Pan Pacific Sonargaon-New Age Euro 2012 Adda
Euro 2012 Adda, an interactive discussion session on the occasion of the forthcoming European Championship was held at the Pan Pacific Sonargaon hotel on Monday. Pan Pacific Sonargaon and New Age jointly organised the programme where FIFA coach’s instructor Saiful Bari Titu, former Nigerian national footballer Emeka Ezeugo, Bangladesh national footballers Zahid Hasan Ameli and Mithun Chowdhury and singer Suvro Dev participated as guests. New Age deputy editor Mir Ashfaquzzaman moderated the Adda. Here is the full transcript of the Adda:
Mir Ashfaquzzaman: Football is a game that attracts all ages and walks of people across the world. First of all let me welcome the participants of this Adda and among us we have Emeka Ezeugo, who represented Nigeria in the 1994 FIFA World Cup and currently coaching Mohammedan Sporting Club, former Bangladesh National team coach and player Saiful Bari Titu, current National football team strikers Zahid Hasan Ameli and Mithun Chowdhury and singer Suvro Dev.
Having an Adda on Euro 2012 is a difficult task in Bangladesh as it is not as much as glamorous and popular like the FIFA World Cup. There are some people who actually don’t have any interest in European football, as it is still regarded as conservative, technical and defensive style of play.
Bangladeshi people are basically divided into two camps, either Brazil or Argentina, although traditional European power house Germany appeared in the World Cup finals more than Argentina.
Let’s start with Emeka, why do you think European football is not so popular in Bangladesh?
Emeka Ezeugo: It is strange thing. Bangladesh have some special affinity with Brazil and Argentina’s football, but I do not see same in Africa. In Africa people loves Brazil and Argentina, but they know European football is ranked number one as even the best players of South America goes to Europe for playing football.
Most times or lately, when Brazil had won the World Cup football, they had to have that fusion of European style in their game in order to win.
In Nigeria, European football, both club and national level, is highly regarded like any other African countries. People can’t wait for the start of Euro 2012 and during the tournament people would be glued to the television; you would not find any people on the street.
Awareness has gone down compared to the time when I came to play football in Bangladesh. People of the country loved football, but cricket is the number one game now.
Football is the most popular sport among developing nations.
Mir Ashfaquzzaman: At this point I will turn to Saiful Bari Titu and ask his opinion on why European football is not so popular and does not have that much of an impact in Bangladesh.
Saiful Bari Titu: People of Bangladesh like exceptional and extra ordinary individual skills. Spectators eagerly want to watch individual style and tactical and technical intelligence of a player.
European football now a day had changed a lot, but in the past we knew that Europe used to play direct football - a defender provides a long pass for the fast wingers while physical clash was a regular incident. As an example I can say that Germany used to play endurance, power and disciplined football which were to some extent a ‘robotish’ type of football.
Bangladesh is a football maniac country and they do not have so much interest about that type of football.
Due to the emergence of cricket, news regarding football has been reduced.
People like us who love and follow football we are following developments of Euro 2012. I think media and football administrators can play a role to create awareness about the tournament.
Mir Ashfaquzzaman: Now we move to the young stars, Zahid Hasan Ameli what do you think, why UEFA EURO is not that much popular in Bangladesh?
Zahid Hasan Ameli: During the football world cup the sensation among our country’s people are at peak and you can see national flags of the participating teams everywhere. But it is not the case during the Euro as there could be some reasons—absence of teams like Brazil and Argentina and also the fact that there is not that much hype in the media regarding the tournament.
As I can remember, during last football World Cup, numbers of round tables were arranged by different media houses, I was invited and also joined few of them, but here I am attending the lone adda ahead of this tournament.
I think the Bangladesh Football Federation should do something to create impacts of the European tournament.
We have to develop our football and for that we must follow all type of tournaments like the World Cup, Euro, Latin American, African and Asian Cup.
