But that hasn’t been the case so far, according to Shameem.

More than four years after becoming an official association, BTBA is still without an office. Shameem now has no option but to conduct the day-to-day official work of the association from the coach’s room at the NSC headquarters.

“We don’t have an office. Before getting affiliated, I had a room at a supermarket beside the Azimpur graveyard. We used that as our office. But we don’t have that now,” Shameem told Prothom Alo.

“After getting affiliated, we hoped that we would get an office from the sports council. For the last few years, we have repeatedly pleaded with the NSC for some space for an office. We have sent around 15 letters to them. But it has been of no use.

“Now, I sit in the coach’s room at the NSC office. I conduct the association’s official work from here. Currently, the coach’s room is the address of the association,” he added.

The piece of the pie keeps thinning

The state of the throw ball association is not a one-off in the country’s sporting fraternity. Rather, it’s the norm.

Every few years, new sports get affiliated under the NSC, but hardly get the financial support they need to flourish.

Currently, there are 54 sporting bodies affiliated with the NSC. Out of them, 36 are federations and the remaining 18 are associations.

The NSC grants association status to newer sporting bodies. After they become active countrywide and achieve significant success at the international level, they get elevated to federation status.

Associations also get lesser monetary support and fewer facilities compared to federations.

Currently, the 18 NSC-approved sports associations are kite, wushu, martial arts, Bashap (Bangladeshi karate technique), baseball-softball, para-Olympic, taekwondo, kickboxing, yoga, butthan, surfing, mountaineering, jujutsu, country games, fencing, sepak Takraw, tchoukball and throw ball.

As associations, these sports bodies get some monetary support from the NSC, but it’s insufficient, claimed Bangladesh Tchoukball Association’s general secretary Wahidul Gani.

“Every year, we get around Tk 250 thousand from the NSC, which we mainly spend on our coaching programmes, currently running in 29 districts. When we do a domestic competition, we have to use our funds or seek sponsorship,” Gani said.

Gani also said the Tchoukball association, which began in 2014, also doesn’t have a proper office as they use the Baridhara residence of the association’s president AJM Nasir Uddin as the association’s address.

Shameem echoed Gani’s complaint about the lack of funds.

“In 2019, we received monetary support from the NSC in instalments of Tk 25 thousand. Then the grants stopped for a while. Since, 2020-21, we received some instalments of Tk 12.5 thousand. Four-five months ago, we got a cheque of Tk two lakhs,” Shameem said.

NSC secretary Parimal Singha, however, provided an explanation behind the low allocation.

“Every year, we sign an Annual Performance Agreement (APA) with the federations and associations. After each year, we assess how much an association or federation has managed to achieve of what they had set out to do in a calendar year. According to that assessment, we fix their monetary allocation and other support.”

51 years, 54 sports bodies

To become an association, sports bodies have to fulfil certain criteria.

The sports bodies have to hold a national level competition, take part in an international event, be officially recognised by the global governing body of that sport, have a constitution and show proof to the NSC that the sport is being played in different areas of the country.

Only after fulfilling all of these conditions, will NSC propose a sports body up for association membership.

On paper, it looks like a long list of requirements which should be difficult to fulfil. But the question remains on how thoroughly the NSC evaluates each application.

Social and political influence seemingly does play a part in achieving the association status, with several of these associations having influential members of the society at the president’s post.

The tchoukball association’s president, AJM Nasir Uddin, is a former mayor of Chattogram and is a leader of the ruling party Awami League.

The throwball association’s president Jahirul Haque Bhuiyan Mohon is an Awami League MP from the Narsingdi-3 constituency.

In fact, presidents of nine out of the 18 associations are currently members of the parliament.

Known personalities are also at the helm of some of these associations. Famous writer Dr Zafar Iqbal is the president of the Bangladesh Kite Association and veteran broadcast journalist Shykh Seraj is the president of the Bangladesh Country Games Association.

In terms of officially recognised sports bodies, Bangladesh has already surpassed neighbours Pakistan and Sri Lanka, who have 44 and 41 sports associations and federations respectively, and is only eight behind India, a country much more suited to patronise more sports.

Increasing the number of sports bodies only divides the already limited resources the country has to offer for sports and reduces the chances of Bangladesh actually succeeding at the global level.

Country’s veteran sports journalist Dulal Mahmud summed it up best in a recent write-up in Prothom Alo.

“Bangladesh is not an economic powerhouse, it can’t provide constant monetary support in sports. Still, over 50 games are nationally recognised. Is it realistic to continue patronizing so many sports? So, we need to consider investing in sports which are popular and have potential.”

Less is more

In its 51 years of existence as an independent state, Bangladesh has only won 12 Asian Games medals and eight Commonwealth Games medals.

Forget winning an Olympic medal, Bangladesh has never even come close. Bangladesh also holds the ignominy of being the most populated country in the world yet to win a medal in the Olympic games.

In popular sports like cricket and football, Bangladesh is yet to win a global event, the only exception being the men’s Under-19 cricket team’s World Cup win in 2020, but that too came in age-level cricket, not at the international level.

For Bangladesh to improve its scorecard as a sporting nation, it has to stop adding more sports for the sake of it and invest in the games that could earn the country success at the global level.

Otherwise, the number of sports officials like Shameem Al Mamun will increase and the country’s status in the sporting world will continue its downward spiral.