"Come back, Nasrin"

Archer Nasrin Akter
File Photo

Her eyes was probably brimming with tears and her heart with nostalgia as her Congo-bound flight left the country around 1:30 am Monday. Despite setting out on a new voyage, she must have been flooded with innumerable memories of the last six years as part of the Bangladesh National Archery team. During this period, she clinched 13 medals including four gold. Among the four gold medals, three came during the Asian level competition last year.

The achievement made her unique among the archers of the country. Thanks to that accomplishment she got the Archer of the Year 2022 award from Bangladesh Sports Press Association. But Nasrin Akter has to abandon her career for the time being and leave the country in pursuit of a better livelihood.

Nasrin, a lance corporal of Bangladesh army, got an opportunity to work with the UN Mission in Congo. Her job there will be clerical. Nasrin, however, is not enthralled with the prospect of going to a new country, new atmosphere. In fact, she seemed rather depressed.

“I am leaving for Congo but feeling sad. I shall not be able to practice with the others, nor shall I be able to play abroad. I have started missing everything,” said Nasrin, one of the top archers of the country.

Another Bangladesh national team archer Roksana Akter will leave for Mali in the last week of August. Roksana, a soldier of Bangladesh army, has 8-9 international medals including four gold.

Nasrin and Roksana both ascended to the national level from Mirpur Government Bangla College thanks to its physical training teacher and archery organiser Faruk Dhali. The archers were supposed to be part of Bangladesh National team for the forthcoming Asian Games scheduled to take place at Hangzhou of China during September and October. But both of them took voluntary retirement from the national team- Nasrin in January and Roksana in February.

Both of them will stay in the UN mission for one year each. Consequently, Bangladesh archery will lose them for at least one and a half years. It will be tough for them to regain their places in the national team. Yet they are compelled to go.

“Bangladesh Olympic Association (BOA) awards scholarships. I applied for that according to the advice of our coach Martin Friedreich. But I did not get the scholarship. After that Friedreich told me, “I could not address your financial needs, so how can I stop you?” I might not have gone on the mission had I got the scholarship.

BOA is going to award scholarships to two shooters and three archers under the 2024 Paris Olympic Scholarship Programme. Archers Diya Siddiqui, Hakim Ahmed and Abdur Rahman along with shooters Rabbi Hasan and Nafisa Tabassum are getting the scholarships. Diya is allocated 1,250 dollars per month while the others will get 1,562 dollars each. A lion share of the allocation will be spent for the training of the players. BOA sends this money to the federation and the players get a large chunk from it.

Those going to the UN missions are benefited financially.  But losing two of the best archers will be a huge loss for Bangladesh. Roksana is one of the best female archers of the country in 50-metre compound event while Nasrin is a big competitor of Diya who participated in the 70-metre recurve in last year’s Olympics. Nasrin was the domestic champion in the event back in 2021 before Diya took the title last year.

Nasrin said that Coach Friedreich had told her even a few days ago, “I cannot find anybody like you, cannot even prepare someone like you. Come back.” Nasrin added she too is keen to return to archery.

But returning will be tough for her. Her fitness is likely to drop in one and half years. She will take part in the trial of her own team, the Bangladesh Army, upon returning to the country. She also wants to try to return to the national field. But things are uncertain. She had joined the national team camp for the first time in 2017. She started winning international medals from 2018 by winning gold in mixed team event with Roman. Nasrin rued the fact that she is somewhat shadowed under the lights of Roman and Diya.

But she proved her mettle in 2022. She won three gold medals at the Asia Cup archery, stage one at Phuket in Thailand. She beat Diya in the final of the individual recurve event. She won gold in the mixed team event with Roman. Won team gold with Fahmida Sultana. She also won silver medal along with Diya and Beauty Roy in the recurve women team event at the Sulaymaniyah city of Iraq on May 11.

Her family was not initially happy to let her play. Now Nasrin, who has established herself as a top archer against all odds, has to bid the game an adieu. Even her mentor Faruk Dhali comprehended her fate as he wished his mentee well, but with profound words of grief and sorrow, words that perhaps Bangladesh Archery would utter had it been able to speak.

“Come back, Nasrin.”