Let the girls grow first

Both the Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) and the Bangladesh Olympic Association (BOA) want the women’s national football team to take part in the upcoming Asian Games, buoyed by the success of the under-15 and under-16 girls’ teams at the international level last year.

While this decision might be welcomed by many within the sporting fraternity and beyond, a deeper look will reveal that the decision might eventually prove to be a counterproductive one, given the fact that they will be competing on a very uneven footing.

To better understand this we need to first look at what the current formation of different women’s teams are. The interesting thing is the BFF does not have a proper senior women’s team; what it has is a mixture of different age-level players from under-16s to under-19s playing in the senior side.

Last year Bangladesh’s senior team took part in a three-nation tournament in Singapore with the side formed of mostly under-16 players and only four over-16 players. The outcome was quite predictable as the girls in red and green lost 3-0 to Singapore and 2-1 to Malaysia.

In Thailand last September, the Bangladesh under-16 girls, who were in round-the-year-training and played a number of practice matches, struggled physically against the North Koreans during a 9-0 defeat apart from suffering 3-0 and 3-2 defeats against Japan and Australia.

In the Asian Games, these girls will be facing a much stiffer challenge in the form of 2011 Women’s World Cup champions Japan, 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup runners-up China, three-time Asian Cup winners North Korea and 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifiers South Korea. Whatever results they produce there, it is quite expected that they will face some enormous challenging physical sessions that they are not yet up for. They will be up against it technically and tactically too, needless to say of the mental trauma of it if they suffer big-margin defeats.

Asked whether this is quite the time to push these very young girls in their development phase to such a big stage, BFF’s women’s committee chairman Mahfuza Akter Kiron said, “You are right that the time has not yet come for these girls to play at that stage. If we see from technical and tactical points of view then it is alright, but they are behind in physical aspects. Except for Sabina Khatun, it will be physically tough for the other girls to compete against those teams.”

Kiron, also a FIFA executive member, added that some of the under-16 girls have grown older by now and that they were not thinking of including players from the under-15 squad, but instead some from the under-16 squad.

“We want to avail this opportunity because we don’t have any international tournament ahead. We want to use this opportunity as a preparation platform for October’s AFC U-19 Women’s Championship Qualifiers,” Kiron added.

However, it has been learnt that there will be quite a few competitions for the girls this year, with the SAFF U-18 Women’s Championship lined up in either August or September before the SAFF Women’s Championship at the end of the year.