In recent weeks, Bangladesh football has been in a quagmire due to the menacing Covid-19 situation in the country.
Although there have been calls by the government to try and bring sports back in the country slowly, the situation has not been an easy one to even come close to achieving.
On August 5, Bashundhara Kings player Bishwanath Ghosh tested positive for Covid-19 after he was called into the national team training camp with the Fifa World Cup qualifiers in mind.
Later that night, three more players, SM Bablu, Nazmul Islam and Sumon Reza would test positive.
But things went from bad to worse as up to 18 footballers, who were taking part in the training camp tested Covid-19 positive on August 7 but were asymptomatic.
The Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) later held a press conference to reveal that there was a technical glitch in the machine that tests Covid-19 and that it had made a restart when delivering the results of the tests and the results of some of the players that came out positive were not received.
And a few days later, news came that the World Cup qualifiers, scheduled to take place later this year would be postponed to next year.
It begged the question, if sports other than cricket, was really safe to return at the moment, given the high rate of infection and still no vaccine out.
The Business Standard caught up with two BFF official, Abu Nayeem Shohag to find out what the current plans are with the players and when football could actually resume safely in the country.
Abu Nayeem Shohag - BFF general secretary
Ahead of the 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup qualifiers, a residential camp at Sarah resort in Gazipur was supposed to start. Most of the players called up underwent Covid-19 tests on their own. After that, BFF also had them tested and found a considerable number of players Covid-19 positive. Some of the BFF officials' results also turned out positive. After this, the BFF's medical committee had a meeting with the national team committee. The players who tested positive were kept in complete isolation at a separate section. The players whose results turned negative practised on a limited basis supervised by the coaches. BFF took the step of screening the Covid-19 positive players once again. Basically they were screened at two different laboratories on the same day. This time around, the rate of affected came down remarkably.
The coaching staff from abroad were supposed to arrive on mid-August. But AFC informed us that the qualifiers have been postponed to 2021. Then BFF decided to call the camp off and when the other sports return, we will decide on what to do next."
From the beginning of the outbreak of the pandemic, we've been trying our best to ensure the safety of the players. We opened a WhatsApp group involving the players, coach Jamie Day and his assists Stuart Watkiss and some other BFF officials. Our idea was to keep the players updated about the safety measures. In addition, the coaches instructed the players how the maintain fitness during the lockdown. Players were given certain assignments and drills by the coaches. Players used to shoot videos of those and send it to the group.
Now that the camp has been aborted, we have started to monitor the players in the same way again. Now the BFF is contemplating the launch of a mobile application for the players in order to ensure better service.
If we think internationally, Bashundhara Kings have matches to play in the AFC Cup in the Maldives. They have matches from October 24 to November 4. Around 14 national team footballers are part of Bashundhara Kings and they will certainly train there with the team. We are planning to arrange two international friendly matches during the international window from 4th of November to 14th. Our main priority will be to bring the teams in Bangladesh. We will decide on this after consulting the coaching staff.
Speaking about our domestic football, we have a meeting with the professional football league committee on Thursday. There we will discuss the possible ways of starting the domestic season with the 13 clubs participating in the league. As per our primary plan, the player registration window will start by the end of September and continue until the second week of November. We have plans to host the Federation Cup in the last week of November and the league in the last week of December. Besides the club officials, we will also consult the players' community regarding this. We will present a recommendation to the executive board of BFF and then take further steps with the board's approval.
Bangladesh football team head coach Jamie Day also spoke to the media about football making a return in November: "We are looking to play some games in November if possible. But we have to depend on the Covid-19 situation too. But it'll be great for the players if they can play some matches. We will look to make some plans to start a camp in October and see who are available to travel and play against us. It will be fantastic if the players can play some matches in November."
As things stand, only two members of the Bangladesh team are currently Covid-19 positive with the rest testing negative.
But unless a vaccine is out and available among the public, getting football back in the country is not going to be made possible easily.