Right after scoring a goal, Rituporna Chakma looked to the heavens and murmured something as if she was praying. It seemed that Rituporna, one of the best midfielders of the Bangladesh team, was eagerly waiting for this very goal.
Rituporna didn’t feature in the starting XI in Bangladesh’s first two matches of the SAFF Women’s Championship in Nepal.
She didn’t get on the score sheet after coming on as a substitute against the Maldives. On Saturday, Rituporna was desperate to score against Pakistan after getting subbed on.
By that time, Bangladesh was leading the match 5-0, and victory was just a matter of time. Rituporna then scored the sixth and final goal for Bangladesh in the match.
Rituporna dedicated the goal to her deceased brother Parbon Chakma. On 29 June earlier this year, Parbon passed away from electrocution.
The grief of losing her brother is still visible on Rituporna’s face. The girl who was full of life and always had a smile on her face, now seems perpetually depressed. After scoring against Pakistan, Rituporna cried on the team bus on her way back to the hotel. She cried her eyes out even at the team hotel.
On Sunday, while Rituporna’s teammates were in joyous mood during a training session at the Army Headquarters ground, Rituporna looked dejected.
Her father Brajwasi Chakma died of cancer in 2015. Her three elder sisters – Bharati Chakma, Pampi Chakma and Putuli Chakma- are married. Parbon was the lone brother of four sisters and was the apple of their eyes. Losing Parbon, has left Rituoporna devastated.
Rituporna was two years older than Parbon. Parbon watched every game Rituporna played since getting called up to the national age-level team in 2017. So, after scoring against Pakistan, the thought of Parbon was the first thing that came to Rituporna’s mind.
“I can’t stop thinking about my brother. I think of him every second. I feel that he is still with me. I cried a lot after scoring yesterday (Saturday). Before getting on the field, I was determined that I have to score, no matter what. I dedicated the goal to my brother,” Rituporna said on Sunday.
Bangladesh won the Under-19 SAFF Women’s Championship last year in Dhaka. In that tournament, Rituporna scored one goal against Bhutan and scored a brace against Sri Lanka. Rituporna’s goals became viral in social media.
Rituporna’s goal against Pakistan on Saturday was also stunning. But even after scoring such a goal, Rituporna was sad.
“If my brother could see the goal I scored, he would’ve called me right after the match. After the U-19 SAFF Championship he used to say, ‘Sis, you have gone viral, you are a celebrity now’.”
Rituporna last spoke with Parbon on 28 June. Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) dismissed the national team’s camp after the friendly matches against Malaysia on 23 and 26 June. Rituporna got on a bus to Rangamati from Dhaka on 29 June.
For whatever reason, she sensed something terrible was going to happen that day, “He usually didn’t call me on the phone too much. That day he called me and said, ‘Sis, when are you going to come back?’ Both of us were supposed to register as voters together. The next day, I purchased a bus ticket. That day, I was feeling restless sitting on the bus. I had a nightmare the night before. Before heading home, I told my roommate Tahura (Khatun) to forgive me that if something bad happens to me.”
The accident took place when Rituporna was on her way home. But as she was on the way, she wasn’t informed what had happened. After reaching home, Rituporna learnt of the terrible incident.
Football has taken Rituporna to many countries. While flying back home, she used to bring chocolates for her brother, which he loved.
On Sunday, Rituporna was wondering, “Who would I bring chocolates for this time?”
Parbon’s favourite footballer was Lionel Messi, Rituporna’s is Cristiano Ronaldo. The two siblings have had endless of debates about who is better. Those memories now haunt Rituporna and bring tears to her eyes.
Rituporna feels even worse thinking about what her mother is going through, “My sisters are already married. I stay away from home due to football. Now, I can hardly control myself when I have to leave home. I try not to cry in front of my mother, but I can hardly keep my tears inside. My mother is very lonely right now.”
Rituporna wants to forget the sorrow of losing her brother on the football field, “Now, there is a lot of responsibility on me. I try to console myself and my mother. I have to go a long way. I know, the life of professional footballers is like this. I try to forget the agony of what I’ve lost on the football pitch. Life doesn’t stop for anyone.”
*This report appeared in the online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ashfaq-Ul-Alam Niloy