A step away from SAFF dominance
Sabina Khatun, who played in a more profound role against India, scored a superb hat trick from her customary position as a striker to lead Bangladesh to an impressive 8-0 triumph against Bhutan in yesterday’s semifinal of the SAFF Women’s Championship in Kathmandu.
Bangladesh will now face Nepal in the final on September 19, having defeated perennial winners India 1-0 in the other semifinal. India had won the championship in all five previous editions.
Sabina, who has participated in all five editions of the regional football spectacular, is the current edition’s leading scorer, with eight goals from four matches. She has twice as many goals as the next-highest scorers – her colleague Sirat Jahan Swapna, India’s Anju Tamang, and Pakistan’s Nadia Khan, who each have four – and is in contention for her maiden tournament golden boot.
The 28-year-old scored 23 goals in the SAFF Women’s Championship after leading Bangladesh to a second final. She may also recover the tournament’s most valuable player title, which she won in 2014 despite Bangladesh falling in the quarterfinals against four-time runner-up Nepal.
Bhutan had been a strong opponent in their previous two matches, but they were completely powerless this time. Their high line was often exposed by some wonderful combination play between Sabina, Swapna, Krishna, and midfielders Maria Manda and Monika Chakma.
In addition to Sabina, Sirat Jahan Swapna, Krishna Rani Sarkar, Ritu Porna Chakma, Masura Parvin, and Tahura Akter scored in the one-sided match.
Sabina was overjoyed after scoring her second hat trick of the tournament, her first coming against Pakistan in the second game after a brace against the Maldives in the first.
“I am overjoyed because we achieved our goal of reaching the final. So we are content “Sabina stated during the post-match press conference.
“Of course, being the tournament’s top scorer has been a milestone for me since I’ve been giving it my all. The last match is still to come. We approach various teams in different ways. The game versus India was challenging, but we attempted to stick to our game plan. That is why I did not receive goals. But I’m feeling great right now.”
The Satkhira native also praised coach Golam Rabbani Choton for the women’s team’s remarkable results.
“It’s also a tribute to our father, who has been involved with women’s football from its inception. He is now earning dividends. We also dedicated our victory against India to him since we are grateful to have such a teacher and protector “Sabina said.
Choton, although giving his players the lion’s share of the credit, also mentioned the Bangladesh Football Federation’s assistance in producing the batch of footballers.
“In October of 2016, BFF president Kazi Salahuddin thought that the girls needed long-term preparation because they were set to compete in the AFC U-16 Championship in Thailand in September of 2017. With that in mind, long-term training began. And it has continued with these females who have been together for many years. That persistence is paying off,” Choton said.
“It is also a tribute to our father, who has been involved with women’s football from its inception. He is now receiving dividends. We also dedicated our victory against India to him since we are grateful to have such a teacher and protector “Sabina explained.
Krishna, Swapna, Maria Manda, Marzia, Sanjida, Masura, Sheuli Azim, and Shamsunnahar, as well as the four senior players — Sabina Khatun, goalkeeper Sabina Akter, Suinu Pru Marma, and Aungmraching Marma — confirmed a maiden SAFF Women’s Championship final in 2016, but they were defeated 3-1 by India.
Those experiences, however, have only strengthened them, and they are now confident enough to compete with the subcontinent’s powerhouses like India and Nepal.