Kazi Salahuddin is one of the most important figures in the history of Bangladeshi football and arguably the country's greatest ever footballer. He is the current president of Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF), a position Salahuddin has held since his election in April 2008.
With the BFF presidential elections taking place on October 3, the renewal of his tenure for the fourth time looks to be certain. Although some are convinced his tenure has been a failure, is that really the case? Has it all been doom and gloom? Will the next four years be an improvement?
The decline and disappointment
The Fifa ranking of Bangladesh stooped to as low as 197 in December 2018, the lowest it had ever been. The national team also recorded disappointing results in multinational tournaments under the tenure of Salahuddin.
In the last seven Saff Championships, Bangladesh failed to cross the group stage while in the last SA Games in Nepal, an U-23 tournament where India and Pakistan did not send their teams, Bangladesh failed to win it.
Kaisar Hamid, who was a great player for the national team in the 1990s, has been vocal about his disappointment in the national team's results. A magnificent defender in his day, he won the 2003 National Sports Award.
He said, "We used to beat teams like Maldives, Nepal, Bhutan with ease. We used to score 6,7 past them. Now we struggle to beat them. I never thought this would happen."
The 21 capped attacker - Komol Abdul Baten, believes that the Federation could have taken smarter decisions and staved off the decline.
He said, "The crop of players that we had were very young. The managerial instability hampered their development. If the Federation had appointed managers more smartly, then the rapid decline could have been avoided."
Perhaps the biggest failure of his tenure was not being able to improve the county's infrastructure. The failed football academy in Sylhet is a glaring example.
Local reports suggest that BFF failed to run the academy due to monetary issues and still reportedly owe Tk55 lakh to BKSP for the failed youth academy.
The silver lining
Despite all the negative aspects of his tenure, people often overlook Salahuddin's achievements.
Upon being elected on 28 April 2008, Salahuddin secured Tk160,000,000 from Citycell as sponsorship for the Bangladesh Premier League. He is often credited for the proper organisation and regular continuation of Bangladesh's national football league and cup competitions.
"The condition of football in our country was very bad. He helped change that. He started organising the league regularly and he had to do that from scratch. He also helped the players get their wages properly. He helped improve the standard of football," said national team footballer Komol.
Along with Mahfuza Akhtar Kiron, chairman of BFF Women's football committee and Golam Rabbani Choton, coach of Bangladesh Women's national team, the female football scene of Bangladesh has thrived under the tutelage of Salahuddin.
Sabina Khatun is grateful for what Salahuddin has done for the development of women's football. She is currently captain of Bangladesh women's team and is among only a handful of players who have represented Bangladesh overseas.
"What the federation did for the girls in the last four years was incredible. They made it possible for us to be in a long-term camp, which helped improve the standard of football massively. The women's league has also helped improve the quality of football," said Sabina.
The women's highest ever Fifa ranking of 100 was achieved in December 2013. The U-15 and U-18 won the SAFF women's championship in 2017 and 2019 respectively.
Although he is scapegoated for the decline of the men's national team, Salahuddin's tenure saw the Bengal Tigers win the 2010 SA Games Gold medal. The U-15 SAFF championships win in 2015 and 2019 are also seen as huge achievements under the reign of Salahuddin.
Onwards to the future
The golden days of football in Bangladesh are well behind. The national team languishes in the 180s and 190s in Fifa rankings.
Football lovers in the country are desperate for some positive results. Salahuddin has once again promised that he will bring success to the country.
Kaisar Hamid, along with every other Bangladeshi football fan, wants the next president to bring the glory days of football back to the shores of Bay of Bengal.
"Whoever comes next, be it, Salahuddin, (Sheikh Muhammad) Aslam or Salam (Murshedi), I want football to improve. If Salahuddin can deliver on his promise and make us a force in South Asia, improve our rating, then I will have no problem with the renewal of his presidency," said the former national team defender.
The last 12 years in Bangladeshi football were a rollercoaster. Although many feel Salahuddin's tenure has been a disappointment, people often overlook what he has achieved.
Despite all, he insists that he is the right man to take this country forward. Whether he can deliver upon his promise or not is up for debate, but one thing is for certain, the people of Bangladesh are going to hope he can be the man to turn things around.