Sunday, May 19, 2013

Chittagong old boys lead the way

Globetrotting veterans not quite ready to hang up the golden boots

Emdad Rahman: Shafiul Azam has just spent the morning visiting Madame Tussauds and is enjoying lunch when I interrupt a short visit to the Whitechapel Gallery to join him and a few of his club mates.

Azam, who hails Lionel Messi as his favourite player is the captain of the Chittagong veterans football team – part of the Chittagong Club Limited, established in 1878 by W. A. Campbell, a celebrated tea planter.

With the growth of tea industries during the late 1800's the shipping trade increased, as a result of which more and more Englishmen and Europeans were posted in the district.

Chittagong Club Ltd membership increased and on 23rd August 1878, Campbell’s provisional club was launched by D. R Lyall, Commissioner of Chittagong. The first honorary secretary was R. D. Murray.

The club is steeped in history and has witnessed the partition of Bengal in 1947 and the emergence and independence of a new born Bangladesh in 1971.

Azam’s team mate Rehan said: “The activities of the Chittagong club became noted and very popular, especially when work on the railways began in 1890.

“Today there are thousands of members and our club promotes diverse sports such as cricket, badminton, tennis, squash, badminton and snooker.”

Former Bangladesh captain and Chief Selector Akram Khan, along with Minhajul Abedin, also an ex national captain and select committee member are both products of the club.

The Chittagong FC veterans are currently touring London after accepting an invitation from the Canary Wharf Group and London FC to visit and play local teams like the London Tigers and FC London.

Azam has played for both Abahoni and Mohammedan - Bangladesh's football giants. He is hopeful that emerging and promising talent from England will take an interest in representing Bangladesh at international level: "Not everybody can represent England as the standard is very high. However there is an option to represent Bangladesh. If a young professional enjoys the game and dedicates himself to it then a Bangladeshi can play in Europe's top leagues a well as on an international level.”

Fellow veteran Rehan, a Brazil and Messi fan added: "We are having great fun. London is such a hospitable city and we have made friends for life. We would like to thank London FC and Zakir Khan and the Canary Wharf Group for such outstanding hospitality.”

Chittagong FC veterans are a close knit bunch. All players are aged 45 and over and it's inspiring to see that the players are having fun, travelling, making friends whilst playing the beautiful game. There is a good bond and the squad are a good inspiration for others. The squad finished touring Thailand and after departing London will be competing in the local and domestic veteran league.

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