Hockey players remain marginalised
Mazhar Uddin

  • National forward Russell Mahmud Jimmy represented Bangladesh in 2003 and is still going strong 

Can you guess how much a Bangladesh national hockey player receives as his monthly salary?

It’s a shame that he doesn’t get any from the Bangladesh Hockey Federation. The only thing a Bangladeshi hockey player of the highest caliber recieves is Tk 300 per day when they join a national camp. The highest monthly salary drawn by a senior Bangladeshi cricketer is at least Tk 2 lakh.

Life is not the same for a hockey player when compared to cricketers. There’s no expensive car or lavish lifestyle. Instead they have to think of other ways to maintain their livelihood.

Russell Mahmud Jimmy, undoubtedly the best hockey player Bangladesh has produced in decades, started his journey in 1998 when he joined the BKSP. He belongs to a hockey family; his father Sona Mia was the coach of the national team. Jimmy has represented Bangladesh in 2003 and is still going strong.

“Hockey is in our family. My father was the coach of the hockey national team and since childhood I used to play hockey. I took hockey as a profession back in 1998 when I was admitted in BKSP. We always talk about hockey when we are at home. My father used to guide me how to become a good player. My younger brother is now playing for the U-21 hockey team so you can say I grew up with this game,” Jimmy told the Dhaka Tribune.

“When we won the U-21 Challenge Cup at home beating India, it was the best moment of my career. The 2007 Asia Cup was great too. I received three consecutive man of the match awards ,” he said.

However the 29 year old went through a tough phase two years ago when the BHF suspended him for two years. The punishment was later reduced to one year. This was the worst phase of his career.

But it was not just the on-field difficulties that bogged down this gifted hockey player.

Even when Jimmy was a regular member of the national team, he started his own business. He runs a cloth store in the city’s famed New Market.

But that never bothered Jimmy when he compare hockey players to the cricketers of the country. He said that it’s the love for the game that has always kept motivating him despite facing many barriers.

“I don’t think I am unlucky as it’s all about maintenance of the game. So far whatever I have achieved in life playing hockey may be no one in Bangladesh have ever achieved and today whatever I am is because of hockey. In current situation if 100 percent people of Bangladesh recognise Shakib Al Hasan or Mashrafe bin Mortaza, I would say 75 percent people recognises me. Many people come to take a photo with me which is something I am proud of,” he said.

Jimmy, who now has a permanent job as the Chief Petty Officer in Bangladesh Navy, is pretty secured financially. According to him, if the BHF emphasise more on the financial aspects of the players the game will improve automatically.

“The members of the Bangladesh cricket team are getting a monthly salary from the BCB. I think it’s also possible in hockey. The top officials in hockey are involved with many big companies and if they give some sort of support to the players it would be a great boost for us.

“As an example the Bangladesh Navy are now giving jobs to the hockey players and now almost 90 percent players from the national team got a job in Navy.
If the other big companies can also support and promote the hockey players it would have certainly help the others so that the hockey players don’t have to think about their future and can fully concentrate in their game,” said Jimmy.

And to the youngsters who are willing to become a hockey player the advise from Jimmy is to remain focused to the game and don’t need to bother about anything else. It might sound simple but in the current context of hockey in Bangladesh it is still the least viable sport for a youngster to take up as a profession.

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