The Covid-19 pandemic has kept the Bangladesh national team footballers out of action for quite a while.
Not only have they been unable to play matches, but they have also been unable to take part in training sessions.
But after a long wait, they returned to training on October 24 and soon, they will also be able to play a match against a team they are desperate to beat - Nepal.
The name Nepal brings back some uneasy memories for Bangladesh as in the last two games they were victorious over captain Jamal Bhuyan and his team. There was also a loss against Nepal in the Asian games where both sides played under-23 teams. All of this has made the team hungrier to defeat Nepal.
Bangladesh will play two practice matches, one on 13 and another on 17 November at the Bangabandhu National stadium. These will be the first two games for the national side since football came to a halt on March this year. The booters have been training for quite some time with these two matches in mind. Even though the players tried to maintain their fitness during the shutdown, it was not enough as they were struggling during team training.
On Monday, the national team players played a match among themselves and after this match, captain Jamal as felt that the fitness of the entire team is not up to the mark: "To be honest, the team is not fully fit. We played a practice match today and a lot of players faced problems in it. We have to work really hard and do more running and that will bring out fitness up to speed."
The players playing for Bashundhara Kings have been the only exception here as they have been able to train during the shutdown, and as a result, their fitness has been better than the others and Jamal explained: "The players from Bashundhara Kings are comparatively fitter because they got to train as a team in their facilities. This is something not all the footballers got and they will be fitter in the coming days."
Although fitness is an issue, Jamal is looking ahead and wants to get a result out of the games against Nepal: "We are hungry for a win as everyone knows that we lost against Nepal twice and that has come as a shock for everyone including us. We are fully aware of that situation so we are all looking to win and we have to win!"
After a long break, many footballers can consider this as a new start and that will certainly be the case for Finland-born defender Tarek Kazi who is set to make his debut for Bangladesh. The player who recently got his Bangladeshi citizenship represented Finland in the under-16, 17, 18 and 19 teams and Jamal is hopeful his new teammate can do well for the national team: "Tarik is new to the team but his inclusion will increase the self-belief and morale of the team. He's a little shy now as he's still new but he did well in training."