Nayeem Islam poses with the highest goal scorers trophyShamsul Hoque

When his teammates were celebrating with the trophy after becoming champions, Nayeem Islam was busy talking to the press while holding the highest goal scorers trophy in his hand.

In the final of the National School Football Championship, Nilphamari’s Samir Uddin School defeated Jashore’s Benapole High School 1-0 at the Paltan Outer Stadium in Dhaka.

With tears in his eyes, Nayeem collected the highest goal scorers trophy after netting the ball eight times in five matches, including two hat-tricks. Nayeem couldn’t help but think about his father, who is in Nilphamari.

Nayeem’s father works in a cigarette factory in Rangpur. Nayeem has two brothers and one sister and his family regularly struggles to make ends meet.

In 2017, a trial for the Under-14 Mock Cup was held in Dhaka. Nayeem was supposed to take part in that trial. But he couldn’t arrange the Tk 2,000 required for the trip.

The champion team celebrates with the trophy
Shamsul Hoq

Nayeem talked about that experience after the match, “Our economic condition is really poor. My father tried to borrow Tk 2,000 from many people. But maybe they thought my father wouldn’t be able to repay them. So, no one loaned him the money. I still feel like crying when I think about it. But that day, I decided that whatever happens, one day I will play in Dhaka.”

This year, Nayeem was the top-scorer in the Nilphamari District Football League, scoring eight goals for Kalyan Samity Club.

Nayeem’s uncle Jahangir Alam encouraged him to take up football. Now he dreams of playing in the national age-level team, “I want to play in the national age-level team. I want to keep scoring in every game just like this.”

Nayeem lives in the Kachukata union of Nilphamari. His home is nearly 15 kilometres away from the Nilphamari Stadium. He has to travel that distance on an auto rickshaw or on a bicycle to go there to train.

In the group stages, Samir Uddin School lost 0-4 to Benapole High School. But Nayeem said that he was confident of winning in the final, “I had complete faith that I would score and win the match for my team. I wanted to score more goals today (Wednesday). But after I scored once, the coach changed the team formation.”

For Nayeem, Eid celebration has begun a few days early, “Eid is just a few days away. But we are feeling the joy of Eid today (Wednesday).”