His hairstyle resembles that of English footballer David Beckham. He has Cristiano Ronaldo’s fitness and performs like Lionel Messi on the ground. Saad Uddin, the young miracle man from Sylhet, in the qualifying match of Qatar World Cup and Asia Cup at Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata, scored the only goal in the match against India on 15 October.
Saad suddenly came to the limelight after the match in Kolkata.
Saad’s father, who works as a clerk, dreamt that his son would be a barrister one day, but Saad had no interest in studying law. He used to rush through his studies and and go off to the Kuchai union field to play football every afternoon.
Beside the union ground, there was a football academy founded by former footballer Sohel Ahmed. Sohel Ahmed one day called Saad and asked, “Do you want to join the academy?”
That was the beginning of his formal training of football. Saad participated in several football matches of the Union Cup. He won scores of prizes as man of the match in inter-union football matches.
Noticing Saad’s enormous interest for football, his father said, “If you really want to be a footballer, go for it. Play better. I have no objection.”
Family’s support made Saad more confident. Coach Sohel Ahmed sent him to Dhaka in 2015.
The football federation coach Syed Golam Jilani said, “The moment I saw him, I realised he was different. I was amazed with his technique to receive and dribble the ball.”
It was in 2015. Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) was selecting players for SAFF under-16 and under-19 championship games. Golam Jilani sent him to take part in U-19 selection trial where Saad was disqualified at the start. He was selected in u-16 team though and joined BFF’s Sylhet practice camp.
SAFF under-16 football tournament took place in Sylhet that year. Saad showed charisma on home ground. He scored the only goal that secured Bangladesh’s victory against Afghanistan in the semi-final.
Bangladesh played against India in the finale. Bangladesh beat India in the match with the tie breaker goal scored by none other than Saad Uddin.
There was no looking back after that. Spectators and football experts were stunned by his performance in the Championship League. He played for Victoria Sporting Club at the time.
Saad soon got the opportunity to play for the renowned Abahani Club. Austrian coach George Kotan used to like Saad a lot.
Saad was invited to play for the national team by coach Jamie Day. He has played eight matches of SAFF, FIFA Friendly Match and World Cup Qualifying Match since then.
Everything was going smoothly and then Saad’s career as a footballer nearly came to an end when he almost lost a leg in a motorbike accident. He was bedridden for seven months. His leg was saved by surgery though.
“I never broke down. I had to work hard. How hard, you can never imagine. I excercised regularly and went swimming. I attended conditioning camp under hot sun on river bank in Mohammadpur. Finally I recovered,” Saad told Prothom Alo.
Saad was right. His header in the Kolkata match lulled 80,000 audiences in the Salt Lake stadium.
The match made him a hero. The fame made him happy, but even more determined.
“I watch football highlights on YouTube every now and then. Football is my life. I dream of Bangladesh team becoming one of the finest teams in Asia soon,” Saad told the Prothom Alo correspondent.
*This piece, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Farjana Liakat