SAFF Under-20 Women’s Championship was a picture perfect tournament for Shamsunnahar. She led Bangladesh to the trophy, bagged the player of the tournament award and emerged as the highest scorer of the tournament.Bangladesh U-20 team captain Shamsunnahar spoke with Prothom Alo at the BFF Bhaban on Friday noon about her success and the success of and the team

After becoming champions, you were thinking of your late mother. What was going through your mind…

Whenever I achieve something big, I think of my mother. Whenever something bad happens, I’m also reminded of my mother. My mother’s support is the only reason why could get into football. I lost my mother when I was young. On Thursday, after I won my first title as captain, I was missing my mother a lot. However, there is someone else now who I address as ‘mom’.

Shamsunnahar captained the Bangladesh Under-20 Women's team to SAFF Championship triumph
Shamsul Hoque

Who is she?

My coach Jewel bhai (local coach at Kalsindur villahe Jewel Ahmed) addresses me as sister. So, I call his mother ‘mom’. I used to stay at Jewel bhai’s home when I started playing football. His mother adores me. I like to eat duck and so before the final, ‘mom’ cooked duck and sent it to me. At the camp, all of us ate it together at night.

Your family members must have watched you in the final…

Everyone watched me play. My three-year old nephew teased me saying, aunt, you keep falling to the ground again and again. He also said, I will hit everyone who makes you fall (smiles).

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How did you celebrate in the night after becoming champions?

There was a lot of cheering in my room. My roommates Marzia apu, Anika Tanjum and the juniors were there. Usually I don’t get to spend time with them separately. On the night we became champions, I had a long chat with them all.

Shamsunnahar has ascended to new heights
Shamsul Hoque

Earlier, you have played in the championship winning U-15, U-18, U-19 and SAFF teams. This time you played a crucial role in the team’s victory at the U-20 SAFF Championship. You are the only Bangladeshi footballer to take part in all SAFF champion teams. How does it feel after achieving a feat like this?

I was eligible to play in all of those age-level tournaments and I performed well enough to get called up to those teams. As I am still a junior, I try to make use of whatever opportunity I get of playing in the senior team. I was the captain in the last two age-level tournaments but couldn’t lead the team to the trophy. This time, I’m really happy after winning the championship as captain.

Out of the tournaments you have won, which one is your favourite?

When I took part in my first international competition for the U-15 team in the U-15 SAFF Championship in Dhaka back in 2017, I didn’t realise what an honour it was to represent the country. Sir (head coach Golam Rabbani) gave me a chance to play in the added minutes of the match against India. I still remember, I made two runs in that game. Those runs impressed sir. From then on, he would give me 5-10 minutes in every game. The coaches would say, if you get on the field in the last part of the game, the opposition players would run out of breath trying to catch up with your runs. I have gained experience through playing more. Now, I have the confidence to play full time.

Shamsunnahar was unstoppable throughout the tournament
Shamsul Hoque

You are saying that earlier you didn’t quite realise the prestige in representing one’s country. After a six-year-long international career, what’s your thinking?

At first I didn’t really realise what football was, I didn’t know there was so much to football. I started playing football because I liked the game. From there, I’ve reached this far. Now, I feel the urge to do something for the country.

How promising are the players in the current U-20 team?

Everyone in the team is hungry for success. In defence, there is Surma, Pranti, Nasrin, in midfield, there is Unnoti, Mahfuza, Sohagi, Shopna. All of them are playing really well. Whoever is getting called up is doing well. Unnoti came in as substitute for Mahfuza in the final and scored.

Shamsunnahar poses with the player of the tournament and the top-scorer award
Shamsul Hoque

You scored a hattrick against Bhutan and after the match the Bhutanese players clicked pictures with you. Has something like that ever happened before with you?

No, never. When they approached me to take pictures after the match, they asked if I was on Facebook and Instagram. In the final, they were cheering ‘Bangladesh, Bangladesh’. Whenever we started an attack, they cheered for us. They were happy that I was the highest scorer and won the player of the tournament award. They liked my playing style. They also liked the way I tied my hair. It feels great to be treated this way. I felt like a star player who has a lot of fans. Just like I’m a fan of other players!

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Who are you a fan of?

I’m a fan of Lionel Messi. If I ever see Messi up close, I don’t know how excited I will get. I’ve heard rumours that Messi and the Argentina team will come to Bangladesh. If he really does come, then I will go up to Messi and ask him, ‘How do you play so brilliantly?’

Now people are starting to recognise you… how much are you enjoying this?

Many recognise me, call me by my name, I really enjoy it. I’m really fortunate that people know me by name.

How do you view the future of women’s football in Bangladesh?

The (women’s) league has happened only two-three times. The league is a one-sided one. All good footballers play in the same team. If the bigger clubs come forward, the footballers will gain from it.

*This interview appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ashfaq-Ul-Alam Niloy