“I used to play football, volleyball and hockey. I wasn’t a very good player but I was in a good place in the school team. I was not that much into politics back then,” wrote Sheikh Mujib in his autobiography ‘Unfinished Memoirs’.
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's majestic charisma and prowess in politics often overshadows his prowess in non-political matters i.e. football. The Father of the Nation was an ardent football fan and in his making days, he was a quality footballer in his locality.
Rather than him, Bangabandhu's son Sheikh Kamal is more known for his contribution in sports. Kamal, the eldest son of Bangabandhu, was the founder of one of Bangladesh's most successful clubs, Dhaka Abahani. Not just that, he was also a profound sports organiser and had involvements in other sports as well.
But this one is about Bangabandhu and sports, how the Father of the Nation was an ardent fan of sports and had also played for a club in Dhaka during his days.
"I used to play football, volleyball and hockey. I wasn't a very good player but I was in a good place in the school team. I was not that much into politics back then," wrote Sheikh Mujib in his autobiography 'Unfinished Memoirs' (Oshomapto Attojiboni).
He also added that his father, Sheikh Lutfar Rahman did not want him to play too much as he had heart complications. But that did not stop Bangabandhu or 'Khoka' from playing, just like nothing else could throughout his life.
Bangabandhu also shared another interesting detail of his football career in his autobiography about his rivalry as a footballer with his father.
Sheikh Lutfar was also a very good player, according to Sheikh Mujib. Sheikh Hasina wrote in her book, 'Sheikh Mujib Amar Pita', "When my father played, my grandfather went to see the match. He told us, 'Your Abba was so thin that when he kicked the ball, he slipped on the ground.' If Abba was nearby then, he would be agitated and we enjoyed their arguing."
Bangabandhu was the skipper of his school whereas his father was the secretary of the local 'Officer's Club'. Sheikh Mujib wrote that whenever there were matches between his school team and his father's team, the crowd would be very excited for the clash and enjoyed it. He also added that he used to scout for good players in the locality and then admitted them to the Mission school he was studying in for free.
In 1940, the school team led by Bangabandhu beat his father's team in almost every game. At the end of the year, there were five consecutive draws. The Officer's Club team hired players as they had money whereas it was the same eleven throughout the year for the school-going Sheikh Mujib's team.
It was the last match of the 'A Z Khan Shield' and the school team were yet to lose. As hired players were waiting, Sheikh Lutfar pressured his son to play the next morning as it would be too costly to keep them waiting for long. Bangabandhu protested as his players were tired and asked for rest.
The secretary of Gopalganj Sporting Club tried to intervene but opted out saying that it was a family matter between Sheikh Lutfar and Sheikh Mujib. Bangabandhu's school's headmaster, Babu Rasranjan Sengupta was dragged into the matter and he requested young Sheikh Mujib to give in to his father. Sheikh Mujib protested saying, "Sir, we all are tired. We, the 11 players, have played on the trot for a year. Our legs hurt, we need to rest for 2-4 days. Or else we will lose."
But as rebellious as he was, Bangabandhu had to respect his headmaster's request and decided to take the field the next day. And their tired legs tried but could not cope up as they lost the last match of the year to the Officer's club by 1-0.
But that does not end the story of football in Sheikh Mujib's life. He participated in tournaments for his district team. But what is even more spectacular is, he played professional football for Dhaka Wanderers in the 1940s. He regularly featured for them from 1941 to 1948. It was under his captaincy, Wanderers won the Bogura Cup and in the final, Bangabandhu scored a brace, leading his side to a 5-0 victory.
Reputed footballer Ghaznavi saw Sheikh Mujib play and in an interview, he said, "As he was busy in politics, he was not able to play football. If he had continued, he would have been the best striker of Asia in the 40's."
Bangabandhu's charishma, majestic presence and greatness stays written in history books, in golden letters. Well, as eloquent as he was with the mike, he was no less with the ball, history suggests that too.