Personally I like Euro tournaments. I will be able to learn something from each of the game and moreover I will enjoy football. I am eagerly waiting for some entertaining and competitive football match.
I am specially waiting to watch the matches of group B which everybody is branding as the group of death. Denmark, Germany, Netherlands and Portugal fall in that group and I am waiting to see the magic of Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema of France.
I want to add another thing that the media houses should put emphasize on Euro tournaments.
Mir Ashfaquzzaman: Now we move to Mithun with the same question.
Mithun Chowdhury: Well I actually agree with the facts Titu bhai explained earlier and other than that I want to add that now a day Bangladeshi people are more fanatic about cricket. The popularity of football is decreasing with time.
Emeka Ezeugo: let me add something more, tactically and technically European football is much better than South American football and there is lot more things to learn from their (European) game. I think people find less interest in the matches as when they take place it is almost late night in Bangladesh which makes it hard for people to follow.
If you bring any German team like FC Bayern Munich or FC Schalke 04, two top football clubs in Germany, here in Dhaka, stadium will be jam packed and even people from Chittagong, Khulna and other parts of the country will throng to the venue. So I think it is the timing of Euro tournament that had created less interest among the people.
European football, with special reference to Spain, is the best example for Bangladesh and India to copy. Physical states of the Spanish players are almost similar to Bangladeshi and Indians. They look same in height wise or physic wise. I hope that people will pay attention to what a Spanish footballer is doing.
Look at Zidane. He does not have a magnificent figure, but he is still technically the best player of football in the last 20 years.
Mir Ashfaquzzaman: Here I have a question for Emeka, what can football administrators do to make best use of the tournament to inspire others?
Emeka Ezeugo: it is really unfortunate that there are no viewing centres in Bangladesh. In Africa there are so many viewing centres to.
watch games. In most cases football federations were not behind that. In Nigeria by this time, ahead of Euro 2012, companies like Heineken, Coca Cola and others they had set up giant screens in the cities, villages.
These helps popularise the game. Although people can sit at home and watch the game on television, but many love to watch in giant screens to enjoy the game more. So, multinational companies can help a lot in popularising the game. In this regard federations can hardly play a role.
There is also a question of how much football administrators have their interest about developing football in Bangladesh. The federation guys are much more interested in politics than developing football over the years.
The syndrome that I witnessed when I was playing here in Dhaka is still there. It’s always Abahani-Mohammedan or Awami League-BNP syndrome. It is always there in everything.
Development of football is totally neglected, especially in grass-root level. From my experience I have seen children here in Bangladesh want to play football, but they are not encouraged.
We need to go back to grass-root for the development of the game. Here everybody wants finished products; look at the top clubs, what they offer for a youth team. Clubs like Abahani, Mohammedan and others should have 10 youth and age group teams.
A lot of things have changed since I had played here. If you say Mohammedan Sporting Club, it was not about Emeka only when I used to play, there were several other key players who were local.
People used to come to watch performance of Kaiser Hamid and Rumman Bin Wali Sabbir; they never came to stadium solely to watch Emeka playing. But Bangladesh football teams do not have so many of local players like those years.
There are so many former players now in football federation, what are they doing to develop the game? Anwarul Haque Helal, who brought me here to play football about 23 or 24 years ago, is still running football here. Does it mean there is lack of young and dynamic young people in Bangladesh to run football? Things have got to change, football has moved on a lot.
A lot of change is needed in order to get that change. Media has to work for changing the mentality of the Bangladesh officials. Media can do a lot more to change the scenario than the officials. Other stakeholders including coaches, former and current players, club officials are not interested in changing the scenario and development of the game rather they are interested in politics Nobody will tell this, but it is the fact.
Mir Ashfaquzzaman: Saiful Bari Titu, would you please tell us what role the Bangladesh Football Federation can play in making European football useful?
