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Bangladesh football, the glorious days of Brothers Union

Brothers Union, Abahani KC, Dacca league, Federation Cup, Aga Khan Gold Cup, Bangkok Club, Dhaka football

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Bangladesh football, the glorious days of Brothers Union

Thirty years have passed since then; and Brothers Union has gone through ups and downs over the years. Relegation in 2021 is certainly a big setback; but I fully expect them to bounce back soon. Writes Rafiqul Ameer

Just a few days ago, Brothers Union, once a powerhouse of Dhaka football, got relegated from the Bangladesh Premier League Football. After 21 games, they had collected only 6 points. It’s a cruel blow to a team that had played a big role in building the football structure of the newly independent Bangladesh in the 1970s.

Brothers Union of Gopibag, started its journey in 1949 mainly as a cultural organization. But, in 1973, they formed their football club under the guidance of coach Gafur Baluch. After successive promotions they played in the first division of the Dacca league in 1975. And, they made an impressive debut upsetting the reigning champions Abahani KC on the opening day of the new season. After a successful season, the oranges emerged as a new power in local football.

During the 70s, Selim, a central defender, was the captain of the side. He also represented the national football team with distinction. Other notable players included left back Noman Nannu, midfielder Abdus Salam and forward Fazlu. But the biggest star was Mohsin, a versatile player who could play as a forward as well as an attacking midfielder.

After successfully captaining the Bangladesh U-19 squad in 1978, he was soon promoted to the main national team captaincy duty. He had a memorable season in 1980 when the topped the league’s goal scorer’s list. A glorious future seemed to lie ahead of him; but, sadly this was his last season in football. A tragic accident at Khulna, during a friendly match in the off-season, meant that Mohsin’s football career ended prematurely.

Back to 1980, Brothers enjoyed their first major trophy success   as they shared the Federation Cup title with MSC. The final ended 0-0. This was the first edition of the competition. Later in the season, they defeated the black and whites 3-2 in an exciting league encounter, thanks mainly to their talisman goal-scorer, Mohsin. This was MSC’s only defeat of the year.

An even greater glory awaited the Brothers’ fans, as the team became join champions of the prestigious Aga Khan Gold Cup football in late 1981. At the start of the event, the hopes were fairly limited. They were in a tough group that included Bangkok Bank Club, and the reigning Dacca League champions Abahani. But, Brothers managed to finish runners up behind the Bangkok Club. Rahamatganj’s surprise victory over Abahani helped them greatly.

Their opponent in the SF was Oman. The Middle East team was the favorite in the event. And they took an early lead against the local team. But the tendency of the Oman players to play an overly physical game backfired as two of their players were red carded. Brothers took advantage to win 3-1. The other SF saw a similar score-line; Bangkok Bank winning against the local giants MSC.

So, for the 2nd time in this event, Brothers met the Bangkok club; and just like the group match this tie ended in a draw. This time the score was 1-1. So, Brothers became the joint champions and their skipper Salam proudly lifted the prestigious trophy alongside his Thai counterpart. Brothers Union is the only local club to win the Agha Khan Gold cup tournament after our independence.

The first half of the 1980s saw some new faces impress playing in the orange jersey. Goalkeeper Atiq was highly reliable, while Manik, Moni and Ajmat were impressive as defenders. Mosaddek and Bablu were relentless workers in the midfield, and Liton was a prolific goal scorer. And then there was Wasim Iqbal, one of the greatest footballers to wear the orange jersey of Brothers.

He started his career as an out an out right winger in the 4-2-4 system and in his debut season of 1979, he scored the winner against MSC in a 1-0 win. In 1980, he played for the U-19 team and soon became a regular with the national team. He enjoyed a decade long stint with the Bangladesh team. Under the guidance of Gafur Baluch at Brothers, he added new dimensions to his play and eventually became a superb play maker for his sides. Not surprisingly, both Abahani and MSC were continuously after him. But he remained loyal to his debut team and only joined the sky blues in 1988.

Although Brothers had to wait till 2004 for their first ever League success, they came desperately close in 1985. It was a memorable season for Dhaka football. First, the authorities, in a bold move, introduced the 3 point per win system. At that time only the English League used this system. Then there was drama within the Abahani camp. Ali Imam had coached them to successive league titles in the previous two years; but the sky blues appointed Kazi Salahuddin as their new coach. Ali Imam left to take charge of Brothers Union.

And they played brilliant football in the first part of the league. They remained unbeaten and were 2 points ahead of MSC; Abahani further 3 point adrift looked to be out of it. But, then both Brothers and MSC started to drop points in the Super league. Still, Brothers went into their final match against the reigning champions knowing that a victory would be enough for them. At one stage, they led 2-0, but then a brilliant fight-back by the Dhanmondi team saw Abahani win by 3-2 on their way to the hat-trick of league success. It was so close, yet so far, for the young boys from Gopibag.

Brothers signed defender Munna form Muktijodha Sangsad in 1986. And after a successful season with the oranges, he was snapped up by Abahnai, where he became a legend.

The 1990s started well for Brothers as they recorded their first solo success. In 1991, they won the Federation cup defeating MSC in tiebreakers in the final.

Thirty years have passed since then; and Brothers Union has gone through ups and downs over the years. Relegation in 2021I is certainly a big setback; but I fully expect them to bounce back soon. Certainly, the football fans of the country want this traditional power of Dhaka football to regain its past glory.

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