Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) president Kazi Salahuddin had earlier said that prime minister Sheikh Hasina ‘scolded’ him for not sending the national women’s football team to the Olympic qualifiers in Myanmar. On Sunday, state minister for youth and sports Zahid Ahsan Russel also slammed the BFF president.

The state minister spoke with the media in his office at the National Sports Council where he heavily criticised Salahuddin and questioned whether BFF even wanted to send the women’s team to the qualifiers.

“I feel they (BFF) had no intention of sending the women’s football team abroad. That’s why they staged this drama and laid the blame on other’s shoulders,” Zahid told the media on Sunday.

Bangladesh women’s team was supposed to take part in group ‘B’ of the Olympic Qualifiers. The ‘B’ group matches started on 6 April in Myanmar, a little over a week after BFF had announced that they won’t be able to send the team due to financial constraints.

BFF made that announcement on 29 March. Just two days before that, they had sent an application to the youth and sports ministry asking for funds.

Bangladesh women's football team

The state minister felt that BFF asking for funds at the very last minute was a ‘drama’ and feels that there was some other undisclosed reason why the federation didn’t send the team to Myanmar.

“They (BFF) said that the government or the youth and sports ministry didn’t allot funds, that’s why they couldn’t send the team. In the past, they had never really asked for funds to take part in tournaments. Still, we received a letter from the football federation on 27 March. But in the letter they wrote they needed Tk 9.2 million (Tk 92 lakh) and we have to communicate our response by 31 March. But just one day later they declared that they can’t send the team as they are not getting the funds from us. How is this possible? They did this intentionally. Why did they send the letter so late, why did the take this decision so abruptly? They definitely knew three-six months beforehand that they would be taking part in a tournament like this. Why did they inform us so late? There is some motive behind them not taking part in the Olympic qualifiers. We are looking into it from our end. I’ve also informed it to the honourable prime minister,” said Zahid.

The state minister further claimed that they were trying their best to arrange the funds in the shortest possible time, “Any organisation would need some time to arrange funds, you have to give them that time. After they asked us for funds, we immediately wrote a letter to the finance ministry for it. Before we got the ministry’s reply, they (BFF) had taken the decision. And I fell that before taking such a decision, they could’ve informed the honourable prime minister, who has done so much for the development of women’s sports.”

He also said that the BFF president didn’t inform him before officially withdrawing from the qualifiers, “The president of the federation could’ve phoned me. He could’ve said, we are lacking funds, what should we do. But he didn’t speak with me. Out of the blue, he called a press conference and withdrew from the qualifiers. And he also blamed the government and the youth and sports ministry for it. This is not at all acceptable.”

Salahuddin had also said that the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) president Nazmul Hassan rings up the prime minister whenever the cricket team is victorious, saying he can’t do such ‘drama’.

Zahid also criticised Salahuddin for attacking the BCB president like that, “The BFF president is a well-respected individual. He is a living legend for us. But what he said about the BCB president was quite indecent. He (Nazmul) is a parliament member.”

He was also unhappy about how the BFF president got the prime minister’s name tangled up in this mess, “The prime minister really loves sports. She always keeps track of sports, watches it on television. Whenever she can make the time, she comes to the ground. This is something she has inherited. Her family was always involved with sports. I just can’t accept someone involving her name and saying something like that (drama). I think one should refrain from saying such things.”