Homecoming of champions
Bangladesh women's football team, winners of the SAFF Women's Championship 2022, were given a grand reception yesterday upon their arrival in the country from Kathmandu, where they made history by clinching their maiden SAFF title after a 3-1 win over hosts Nepal in the final on Monday.
The champions touched down at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport at 1:46pm yesterday.
The airport was abuzz with inquisitive media personnel as well as football fans and people in general, who thronged there to get a glimpse of the champions and the trophy.
Skipper Sabina Khatun, who emerged as the tournament's top scorer with eight goals from five matches and was also named the most valuable player of the tournament for her efforts, dedicated the trophy to the people of the country.
"We feel proud to see that people of the country love us so much. We are indebted to everyone for receiving us in such a grand manner. This trophy is for all the people of the country, be it 16 crore, 18 crore or 20 crore. We have achieved a good result. Now our target is to do better in the coming days," Sabina said during an impromptu media briefing at the airport.
Zahid Ahsan Russel, state minister for youth and sports, along with BFF executive committee members received the team at the airport. They also accompanied the footballers and the coaching staff on their open-top bus parade to the Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) House in Motijheel.
Thousands of excited fans cheered and waved national flags all through the streets of Dhaka during the parade as it took over four hours for the team bus to reach its destination after having started from the airport around 3:30pm.
But the hectic journey could neither dampen the mood nor the joyous vibe that persisted among the fans and the champion footballers, all of whom were overwhelmed with the reception. They responded promptly to the thrilled crowd by waving their hands throughout the parade.
However, the long and arduous bus ride did hit a snag. Ritu Porna Chakma, a member of the champion side who scored two of Bangladesh's 23 goals in the tournament, hurt her head in a collision with an overhead banner near Nikunja.
The midfielder was taken to the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) and needed three stitches to her head. She joined the team in celebration at BFF later.
The footballers reached the BFF House around 7:30pm amid an overwhelming presence of hundreds waiting to welcome the champions. At the BFF House, the footballers were welcomed by BFF President Kazi Salahuddin, who held a press conference later in the evening.
The BFF house was packed with youth team members from different clubs, age-level footballers, BFF officials and fans in general, all waiting eagerly for Sabina and her troops.
"They are our inspiration. From now on, probably we will be encouraged by our family members to pursue a career in football and follow in the footsteps of the seniors and bring in more glories for the country," said Puja Rani Das, an age-level footballer from Brahmanbaria, who was awaiting the team's arrival in BFF for hours.
Another sentiment that was prevalent among fans yesterday was that this success of the footballers needs to be sustained.