Today, a memorable and proud chapter is going to be added to the history of South Asian club soccer culture, which will brighten the image of Bangladesh in international club football. Under the sponsorship of Bashundhara Group, one of the largest business conglomerates in the country, Bashundhara Kings will play an AFC Cup match against Odisha, India at their FIFA and AFC-accredited modern arena for the first time.
The day of arranging an international club football at the Kings’ Arena is celebrated by football fans of the country, Bashundhara Group Chairman Ahmed Akbar Sobhan, his sports enthusiast sons Sadat Sobhan Tanvir, Shafiat Sobhan Sanvir, Sayem Sobhan Anvir (Chairman of Sheikh Russell Sports Circle) and Safwan Sobhan Tasvir (Lt. Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club President and Chairman of Rangpur Riders in Cricket), Bashundhara Kings’ President Imrul Hasan, Kings players, teams management and all officers and employees of Bashundhara Group. The day will be historic in the football of independent Bangladesh and will be marked as an example for all clubs in South Asia. Club President Imrul Hasan said that we dreamt of it and now the dream has come true; what could be happier than that!
This is the first time in South Asia that a private club will play international club football in its modern arena. It is a matter of joy and pride for the 17 crore people of Bangladesh. Bashundhara Group believes that football will rise again and regain its lost glory.
The list of big corporate houses wrapped in corporate culture in South Asian countries is quite large. Many of these corporate houses are regularly sponsoring sports out of their social responsibility. Some directly and indirectly sponsor famous football, cricket and other sports clubs. But no corporate house has invested thousands of crores in building multi-sports complexes, clubs' modern arenas to upgrade sports facilities like Bangladesh's Bashundhara Group. This is where the Bashundhara group is unique.
At a seminar for football writers and analysts in Asia, a European football expert singled out the construction of a multi-sports complex and Bashundhara Kings as having a healthy club culture. He said that the responsibility and contribution of this club in the football of Bangladesh is exemplary for others. The European expert also mentioned in his presentation that Bashundhara Kings is a full-fledged professional club in Bangladesh and “King's Arena has all kinds of facilities like European clubs”.
The record has a special importance in sports. Bashundhara Kings Club started from the idea of starting something new. The club won the title in Pioneer League in 2016 and then won the Premier League title in four seasons in a row starting from the 2018-2019 season. No one else has that record in this country's football.
Ahmed Akbar Sobhan always thinks about the country's sports arena and has a specific goal and dream around the sports arena. The president of the Kings asked the chairman of the group for seven-eight bighas of land for the practice of the club. However, three hundred bighas of land have been given for a sports complex. The Chairman of Bashundhara Group not only loves sports, but sports are in his blood. The same applies to his sons. This is a great boon for the sports of the country.
The work of the sports complex has started in 2019. If there are no problems, the work of the entire complex will be completed next year i.e. December 2024. After that, the activities of the academy will begin. Three of Europe's most famous clubs have already shown interest in franchises at the academy. After starting the academy, it is expected that after eight to ten years, Bashundhara Kings will form a team with their players, and even sell additional players to other clubs.
On February 17, 2022, Bashundhara Kings played their first Premier League home match at Kings Arena. Bashundhara Kings Arena was inaugurated by group chairman Ahmed Akbar Sobhan during the half-time break on the first day's play (till then FIFA and AFC did not recognise). Then on 2 June 2023, a Premier League match between Bashundhara Kings and Dhaka Mohammedans was played under bright floodlights in the second half. After FIFA and FC recognition, Bashundhara Kings Arena hosted the first two FIFA friendly matches between Bangladesh and Afghanistan on September 3 and 7 respectively.
The arrival of Bashundhara Kings is the demand of the time. It is worth noting how they have created a response among football fans with their on-field performances in just five or six years and contributed to the fascination of football. Bashundhara Kings have not only changed the landscape and trends of football in the country but also changed the story of the country’s football.
Writer: Former Senior Vice President, AIPS Asia
BDST: 1000 HRS, OCT 02, 2023