Digging into the Bangladeshi Underground Football Scene
… new players, who are younger, packed with potential, ambition and talent, along with more girls’ teams!
Whether played as a hobby or in the hopes of a prospective career, underground football is a very popular activity among us. Though initially started for boys, with 7 Nation Army being the dominant team to watch out for, teams have sprung up almost in every neighborhood and girls have become very active in the scene as well.
At the moment, the underground scene is very competitive, (as well as popular) and attracts large crowds with each tournament. Some of the big name teams are DOHS United, 7 Nation Army, Poseidon, Club 11 in the Under 25 level, while in the Under 16 level are Bros Incorporated, Slashers, Code Red, Victorious Secret.
The scene has changed over time though. Earlier, the only people around would be the players, while at the same time, it used to be just about football. But these days, there are other things involved such as a grand organizations and big money. There are also new players, who are younger, packed with potential, ambition and talent, along with more girls’ teams.
Nowadays, the tournaments are really poorly organized with the exception of a few.
Organizing a tournament is a big affair.
“If you want it to go well, organizing an underground tournament takes a lot of hard work and dedication,” says Mashrur Haque, player for Bros Incorporated, one of the top Under 16 teams.
However, the golden days seem to be gone where underground was just about the passion for football.
According to Sameen Islam, a top underground player playing for DOHS United, there used to be two or three tournaments per weekend.
“I remember playing one tournament in the morning, another at noon and a third in the afternoon. Sometimes there would be really big tournaments with HUGE sponsors like Mojo, Ford, Clemon etc,” he says.
“Nowadays, the tournaments are really poorly organized with the exception of a few. There aren’t as many tournaments held either. There are alot of Under 16 tournaments and the open-for-all tournaments are usually poorly organized and end up getting cancelled.”
Overcoming expenses can become very difficult without sponsorship.
The organization has to be very calculated. “If you dont get sponsorship funds, its hard to overcome the expenses prior to the tournament for example buying balls, making medals trophies, paying advance field rent etc.” says Farhan Haque a player for Slashers. “So what you do is collect advance entry fees for the tournament. Many teams might not show up so its smart to make it a first come first serve basis is that in order to sign up your team you have pay first. Now getting teams to sign up is fairly simple thanks to Facebook.”
However many teams do not seem to pay the entire entry fees either. Thus brings the issue of money. Some tournaments are held thanks to the need for quick money, and if the cash isn’t paid, it can lead to ‘genjaam.’ Genjaams have become a common trend, according to most players. Tackling a senior player can lead them to call their “back up.”
All hope is not lost however, because today the girls’ underground scene has also evolved. Over the last three years, the number of teams have increased with girls from different schools forming teams, such as Sunbeams forming “Beamers,” AKS with their team “FBI” and Scholastica with their teams “Happy Feet” and “Zero Gravity.”
The golden years for the girls however were 2010-2012 when there were a lot more tournaments until the players either graduated or lost interest. The audiences however were always very supportive and boys would be around to cheer on the girls.
The biggest difference between the boys’ and the girls’ competition is the number of teams. Though the prize money is also left, it is justified by the fact that the boys have to face tougher competition.
“It is nice to see how the way the girls you used to play football have changed. It’s no more pulling jerseys or kicking the air, there are many girls who can play smooth flowing football and with a bit more practice and more tournaments we will have more players like that,” Says Raiyan Rafiq, a multiple “forward of the tournament” winning striker for Beamer Girls. “Hopefully by next year these will improve, there will better tournaments with more teams. I would personally love to see more outdoor tournaments for girls even if it means the other girls getting sun burnt. What is football without the sun, the grass and a few bruises?”
Is there a career prospect in underground football?
According to most of the players, it is a sport played simply as a hobby. However if there are major sponsors or publicity, a tournament is viewed by national team scouts – but seeing how it is a bunch of school kids getting together playing football on the weekend for fun, most of them grow up to go to universities instead of hitting the field.
These days, UG football seems to have some sort of magic grip on those involved. They just love to play, simply because it is underground, even if there isn’t anything big to gain. People are mesmerized by the phenomena, they are obsessed. It may come with its drawbacks, but when looked at the bigger picture, what can be more enjoyable than going out, playing footy with your friends and having a blast plus winning a trophy while at it?