Girls, lead the way!

Bangladesh women's football team celebrates after beating Bhutan in the SAFF Women's Championship in Kathmandu, Nepal on 16 September, 2022Twitter

Bangladesh women’s team forward Tohura Khatun scored one of the eight goals her team scored in the 8-0 demolition of Bhutan in the semifinal of the SAFF Women’s Championship 2022.

The semifinal win booked Bangladesh a place in the final of SAFF Women’s Championship for the second time.

The last time Bangladesh made it this far was in 2016 when a 13-year-old Tahura saw the team succumb to a defeat against hosts India.

Tohura and her teammates now have the chance to win the maiden SAFF Women’s Championship title for Bangladesh when they take on hosts Nepal in the final on Monday.

Sabina Khatun (c) completed her second hattrick in the competition

The final will take place at the Rangasala Stadium in Kathmandu, and will kick off at 5:15pm Bangladesh Standard Time.

The girls can potentially take Bangladesh to the top of the pecking order in women’s football in South Asia for the first time.

Bangladesh has tasted regional success once before, in men’s football, back in 2003 when the host Bangladesh team beat India in the penalty shootout to win the title in Dhaka.

The wait to return to the top has been a long one. So long that the last time Bangladesh won the SAFF Championship, Tahura wasn’t even born!

Bangladesh’s march to the final has been nothing short of spectacular. Bangladesh began the tournament with a comfortable 3-0 win over the Maldives, followed by a dominant 6-0 win over Pakistan.

In the final group-stage match, Bangladesh finally ended their 10-match winless streak against India in women’s football by defeating the neighbouring country for the first time, that too by a convincing margin of 3-0.

In the semifinal, a rejuvenated Bhutan was expected to test Bangladesh, but the Sabina Khatun-led side completely decimated them.

Bangladesh national women's football team celebrates after scoring against Pakistan in the group-stage match of the SAFF Women's Championship in Kathmandu, Nepal on 10 September, 2022

Now one last hurdle lies in front of Bangladesh. Hosts Nepal have also been dominant in the tournament, scoring 11 goals in three matches and are yet to concede a goal, just like Bangladesh.

Bangladesh will also be up against the home crowd, which, understandably, will be backing their team to win the title for the first time.

Bangladesh and Nepal are equally matched sides. Both teams have beaten India on their road to the final, the team that had won all previous five editions of the competition.

Small margins become crucial in a contest like this and for Bangladesh, their taliswoman Sabina will be key.

Sabina, who has appeared in every edition of the competition, is currently the highest scorer in the ongoing edition with eight goals, which includes two hattricks.

After winning the first match of the tournament, Sabina said that there was nothing left for her to do in SAFF Championships, other than, ‘winning the trophy’.

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Sabina was confident that this time they had the right balance to go all the way. And so far, her estimations have been justified.

Men’s football in Bangladesh has been in tatters for the last few years. The team has sunk to 192 in the FIFA rankings and the future is not looking promising.

Women’s football, on the other hand, is showing positive signs. The women’s footballers that dominated in age-level competitions are maturing and entering the national team, gradually strengthening the senior side.

Now, they have a chance to mark their improvement with a trophy and quench a thirst that the country’s football-loving people have been enduring for almost 20 years.