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Saturday Feature
Culture of sports in Bangladesh
Md Mahfuzur Rahman Siddique

          Culture of elite and indigenous sports in the land now geographically constituted as Bangladesh has an ancient and glorious past. But the scope of the present discussion on the subject is subjected to the contempt culture of sports in this sovereign and independent country of Bangladesh. During the War of Liberation of Bangladesh 'Swadhin Bangla' (Independent Bangla) Football team was formed under the captaincy of veteran footballer and subsequent national sports award winner Md Zakaria Pintu. This team played a number of matches in different parts of the Indian state of West Bengal in 1971 in aid of the Liberation Movement. Mr. Aurun Nandi, also decorated later with the same award, swam for long 90 hrs in West Bengal to raise fund for the Liberation war.
The beginning: The contribution of the Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh (GOB) in initiating sports culture in the new -born country is very significant. Just after independence, the Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs appointed a 16-member committee on 07/02/1972 to control, co-ordinate and manage activities relating to games and sports. The main functions of the committee included inter alia:-
- Taking control and management of sports in national level,
- Taking control of the existing physical facilities of sports including stadium and coaching centre.
- Control of the hitherto existing sports federations.
As per terms of reference, the Committee made recommendations to the government among others, on-
- The organisational set-up of games and sports.
- Measures to be taken for healthy growth of games and sports.
- Drafting 'Model' Constitution for the sports organisations.
Legal Framework: At the very outset, the GOB embarked upon the creation of a legal framework of sports and physical culture. On July 30, 1874, the Bangladesh Parliament enacted the Bangladesh Sports Council Act providing for the development, regulation and coordination of sports. This substantive law governing sports in Bangladesh underwent some amendments till date to cater to the needs of the changing circumstances.
GOB's Role vis a vis Games and Sports: As elsewhere in the developing and underdeveloped countries, GOB's role in the organisation and development of Games and Sports in Bangladesh is very significant. Article 15 of part 11 of the Constitution-the Supreme law of Bangladesh - says among others that "to attain a steady improvement in the material and cultural standard of living of the people" shall be a fundamental responsibility of the state. In this regard, the constitution gives the citizens of Bangladesh the "right to reasonable rest, recreation and leisure". The GOB is very much aware that the best possible way to help the citizens attaining this constitutionally guaranteed right is to open all the avenues of sports and physical culture to them. And to give utmost importance to the optium implementation of this constitutional commitment, the govt. created the separate Ministry of Youth and Sports in 1984. Till then GOB's function with respect to sports and physical culture were allocated to the Ministry mentioned in para-2. In 1998 the national sports policy was adopted which is the basic guideline of sports culture. The objectives of the policy, in short, are:
- Create awareness on sports among the people.
- Effective planning and mangement of sports.
- Ensure participation in games and sports irrespective of age and sex
- To create atmosphere conducive to the growth and development of talents in sports.
- To ensure sports facilities to the physically-challenged and mentally retarded persons.
- To nourish indigenous sports linked up with the culture and tradition of the country.
- To create adequate sports facilities in academic institutions.
- Development of physical infrastructure of games and sports.
- To make allout endeavour to achieve international standard in sports.
- Development of sports for women.
The Ministry of Youth and Sports executes the sports policy. The National Sports Council also plays a vital role in this regard. The main duties discharged by this regulatory body corporate are-
- Development, regulation and coordination of sports activities.
- To recognise sports organisations at the national level and to affiliate such other organisations.
- promotion of fitness and competitive standard of sports in comparison with the international standard.
- execute training-cum -coaching schemes for international events.
- Arragements of participation in games and sports abroad.
- Recurring grants to sports Federations/organisations and provision of lumpsum financial assistance to these sports entities.
- To build physical infrastructure such as construction and maintenance of Stadia, Gymnasia, Swimming pools, playgrounds and other facilities related to sports.
- To look after the welfare of the distinguished ex-sportsman/woman.
- To oversee the discipline in all sports organisations.
Another govt organisation named the Directorate of Sports established in 1976 is responsible for development of sports in schools and clubs in the district level. It functions through the 64 District Sports Officers. It procures and distributes sports goods among the recipients. The physical education colleges which conduct courses up to the Bachelor of Physical Education level are under the administrative control of this directorate. It also hunts talents at the grassroots level.