Saiful Bari Titu: The BFF can take initiative to show the games on big screens. If we want to reach at least Asia level we can learn so many things from the European countries. The last two World Cup champions came from Europe. Why European teams are doing so well, if we get into this questions we will find that young footballers of South America are now enrolling at the academies of European countries.
They are travelling to the European countries as they have excellent youth development programmes for footballers. Most individually skilled youths had been motivated to go to Europe to develop their tactical game intelligence, with or without ball. There is good coach education in Europe.
Grass-root, youth development programme, coach education and national teams are the four main pillars for development of the game.
Coach education system is really necessary and that was neglected in our country. If we look to Japan, which is playing extraordinary football despite being an Asian country and as far as I know there are 63,000 football coaches in the country.
In our country we look for players and we have to create players, but question is who will create players? Unless we have quality and educated coaches good players would not be created.
Here I want to give an example of why a coach is important to motivate a team. Italy are playing football in different formation and that is 4-3-1-2 and the moment they lost to Russia, Italy coach Cesare Prandelli admitted that there could be some problems with his formation. So he is thinking about a 3-5-2 formation, centering three Juventus defenders Andrea Barzagli, Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci.
National players who are on the verge of retirement should be persuaded to take to coaching for the sake of country’s football. Money is needed but money without people would not bring any fruitful result.
Mir Ashfaquzzaman: Here I want to introduce Suvro Dev, which is your favourite team in Euro 2012?
Suvro Dev: I hope Spain and Germany will do better in the tournament. Spain were outstanding in the last few tournaments and they are the current World Cup as well as Euro champions. All the teams are professional but among them some are really good in pressure situation and in crunch period.
Mir Ashfaquzzaman: Mithun, who is your favourite team?
Mithun Chowdhury: Spain are also my favourite team as players like Xavi Hernández, Andrés Iniesta, Pedro Rodríguez and others will appear for them. They are World Cup holders and have a very good and effective team combination. Another thing is that most Spain team members making first eleven will probably be from Barcelona, which will be a huge benefit for the team. And another choice is Germany for their team efforts.
Mir Ashfaquzzaman: Now we move to Ameli.
Zahid Hasan Ameli: Spain are all’s favourite, currently Spain play different football which is actually Barcelona’s style of play. If Spain can carry their last World Cup form it will be hard to beat them on the field.
For me the Netherlands are another favourite team, there are some superb players like Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder who can change the game with their individual skill.
Mir Ashfaquzzaman: Now we turn to Saiful Bari Titu, I want to hear which teams are tactically and technically sound in the Euro 2012?
Saiful Bari Titu: Most of the 16 teams are using 4-2-3-1 formation, here I can add that three of the four semi-finalists at the last World Cup football had played in 4-2-3-1 format. Germany and the Netherlands have similar tactics and Spain play a different ball game which widely known as ‘tiki-taka’, although it was introduced by Dutch football gurus.
Tiki-taka, also spelled ‘tiqui-taca’ in Spanish, is a style of play in association football, characterised by short passing and movement, working the ball through various channels and maintaining possession. The style is primarily associated with La Liga club FC Barcelona and later it was adopted by the Spanish national team.
I like to watch Barcelona play but it became monotonous to me during this year’s European Club Championship when Barcelona played against Chelsea. Everyone feels well when a team win games by scoring goals.
Tactically, Netherlands are also strong, although their current four defenders along with two holding midfielders drew some criticism from the Dutch football legends, who termed the tactic as ‘non-entertaining’.
One more thing, all four teams of Group B, which has already been branded ‘Group of Death’, have some problems in defence line. For Germany, the problem was that who will be playing as stopper-back – Per Mertesacker did not perform well for Arsenal and there are Holger Badstuber and Mats Hummels. During a recent match, the German played Jerome Boateng at right-back while Philipp Lahm was pushed to left-back.
Similarly Netherlands are also poor in defending, and they did some silly mistakes during the last World Cup. They failed to maintain a perfect defence line.
