Veteran Abahani Ltd midfielder and former Bangladesh football team skipper Mamunul Islam is all set to retire from international football after he plays a farewell match in the national team colours. In an interview, he discussed in detail about his career, decision to retire and plans after retirement.
In his 13-year long career in professional football, Mamunul played for several top Bangladeshi clubs and represented Bangladesh for almost eleven years. Hailing from the port city Chattogram, Mamunul rose through the ranks and made his debut for Bangladesh in 2009 but he believed it was time to call it a day and give chance to the youngsters knocking on the door.
"I made my debut for Bangladesh in 2009. I have been playing international football for a long time. I believe till a certain age, footballers can be at their peak. After that age, it becomes difficult to maintain that standard. I could've continued for a couple of years but I think if I leave the place for a youngster. It will be good for him, good for football. I think there are some very good midfielders in the country and they will surely serve the team for another 10-12 years," Mamunul explained.
Mamunul left home at a very young age, aspiring to become a footballer. For someone like him who loves the game more than anything else, it was difficult to hang up the boots. "I couldn't give enough time to my family. I left Chattogram in 1997 and I have become a footballer because of my parents' sacrifice. Now I will try to make up the loss and I will also help my wife bring up my child. I have a job at Bangladesh Navy as well. So I guess now is the time. I want to move on from international football after playing another match. I have been lucky enough to bear the national flag and captain the team for a long period of time. It was a very tough decision but it was bound to happen," Mamunul said.
Apart from playing for some of the greatest Bangladeshi clubs, the experienced central midfielder played in the first season of Indian Super League for Atlético de Kolkata. He went to the club on a three-month loan from Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club. He was the only South Asian player outside India who played in the first season of the league and he relished the experience,
"Playing for Atletico de Kolkata was one of the biggest achievements in my career. The kind of professionalism they had was phenomenal. I still remember when I met (Alessandro) Del Piero, an absolute legend of the game. It was a big learning experience for me."
Although he's going to retire from the national team, he wants to continue playing professional football: "I want to continue playing club football for 4-5 years. It will be a big challenge to keep myself fit and play well after I retire from the national team. But I am up for the challenge and hopefully I will be in my best possible shape when the league resumes."
Mamunul doesn't have many regrets about his career. He has won each and every competitive tournament in Bangladesh. "I have played in India with some of the greatest players. After Quazi Salahuddin, I was the only person who played in a foreign league alongside world-class players. That is a big achievement. I have won every single domestic competition as a player in Bangladesh and won numerous accolades. When I retire, people will recognise me as someone who represented Bangladesh at the highest level. This is my biggest achievement," he said.
For someone to whom football came very much genetically, it was not an easy decision to retire. But Mamunul Islam Mamun thinks his retirement will enable young midfielders to fight for a place in the eleven. It will be difficult to fill the void of the iconic number 8 but the man himself firmly believes that whoever replaces him will take Bangladesh football forward.