Specialised Sports Education: In order to give specialised training in sports alongside general education, Bangladesh Institute of Sports came into being in 1976. In 1983 the Autonomous Statutory Organisation called Bangladesh Krira Shikhah Pratishan (Bangladesh Sports Education Institute-BKSP) was founded through an Ordinance. It started functioning from 10th April, 1986. It is the highest centre of sports education in the country. General education from Class VI to bachelor Degree is imparted here besides higher and scientific training in sports. At present near about 500 students are studying in this institution. It functions directly under the Ministry of Youth and Sports. Presently longterm training in Basketball, Boxing, Cricket, Athletics, Football, Gymnastics, Hockey, Shooting, Swimming and Tennis are being given. It has also opened the Department of Sports Science consisting of exercise physiology, sports biomechanics, sports medicine, sports psychology and scientific sports training. It publishes a bi-annual journal on sports science. The objective of the apex sports education institution is to:
* Hunt sports talents and give them intensive and scientific training.
* Train prospective coaches, referees and umpires and raising the proficiency of the serving ones and coaching the national teams prior to their participation in international meets.
* Conduct certificate courses for technical officials of different disciplines. Some regional centres of this institute are being established in Divisional/District Head Quarters to decentralise training opportunities.
Organisational set-up of Sports Practice: In the practical field, games and sports are organised by the National Sports Federations. 34 Federations/Associations have so far been recognised by the Govt. These are: Archery, Athletics, Badminton, Bangladesh Physical Defence Association, Basketball, Body Building, Boxing, Bridge, Carom, Chess, Cricket, Cycling, Deaf and Dump Sports Association, Football, Gymnastics, Handball, Hockey, Judo, Kabadi, Karate, Khokho, Roller Skating, Rowing, Shooting, Snooker and Billiard, Squash Rackets, Swimming, Table Tennis, Taekwondo, Tennis, Volleyball, Weightlifting, Women Sports Association and Wrestling. Though a non-Olympic event, Cricket is now the most popular and widely practised sport in Bangladesh since it got the ODI and Test status. These Federations/Associations act as the nucleus of all activities of the respective sports discipline. They also liaise with the respective International Federation and its continental and regional setup. Sports Clubs, Divisional/District Sports Associations, Services Sport Control Boards, Public Corporations and Autonomous Bodies participating in Games and Sports, Pubic Universities/Education Boards are the basic constituents of the Federations/Associations. Clubs had been playing a very important role in games and sports. Some of the clubs are century old and are blessed with glorious past in sporting tradition. Wari, Mohammedan, Azad Sporting, Brother's Union, Victoria, Abahani Krira Chakra, Ajex, Farashgonj, Kalabagan Krira Chakra are some of the important clubs based in the capital city of Dhaka. Clubs also organise sports in Divisional/District and rural levels. District Sports Associations play the pivotal role in organising sports within their respective districts.
Integration with the World Sports Family: The relationship of Bangladesh with the world bodies of governing sports namely IOC, OCA etc. is strengthening gradually. All the Federations are affiliated with the respective International Federation and their continental and regional organs. The National Olympic Committee -- Bangladesh Olympic Association (BOA)-- was formed in 1978. It received the recognition of the IOC and OCA in the same year. BOA coordinates the participation of Bangladesh Teams in Regional, Continental and World Games. At home it organises Bangladesh Games in every four years which is the biggest sports meet of the country. It makes the best use of training facilities received through the Solidarity Programme of the IOC including Olympic Solidarity Sports Administrators Course and Coaches Course.
Organising International Games/Sports: Bangladesh has hosted twice the SAF (South Asian Federation) Games now renamed as SA (South Asian) Games featuring the SAARC countries in 1985 and 1993 respectively. Bangladesh has so far gained considerable experience in organising some International, Regional Games. Championships/ Invitational Tournaments on various disciplines e.g. Football, Cricket, Hockey, Handball, Table Tennis, Swimming etc. were also organised at different times. The latest of such initiative is hosting the first South Asian Archery Championship 2006.