Portugal are trying with Alves and Pepe for defending alongside Favio Contrao and Ricardo Costa, but there is a lack of genuine goal-scorer for the team.
Overall, I think we will see more goals, I also assume that there could be some unbelievable results also. Nowadays, in football there are no minnows, everyone sees 10 men defending and quick counter-attacks. In the past we have seen many used to defend only but now almost every team have adopted quick transition and quick counter-attacking tactics.
Mir Ashfaquzzaman: Emeka, apart from the teams already discussed, there are some traditional powerhouses and favourites like France, Italy and England, what are their chances in this tournament?
Emeka Ezeugo: Everybody in the tournaments has chance to win and Greece had shown us that. I still think right now tactically best team in Europe now is Germany, they are a disciplined team, play exactly what the coach wants them to play, they had bunch of young players who had matured enough and waiting to perform. Euro would be youths’ tournament.
You can never leave out Italy from your count, because they are best in defence, they believe ‘if we keep it zero in our own side we will always score’. Yes, they did not play well in the practice matches but they will fight back. They are title contenders.
I will not be surprised if any host team reach the semi-finals as they are playing on their fields. Another thing is that the players of host teams will give their best to attract the attention of the best European clubs by playing well, which will give a boost to the teams’ performance.
Mir Ashfaquzzaman: Which team do you want to see against Spain?
Suvro Dev: Actually we want weaker opponents as there will be no competition in the final. But I want to watch good football. If Spain reach the final I want a tough opponent and an exciting game.
Mir Ashfaquzzaman: Now it is a time for prediction, who will play Euro 2012 final and who will lift trophy?
Mithun Chowdhury: Spain versus Netherlands and Spain will win.
Zahid Hasan Ameli: Spain versus Germany, Spain win.
Suvro Dev: Netherlands or Germany will play the final against Spain. But whatever we say Spain will not win the Euro 2012 trophy.
Emeka Ezeugo: Germany versus Portugal, Germany win.
Safiul Bari Titu: Spain versus Germany, Spain win.
Mir Ashfaquzzaman: Now we will move to the audience.
Audience: I have a question for Emeka, England striker Wayne Rooney will be missing the first two matches, how that will affect England?
Emeka Ezeugo: Rooney would not be missed seriously as Welback is doing good but of course if Rooney takes the field that could create some thoughts in the opponents’ minds.
Audience: How is Suvro Dev other than music, I know you are participating in celebrities T20 Cricket tournament, tell us what you are doing there?
Suvro Dev: I am just a spectator of the game, I am a football follower and I love the game, but I have not played football that much as during my schooldays I used to play cricket.
We are preparing for celebrities T20 tournament, we are hopeful and I think I will open the batting for our team.
Audience: What are the chances of teams Russia and France?
Saiful Bari Titu: Russia are actually playing attacking football by using 4-3-3 format, but I do not think the Russians have that much capability to go to all the way.
France are also playing 4-3-3 formation and have some really good players, they can make it to the final.
Audience: When Bangladesh football will reach top level?
Mithun Chowdhury: Here I want say that the national team get just one month’s time for practice prior to any tournament, and people have expectations on us, but we do not know magic. For development of the game long-term planning, camp and a strong football academy are needed.
Zahid Hasan Ameli: We also want development of football. After defeating Lebanon 2-0 we had the chance of moving into best 20 stage in Asia, but we could not grab this opportunity. After that match we had played in the SAAF football where we were knocked out in the first round as the national team were out of practice for about two and a half months. If you run camps for one or two weeks prior to any tournament you cannot expect anything from the team. I think an all-out effort from all stakeholders in football was necessary to develop the game.
Mir Ashfaquzzaman: At this point I want to thank everyone.
Transcript by Mohiuddin Alamgir, coordinated by Imran Khan & Shafiur Rahman from New Age and Sabrina Khan from Pan Pacific Sonargaon, photos by Ali Hossain Mintu.
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