Home 2010 – Grand Sport
Bangladesh is located on the Bay of Bengal at the eastern edge of the Indian Subcontinent, an area dominated by the Ganges Delta and over 700 perennially swollen rivers meaning the people are blessed with some of the most lush, fertile soil known to man and cursed to see that soil (along with most of the country) submerged with every cyclone, monsoon, light drizzle or bored teenager doing cannonballs off of a bridge. However, Bangladeshis are quick to point out that the land isn’t ALWAYS underwater, insisting there’s no record of a truly catastrophic flood ever hitting the country. Admittedly, records do only go back as far as 1998 when the hall of records was mysteriously washed away.
Adding to the problems inherent in living on what is essentially one huge flood plain, Bangladesh also has a legitimate claim to be the world’s most crowded nation, squeezing around 170 million soggy people – the eighth largest population on the planet – into an area roughly half the size of the UK. Consequently personal space is a rare commodity indeed, with the nation’s workforce accustomed to finding themselves packed cheek to cheek on trains, buses, at the office, during lunch breaks and even while enjoying a relaxing end of day soak in the tub at home. One benefactor of this writhing mass of humanity has been Bangladesh’s national animal; the endangered and ravenous Bengal Tiger for whom the sight of countless Bangladeshis wedged together represents a veritable buffet, with the option for a takeaway if they can work one loose. These striped fiends devour an average of 60 unfortunate souls per year and are also adept swimmers to the extent that they’ve even been observed killing and eating crocodiles. Honestly, these things are so badass that if the Jungle Book were in any way realistic Baloo would have served Mowgli up to Shere Khan on a platter with a delicious selection of dips and sides in hope of saving his own skin.
Finally, it’s worth noting that Bangladeshi people seldom smile as, culturally, this is considered immature. Of course there’s every chance that a lifetime of getting munched on by tigers, wondering what ‘dry’ feels like and spending the daily commute to work pressed deep into the dank armpits of people with a cavalier approach to personal hygiene would also be enough to dissuade anyone from cracking the occasional grin. But no, maturity, I’m sure that’s it. In that case there’s an awful lot of really, really mature old gits here in England.
Sports wise, Bangladesh sits very much in line with South Asia as a whole, in that folk here like their balls small, solid, red and hurled at the ankles of a man clad all in white sporting a riding cap and a mattress on each leg. Football typically doesn’t get much regard even though the national team have won both the South Asian Games and SAFF Championship and are one of the region’s strongest teams, though this isn’t really saying much, it’s a bit like being the most handsome Neville brother.
Bangladesh do have one qualification for the Asian Cup under their belt, albeit back in 1980. Even this was due in no small part to the country hosting their whole qualification campaign, not to mention the withdrawal from their group of Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Jordan meaning they only had to finish in the top two of a three team pool featuring Qatar and Afghanistan to make the cut. At the finals in Kuwait they predictably came a cropper, posting four defeats including a 6-0 reverse against China and a 7-0 drubbing by Iran. Their chances of featuring in another Asian Cup any time soon look very slim, especially as of 2014 when the AFC Challenge Cup (a competition for emerging nations, with the winner progressing to the main Asian Cup finals) was scrapped, although the expansion of the tournament to 24 teams from 2019 onward does offer a glimmer of hope for the future.
Bangladesh shirts are surprisingly easy to come by on eBay, sadly they’re mostly the horrid orange variety produced by Sapphire Sports from 2001.* By all accounts these shirts are cheap, ghastly, and more itchy and scratchy than the famous uber-violent cartoon cat and mouse duo, so I was pleasantly surprised to be able to pick up this far superior green effort from Thai company Grand Sport instead, replete with a shiny Bangladeshi flag printed below the logo. The design was worn during the 2010 South Asian Games, a tournament in which Bangladesh struck gold, beating bitter rivals India in the semi-final before thrashing Afghanistan 4-0 in the final.
*Sapphire produced kit for Bangladesh – as well as India and Pakistan – when the three conducted a short tour of England, playing friendlies against each other as well as a few club sides. These games were often played in cities with significant Asian populations under the curious assumption that more British-Asian youths could be coaxed into taking up the game after seeing their dismal compatriots thrashed by Bury. Yep, that’ll work.
Now, there is a chance that, as with any football shirt made in Thailand, that this one may not be absolutely 100% official as the country is rife with eBay fakers adding badges to template shirts themselves. However, especially in Asia, it’s probable that some national associations produce their team shirts in much the same way, sometimes without official endorsement from manufacturers so the question of authenticity is especially convoluted here. In this case it came down to a straight choice between this handsome, tidy but potential mock up and the surefire authentic yet repulsively ugly and uncomfortable Sapphire offering. Easy decision really.