Participation in games abroad and performance: Bangladesh participates in international, continental and regional Games and Sports regularly. Saidur Rahman Don, the 100m sprinter, is the first ever Bangladeshi athlete to participate in the games of Olympiad in Los Angeles in 1984. The country was first invited as an observer in the 1976 Summer Olympic Games. It also competes in the Asian Games organised by the OCA. Some Bangladeshi athletes have so far won laurels in international, continental and regional Games and Sports. The best success of a Bangladeshi athlete was to cross the English Channel by late Brojen Das as the first Asian. He crossed the Channel six times which is a World Record and in 1961 he set two world records simultaneously. He was decorated with the highest civilian award of Bangladesh-the Swadhinata Puruskar (The Independence Award) posthumously. After Bangladesh became an independent state, the first athlete to win a medal was boxer Md Abdul Halim. He won a bronze in the Asian Boxing Championship, 1978 in Bangkok. He received the National Sports Award for 2005. Another boxer Musharraf Hossain is the first ever medal winner in the Asian Games held in Seoul in 1986. Here he won a bronze. Mahmuda, on the other hand, emerged as first Bangladeshi woman to get medals in 100m sprint and 400m relay in the 1st SAF Games, Kathmandu, 1984. In team event, Bangladesh won Gold in football in the 2002 SAF Football Championship and 1999 SAF Games held respectively in Dhaka and Kathmandu. Sprinter late Shah Alam became the fastest man (100m sprint) twice in SAF Games. Bimal Chandra Tarafder won the title once in 1993 SAF Games. Swimmer Musharraf Hossain has to his credit 5 golds and 2 silvers (the highest so far by any Bangladeshi athlete in International Games) in swimming in the 1985 Dhaka SAF Games. He was adjudged the best athlete of the Games. Besides, Bangladesh won silver in Kabadi in the 1986 Seoul Asiad. Niaz Murshed became the first Grand Master in Chess in 1990. He is a National Sports Awardee. Ziaur Rahman followed him in receiving this honour. Abdus Sattar Nini and Atiqur Rahman won golds in shooting in Auckland Commonwealth Games in 1990. These are the first golds of Bangladesh in a big sports meet. In subsequent editions of this Games some Bangladeshi shooters won golds including Md. Asif Hossain Khan, Saiful Alam Rinky, Kazi Shahana Parveen and Subrina Sultana. Bangladesh produced some reputed technical officials in various disciplines. They are Dr. Sultanul Aziz in Swimming, Wing Commander (Retd.) Mohiuddin in weightlifting, Md. Farukul Islam, Director, BKSP in Athletics, Lt Col. (Retd.) A. Latif Khan in Boxing and some FIFA Referees in Football. Mohiuddin and A Latif Khan were assigned in the games of Olympiad. The Ex. Secretary General of NOC, BAN, Late Zafar Imam was also both organiser and Technical Official of international standing. He was the honorary advisor to the OCA President. He was instrument al to the establishment of Rajshahi Tennis Complex which is a regular venue of IT International Junior Tennis Championship. National Course Directors of BOA are also confirmed by the IOC to conduct Olympic solidarity Sports Administrators Courses sponsored by the solidarity Programme of the IOC. They are Akhter Hossain Khan (a Secretary to the Govt.), AHM Shamsul Islam (a Retd. Addl. Secretary), Kazi Moinuzzaman, Farukul Islam, Jahir Ahmed, Omar Faruque and the contributor of this article. Late Capt Siddiqur Rahman, Ex-Secretary General, NOC, Bangladesh, was also familiar in the World and Asian Sports Circle.
Mission: The NOC - BAN: The BOA as one of the constituents of both the OCA and the IOC firmly believes in and committed to the furtherance of the inherent spirit of the definition of Olympus put forward by the Ex-IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch which is 'Sports + Culture = Olympianism'. BOA as a comparatively new member of these two Sports Governing Entities in the World and Asian level is on its ever onward march to inculcate the importance of culture of sports to the citizens of Bangladesh and making efforts within its means for the culmination of this goal emanating from this universal ideal of Olympus.


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