Political unrest was brewing all around with the national parliamentary elections ahead. Zidane's appearance on the scene was a splash of colour, a breath of fresh air, for the people fed up with the incessant hartals and strikes. Zidane's visit to Bangladesh created such a sensation all around that when he paid a courtesy call on the president and chief advisor of the caretaker government Iajuddin Ahmed at Bangabhaban, Iajuddin invited him to come again to Bangladesh as an election observer.


There were a lot of events arranged for the brief two-day visit. There was a press conference, a reception, an exhibition match, a cultural evening and dinner. The day after he arrived in Dhaka, his schedule began in the morning with an inspection of a Grameen Bank project in Bashan union of Gazipur. This 1998 World Cup winner even played an exhibition match with the children there. Then that afternoon, this football wizard arrived at Bangabandhu national stadium to join the match between the under-16 teams of the two top favourite football clubs of the country, Abahani Limited and Mohammedan Sporting Club. He would wear both their jerseys, in turns. It was a 40-minute match, 20 minutes for each half. The rights for selling the tickets to that match sold for Tk 700,000. A private TV channel won telecast rights for the match for Tk 200,000. And the people of Bangladesh got to see the magic of Zidane's feet one more time, even after he had retired. It may have been just an exhibition match with the kids, but Zidane was Zidane. The way he manoeuvred the ball, keeping it in his control, his sweeping passes -- there was a touch of class in his every move. I am still thrilled to remember, I played in that match too!

I was a student at BKSP at the time. I had played the Under-17 AFC Cup in Singapore and had just returned back to the country. And then I got this call from Abahani to play in this exhibition match in honour of Zidane's visit. I was over the moon with excitement. I was in an absolute trance for days before and days after the match.


BKSP was on holiday at the time. I went straight from Faridpur to Abahani. I remember clearly that as there was nothing to hook the mosquito net onto at Abahani Club, I slept with the mosquito net wrapped all around me. My Under-17 T-shirt caught the attention of former Abahani and national team champion Arif Khan Joy. He used that to design the Abahani jersey for the Zidane match.

Another star had come to visit Abahani Club. That was India's national hockey team captain Dhanraj Pillai. He had come to Dhaka to play for Abahani and was staying in the next room. I still remember Pillai sitting there in the middle of afternoon, adorned in all his gold ornaments. This hockey legend too was awed by Zidane's arrival.


The media swarmed the club on the day before the match. The late Amalesh Sen was sitting across me at the dining table during lunch. I still remember the Prothom Alo correspondent Masud Alam bhai asking him, "How will you ask Zidane to play?"

He asked me a question about playing with Zidane, but I was so thrilled, excited and awed at the prospect of playing with Zidane, that I found no words to reply. I hadn't even started playing professionally and I was getting to play alongside Zidane. My head was spinning with plans of what to do, and what to do when he would be the opponent. I hardly slept a wink that night. While Amalesh Sen was officially the coach, we practised with the former deputy minister for sports Arif Khan Joy.


Finally, the grand moment arrived on the afternoon of 7 November.

At the start of the match, Zidane was introduced to the players. After shaking hands with Zidane, I took my hand to my nose to smell it! In the first half Zidane played with Abahani's jersey and with the Mohammedan jersey in the second half. He wore 'mobile' full length pants with the jersey. And sneakers instead of football boots.

We didn't really give Zidane a chance to do much that day! At the end of the match we were full of remorse -- why didn't we give the ball to Zidane instead of keeping it to ourselves so much! After all, the main objective of the exhibition match was to watch Zidane do his magic!


Then there was a picture that will be memorable forever. That memory will never fade. The ball was in the air. A number of the opponent players were running with the ball. In the cluster, Zidane took the ball up to his chest in such a manner, that it seemed this was not any ball, but some tame object held in his spell. It was a scuffle to get hold of that ball from him. I tackled him and Zidane fell, but that was not all. His pants tore! Brothers' Union can thank me for that because after his pants tore, Zidane spilled on a pair of orange shorts over his torn pants. Those were the shorts of another popular football club, Brothers' Union.

To the people of Bangladesh, Pele, Maradona, Zidane and stars that shine brightly far away in the sky. But here was a legend that we not only saw in real life but as young players had the fortune to actually play a match with. I am sure, like myself, this is a memory everyone there that day cherishes forever. While leaving Dhaka, Zidane said, through his interpreter, that if he had the chance, he would come to Bangladesh again.


In the 2016 Champions League quarter finals, when Karim Benzema's chance to score against Wolfsburg was foiled, the Real Madrid coach at the time, Zinedine Zidane kicked the ground in frustration so hard that... his pants tore! A few days after that was the match against Manchester City. The incident had evoked a lot of laughs at the time. When he won his first Champions League as a coach then, perhaps he recalled that incident of his pants being torn and a little smile played in his lips in memory.

I really feel like asking Zidane, perhaps you don't remember about saying you would come back to Bangladesh again, but do you remember being tackled by a young boy and tearing your pants?

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