Three different schools from the same upazila of Cox's Bazar, Pekua, have won the biggest tournament of the country, and arguably the world's largest in terms of the number of participants, the Bangabandhu Gold Cup Primary School Football Tournament, in as many years under the same coach. But none of the players were given the much-deserved attention due to lack of scouting system in spotting the top young talents from the tournament.
Sirajul Kabir, a passionate football coach from Pekua, guided Rajakhali Government Primary School and Tetong Government Primary School to the title in the boys' version of the event in 2015 and 2016 respectively, before making it three in a row when Purba Ujantia Government Primary School emerged unbeaten champion Wednesday. Ujantia won all their 15 matches in the tournament, scoring a total of 50 goals and conceding only one.
"These three schools were formed with three different sets of players. The guardians of Pekua encourage their sons to play football. They are interested more in football than cricket. Actually, the soil of Pekua is the base of football," said Sirajul while having lunch, surrounded by his disciples, at the southern gallery of Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka after winning the final 2-1.
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Purba Ujantia Government Primary School players celebrate after winning the Bangabandhu Gold Cup Primary School Football Tournament in Dhaka Wednesday BFF
He added, "There are some small clubs in Pekua. I myself run a club named Rajakhali Krira Parishad, established in 2014. My first success here came in 2014 when Faizunnessa School of Pekua became runners-up under my coaching. The boys train twice a day throughout the year. Schools usually hire me before the nationwide tournament to guide their team while upazila chairman Shahidul Islam also supports our efforts for football."
Sirajul looked a bit sorry as none of his players get admitted to the country's sole sports institute, BKSP, as well as in the national youth teams due to lack of "connection" in the capital. He however, believes there are at least six or seven young booters in Pekua who have the ability to play in the national level.
Captain Ainul Karim and forward Tanimul Islam were two vibrant presences in the latest tournament. Tanimul, who reads in class six, scored a total of nine goals, including three in the final round. Ainul is one of the best players in the team. He can take fine set-pieces and also had a failed bicycle attempt in the final. Ainul dreams of playing for the national team and representing Bangladesh in the World Cup some day.
Meanwhile in the last edition of the event, Minar Uddin Bullet from Pekua emerged as the top-scorer after scoring twice in the final while Abu Hanif Noman from the same school was adjudged the best player of the tournament. But none of them were given regular training opportunities by the country's football stakeholders, till now. Both are still training under Sirajul, who has no coaching certificate as of yet.