BFF invites Argentina football team to play friendly in Bangladesh

Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) is trying to bring Lionel Messi and the Argentina team to Bangladesh in 2023File photo

11 years back, a dream came true for football fans in Bangladesh, when Lionel Messi’s Argentina played a match in Dhaka.

On 6 September, 2011, Messi’s team played a FIFA friendly match against Nigeria at the Bangabandhu National Stadium. Now, steps have been taken to once again bring the Argentine superstar back to Dhaka.

In last year’s FIFA World Cup, the news of Bangladesh’s unbridled love for Messi and Argentina reached Messi’s homeland. With that in the backdrop, the Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) wants to bring Messi back to Dhaka after 11 years.

In 2011, Lionel Messi came to Dhaka to compete in a friendly match between Argentina and Nigeria at the Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka
File photo

BFF has expressed its wishes to the Argentine Football Association (AFA). On 5 January, BFF president Kazi Salahuddin sent a letter to AFA president Caludio Tapia, congratulating him on Argentina becoming world champions.

The BFF president wished him a happy new year and said, “Argentina has a huge supporter base in Bangladesh. Everyone witnessed it during the World Cup. That’s why we want to invite Messi and the Argentina national football team to play a FIFA friendly match in Bangladesh at an opportune time in 2023.”

The date for the match was not specified in the letter, but BFF wrote that it’s working to fix who could be Argentina’s opponent in that match. BFF feels it would be better if their opponents are a team like Brazil.

BFF also reminded AFA of the Argentina team’s 2011 visit to Bangladesh, saying the Argentina team will face no security issues in Bangladesh. It also said that after Argentina and Nigeria, a team like Australia has also played a football match in Dhaka.

Fans of Argentina cheer as the team parades on board a bus after winning the Qatar 2022 World Cup tournament in Buenos Aires, Argentina on 20 December, 2022

In 2011, the BFF spent nearly Tk 400 million to arrange the Argentina-Nigeria match. The intention was to use the Messi-craze to bring about positive changes in the country’s football. How much did BFF succeed in doing so is questionable.

Bringing the Argentina team to Bangladesh will be an expensive affair. However, the BFF president feels that money won’t be an issue.

He told Prothom Alo on Sunday, “We are very eager to bring Argentina to Dhaka this very year. We have started working towards it. We have received assurance from probable sponsors. I have been given the green signal to start negotiations.”

Salahuddin also said that if BFF fails to bring Messi and the Argentina team to Bangladesh, it will try to bring Messi’s club Paris Saint Germain (PSG) to Dhaka.

“The main thing is that we want to bring Messi. That’s how we are progressing,” Salahuddin said.

Earlier, seeing the Argentina team’s popularity in Bangladesh, Bangladesh’s ambassador to Brazil Sadia Faizunnesa, who is also Bangladesh’s diplomatic envoy to Argentina, Uruguay and other countries of the region, said she wanted to bring Messi to Dhaka.

“We will try to bring Messi to Bangladesh. We want to hold a match in Bangladesh.”

Bangladesh’s state minister of foreign affairs Shahriar Alam also had said that the government will send a proposal to the Argentine government to bring the World Cup trophy to Bangladesh.

Argentina's Lionel Messi lifts the World Cup trophy alongside teammates as they celebrate winning the World Cup

BFF general secretary Abu Naim said that BFF’s initiative to bring the Argentina team in Bangladesh is not connected with either of those approaches, “We have heard what Bangladesh’s ambassador to Brazil and the state minister of foreign affairs has said to the media. BFF’s initiative is in no way connected with those statements. This is BFF’s own initiative. We have contacted the agent of the Argentina team. Hopefully, we will be able to provide updates of further developments in the future.”

Previously, Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina had sent a congratulatory message to Argentina president Alberto Fernandez after Argentina won the Qatar World Cup. In that message, she also asked the Argentine president to open an embassy in Bangladesh.

In reply, the Argentine president thanked the Bangladesh PM and said that steps will be taken to open an embassy in Bangladesh.

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