the win’s footballing significance is taken into account. We all know, South Asia is a backwater in world football. A title here alone won’t take Bangladesh anywhere in world football.
Yet we are celebrating this success because it is not just a title. It represents a victory over those who favoured confining women to the home. It is a win over those who do not support gender equality, and on top of all that, it is a victory against regressiveness.
Sanjida, in her Facebook comments, pointed out that many of the eleven warriors in the final have come this far having lost their fathers, taking their mother's last possessions, selling their sister's ornaments, and many as the family's only source of income. One basic component of women's empowerment is that it refers to women's ability to make strategic life choices that had previously been denied them. Their success in Kathmandu is thus a giant leap towards women empowerment in Bangladesh.
The writer is joint news editor at New Age and Bangladesh correspondent of Spanish news agency Agencia EFE