Bangladesh is celebrating its 50th birthday. On this occasion, it is high time to recall and restore the memory of those great souls, those champions, who gave their all for us
Mirazuddin wished to touch the sky.
Could he see the sky while breathing his last?
Was he feeling great satisfaction of liberating the sky for his countrymen?
Or was his mental agony of not being able to see his motherland being free exceeded his excruciating physical pain?
Perhaps he was serene, fulfilled and closed his eyes for the last time thinking that his countrymen will recall his memory every time someone will try to touch the sky with the name Bangladesh proudly palpitating in their hearts.
Miraz, the five feet 10 inch athlete, caught the attention when he won bronze medal in pole vault in all-Pakistan National Games in Dhaka in 1964 at the age of just 16.
But his greatest success came two years later when he became the only male athlete ever from erstwhile East Pakistan to win gold in National Games.
It was a huge statement as Bengalis were regarded inferior in physical sports, and got very little support or facilities from the central government.
The ever growing grievance of Bengalis with regards to deprivation from Punjabis was incensed and justified by the success of the teenager.
He became an instant hero for the cause, and ignited many youths with confidence and belief.
Miraz was the symbol of deprivation and talent.
When he joined the training camp at Murree, a mountain town in West Pakistan, a German coach, Hans Autographer commented that he could easily surpass 15-foot mark if he gets a standard fiber pole.
It is worth mentioning that that level would guarantee a medal, if not a gold, in the Asian Games during that epoch.
Surely, with proper training and equipment like fiber poles, which helps athletes reach higher with flexibility, young Miraz could have aimed to win not only in the Asian Games, but do well in world level.
But, he could never get a standard fiber pole, which cost around 450 to 600 taka, and could not avail the chance of higher training from Europe which he was supposed to get in 1972.
Because, Miraz, a student of University of Dhaka, was actively involved with the struggle of liberation and joined the liberation war at his hometown, along with his younger brother Sirajuddin, in April.
Miraz showed his gallantry in many guerilla campaigns and the fierce war of Golaidanga, which took place on October 29, marked an important episode of resistance at Manikganj.
However, he was caught by Pakistani army a few days later from another campaign and was easily identified as he was already a famous sportsperson.
He was tortured and was even showed as a traitor on national television.
On December 8, Miraz was taken to an unknown place and was not seen ever since.
The champion sportsperson became an eternal star in the sky that he wished to touch.
Mufti Muhammad Kased was no different.
Being a brilliant student and an outstanding chess player, Mufti earned fame in his effervescent life.
Born in 1948 at an aristocrat family in Mymensingh, Mufti joined Faujdarhat Cadet College before getting admitted to East Pakistan University of Engineering and Technology (EPUET- currently BUET).
He was a chess prodigy and became one of the top-ranked players of the country at an early age.
Mufti was so good that he could handle several players simultaneously, but proof of his caliber was perhaps most evident through his relation with two iconic personalities - Kazi Motahar Hossain, the most revered chess guru and literary person, and Professor Abdur Razzak, the legendary political scientist and chess enthusiast.
Those two towering personalities frequently visited Mufti’s room at his dormitory, and shared their thoughts.
They were astonished with his talent and Mufti, a master tactician, was gradually honing his skills to attain the world level before 1971 arrived.
He returned to his village residence in April to gather and train young people for the war.
Mufti’s boys looted arms from the arsenal of police and planned to attack a military camp on June 15.
The sudden attack mesmerized the army as they started fleeing and Mufti chased them with arms, but a bullet from the enemy struck his leg and he stumbled.
Mufti’s fall created confusion and the inexperienced team was scattered.
The chess master was captured and tortured to death.
He was buried with anonymity but he will be remembered as long as Bangladesh exists.
Bangladesh has produced many great chess players, but Mufti deserves a very special place in the hall of fame.
It is learnt that his alma mater, BUET, organizes regular tournaments in his memory, but his legacy must be disseminated to every young player who ought to hold the passion for the game and country alike.
The same level of passion used to ignite another great young man - Abdul Halim Chowdhury, commonly known as Jewel.
In the annals of urban folklore, Jewel illuminates a bright page as a fearless guerilla fighter.
Jewel, who was born in 1950, used to live in Tikatuli of Dhaka and joined the legendary crack platoon that created havoc among the ranks of Pakistan army and played significant part in the liberation war at the capital city.
Jewel actively participated in many operations which are scribed as glorious chapters in our liberation war, but he was severely wounded during guerilla attack at Siddhirganj power station and was captured on August 29 from Moghbazar, where he was treating his wounded hands; the same hands which used to produce spellbinding shots in various cricket fields of Dhaka.
Jewel was a brilliant strokemaker and an agile wicket-keeper who dreamt of playing Test cricket.
He was called in the Pakistan camp for the series against visiting New Zealand back in 1969, but did not get a chance in the playing XI.
Jewel’s dream was realized three decades later.
Bangladesh got Test status and 11 of Jewel’s forerunners took the field to take part in the highest echelon of cricket with the proud flag that holds a big red, symbolizing the blood of Jewel, Mufti, Miraz and myriad other liberation fighters.
Bangladesh is celebrating its 50th birthday.
Over the years, sportspersons have hoisted the flag high in global arena, but many great champions, who gave away their lives for the sake of the country, are not properly remembered.
It is high time to recall and restore the memory of those great souls, those champions, who gave their all for us.
Let their passion touch the future generations.
Let them achieve the unfulfilled dream of the greatest children of this land.
Dhaka Tribune thanks Dulal Mahmud, a veteran sports journalist, who has been trying to collect and salvage the memories and stories of the martyr sportsmen over the years. He graciously allowed us to use images from his collections and we gathered most of the information regarding the martyrs from several of his books, written in Bengali, on the issue. Mahmud unearthed stories and facts about many martyr sportspersons, but there are lots more to be done. We hope the next generation of historians and sports enthusiasts will carry forward the great efforts of Mahmud