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Why winning our footballers is so important

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Our women’s football team has shown how, despite minimal state support, success can be achieved. But that shouldn’t be the case. FILE PHOTO: FIROZ AHMED

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Our women’s football team has shown how, despite minimal state support, success can be achieved. But that shouldn’t be the case. FILE PHOTO: FIROZ AHMED

We have more tragedies than successes in our national life. We continue to witness a pure polarization of politics – something that has spread beyond the political spheres and relevant professional bodies. Such division is never a good sign for a nation, as opportunists take advantage of the cracks, while people in general are frustrated. And we are weakening as a nation, even though our country has made notable progress in economic and social development. There are valid questions about whether our development has been distributive – something that is deeply tied to governance. It is a fact that the rich get richer and the poor poorer without good governance. And democracy without good governance is not effective in its true sense.

On the other hand, we face natural calamities – floods, cyclones, etc. – as well as man-made disasters such as road accidents that tear thousands of families away from their loved ones. Traffic jams are a major reason for our daily frustration, especially for those who live in big cities like Dhaka and Chattogram. I’ve heard people say they’ve gone to green pastures abroad to avoid the endless traffic jams that made their lives horrible. We often hear stories of our men taking the riskiest journeys to reach the shores of Europe across the Mediterranean Sea.

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Our men’s national cricket team, however, could bring joy and pride to our national life. Again, when they win, we are extremely happy, but equally sad when they lose. It’s possible that such extreme emotions stem from our deep desire to win, but also reflect that somewhere within us we lack the level of satisfaction we should have.

The victory of our women’s national football team is extraordinary. Certainly, it gives all of us, especially women, an extraordinary level of confidence to dream of breaking down barriers like our footballers do. How and why?

These are the women who come from modest backgrounds, from the most remote areas – not from families who could provide nutritious food, high-quality housing, a gym or a playground. What they had was determination, hard work, discipline and patriotism. Above all, they had the zeal to free themselves from all sorts of stigmata.

The composition of this team is quite interesting. They cover all strata of Bangladeshi society. A significant number of players come from ethnic communities. It shows the true beauty of a nation – unity in diversity. I once had the opportunity to speak to a player from our national women’s under-18 football team. She explained how mingling with players from ethnic communities in a training camp changed her misconceptions about ethnic communities in the country. “I found them very friendly, loving and caring…we became very good friends,” said the footballer.

This goes with the fundamental spirit of Bangladesh, a secular country where people of all creeds, races, ethnicities are expected to live together without discrimination – the ideal on the basis of which this country was liberated from a communal, repressive and discrimination in 1971. We can see how the ethnic and religious conflicts in our neighboring countries have put their lives at risk. Bangladesh, despite some challenges, can still succeed in maintaining this unity. Any attempt to break this unity must be prevented with all our might if we are to prosper.

Unfortunately, our women’s football team is not used to receiving the same dignity, salary or any other privileges as our men’s teams. This reflects the sheer gender discrimination that still persists in our society. In general, social and economic inequalities are still quite high. This is not in line with the fundamental values ​​of our country. We have been deprived of equal political, economic, cultural and social rights since our independence. Women, ethnic groups and the working class are still denied equal rights.

Our women’s soccer team has shown how, despite minimal state support, a combination of determination, hard work, confidence, unity and patriotism can lead to tremendous success. We must internalize these qualities, taking inspiration from this team of champions. We need more success to be more confident, not just in sports, but in all aspects of life.

Porimol Palma is a diplomatic correspondent for the Daily Star.