The alleged mastermind of Mohammedan Sporting Club Limited’s downfall, the club’s director in-charge Lokman Hossain Bhuiyan was arrested Wednesday night for illegal money transaction, three days after the law enforcement agencies raided the club and sealed off its illegal casino business
Four students of Notre Dame College were walking down the road in front of Mohammedan Sporting Club Limited Thursday, and one of them was pointing his finger at the sealed boardroom of the club where illegal casino business was in full swing even a week ago.
The topic of discussion is no more a secret.
It is the talk of the town now.
Once the traditional crowd-puller and the domestic powerhouse, Mohammedan den used to be crowded with budding and star footballers, and its dedicated fans and organizers, but in the last few years, it became filled with gamblers and corrupted officials than the actual stakeholders of the club.
Popular in the sports arena, mostly for football, Mohammedan were 19-time Dhaka League winner until 2002, but since then, they haven’t tasted any success after the introduction of the professional league in 2007.
More embarrassing for the fans is that, since the casino business started off, the club were mostly found fighting in the relegation zone instead of competing for the title race, or even mid-table mediocrity.
The alleged mastermind of Mohammedan’s downfall, the club’s director in-charge Lokman Hossain Bhuiyan was arrested Wednesday night for illegal money transaction, three days after the law enforcement agencies raided the club and sealed off its illegal casino business.
It is worth mentioning that Lokman is also a BCB director, chairman of the board’s facilities committee and member of the Bangladesh Premier League T20’s governing council.
The former star footballers and organizers of the club laid blame at the corrupted officials like Lokman, who ruined the tradition, showed the dedicated former footballers and organizers the exit door from the club and finally made the club premises a place for gambling.
Former national captain and star Mohammedan footballer in the 1970s and 1980s, Badal Roy couldn’t hide his anger despite being in ill health.
He told Dhaka Tribune, “There is no trophy in 17 years and even no team were formed to fight for the title. What were the corrupted officials doing? Where did he (Lokman) get so much money? We want proper justice. We want to know where has all the money gone?”
Roy added, “Those who don’t love the club are doing all these illegal things. The supporters are crying silently and those who played for the club are only feeling anger. When there was no gambling, there was success at the club and when the gambling started, there has been no success.”
Abdul Gaffar Chowdhury, who played for Dhaka Wanderers from 1978-79 and Mohammedan from 1980-82, informed how his former club gradually became more political than a sporting force to be reckoned with.
“Those who got involved with the club when BNP came to power in 1991 became more powerful after they got reelected again in 2001. They made the club a political den. They are not sports lovers, they only came here to fulfill their personal wish. Those who loved the club turned their faces around. The responsibility should be on Lokman’s shoulder,” said Gaffar to Dhaka Tribune.
Imtiaz Sultan Johny played six years at Mohammedan (1988-94) after spending five years at Abahani Limited.
Johny also served as Mohammedan manager from 1996-2001.
He told Dhaka Tribune, “I was extremely shocked. Lokman has been running the club for 15-16 years now, mainly for business purpose. He only thinks about the benefits. I assumed such things before but now it turned out to be true. He pocketed crores of taka but what has he done for the club? He made the club a dictatorship. We don’t want to see such people in the club anymore.”
Monirul Haque Chowdhury was the member secretary of Mohammedan during the late 1970s and early 1980s.
He said he couldn’t hold back his tears after hearing about the casino scandal, followed by the corruption stories of Lokman.
“I spent 25 years at the club. Mohammedan was a renaissance, a culture, a society, a belief where everyone contributed to run the club. There were some players who couldn’t earn a single taka despite playing throughout the season. They played with passion for the club. Everything finished when they started a private business in the club,” Monirul told Dhaka Tribune.
“Those who sacrificed their lives for the club are no longer involved with the club. The officials who ran the casino did it for their own business and know nothing about football and the club,” he added.
Mohammedan’s former star forward in the 1970s, Ghulam Sarwar Tipu blasted Lokman and the corrupted officials.
“He (Lokman) told the media that he allowed gambling at the club after coming under pressure from the politicians. My question is why did you accept it and why didn’t you resign from the post?” said a furious Tipu to Dhaka Tribune.
“If you can’t guarantee the championship title, you can at least form a team that can fight for the crown, but that hasn’t happened in the club for a long time. Those who were the lifelines of Mohammedan had to leave the club because of the environment there. Badal, Salam (Murshedy), Hazra (Pratap Shankar), Joshi (Kazi Jashimuddin) don’t go to the club anymore, but officials like Lokman and Amirul (Islam Babu) do. I’m extremely ashamed,” he added.
Apart from the recent casino and corruption scandals, there were also some shameful news in the last few years that not only tarnished the club’s image but also the country.
In 2012, former Nigerian World Cupper Emeka Ezeugo, who played for Mohammedan in the late 1980s, left the role of club head coach following a payment dispute.
Emeka took his claim to Fifa and won the case but even after this sorry state of affairs, Lokman failed to meet the deadlines more than once since 2015 to pay the dues.
There were also complaints from the players of not getting wages in due time.
The respective authorities are doubtful as to how Mohammedan can revive themselves from the latest situation as the transfer window of the upcoming football season starts Tuesday.
But they echoed the same tune - to crush out the corrupted officials and bring the dedicated organizers back to the club.