Flying from Amsterdam to Bangladesh was a lot better than flying to the Solomon Island. We only had 1 layover stop in Turkey and it was only a thirteen-hour flight compared to the twenty-five-hour flight it used to be when I was the manager of Solomon Island under 20. Bangladesh under 19 had already played two friendly which were played shortly after I signed but because I had to be at the club and the football association allowed me to let the assistant manager do it. Although my assistant at Bangladesh under 19 wasn’t very good we did win. I picked the team and the tactics and the players had to actually do it so there wasn’t much my assistant was able to fuck it up. We won 2-0 against Guam under 19 and also 2-0 against Turkenmistan under 19 who we would play in our group in the Asian Under 19 Championship Qualifying. We won both games, we beat Guam with 2-0 and we beat Turkenmistan also 2-0 which was a good sign for things to come
All our games were played in the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium, the national stadium of Bangladesh which was where we always played. We played well in this tournament the previous couple of times it was held, we reached the semi-final multiple times so the hopes were high that before a home crowd we would be able to win the South Asian Football Federation U-19 Championship this season. I was hopeful although my team wasn’t much better compared to the Solomon Island under 20 team which was not really very good. Thankfully our opponents also were about the same of the same caliber we should stand a chance for sure if we played well and if we had a little bit of luck on our side.
The first game we had to play was against Nepal under 19s. The whole game we were the dominant team, we had more shots and more possessions in the game but were not able to get the ball in the goal. This was until the 84th minute when Mohammed Khan the player of Mohammedan Sporting Club Dhaka shot the ball in the goal we got us to the deserved 1-0. This was also the score when the referee blew his whistle. I was relieved we won the game, although we deserved the win it was not as easy as I expected it to be. We apparently had a problem with scoring for no apparent reason.
In the second game we had to play India, probably the strongest team in our group but not by much. I hoped we’d be able to cause an upset in this game and win it but it became very apparent very soon when the game started that this was probably not going to be the case. The game did attract a big crow, 2638 people came and see the game compared to the 909 in our previous game mainly because of the rivalry between these two countries. The roles were reversed compared to the previous game, they were dominant from the start. It did take them until the 29th minute to score when their striker Abedin Rakib put the ball in the nets. At halftime we where only 1-0 behind and we could count ourselves lucky with this. The second half we were not that lucky Bedeshwor Singh scored twice in two minutes, the 59th minute and the 60th minute. In the 72nd minute, India fouled one of our players and we were awarded a penalty which our defender Mohammed Alam scored. We lost the game 3-1.
The final match in the group, the match that decided if we would go to the semi-final was against Sri Lanka u19s who were considered to be the weakest team in the group. We should be able to win this but if Nepal causes an upset and beat India we might not go through the next round based on goal difference. The match ended up being a crazy match, after 7 minutes we scored the 1-0 by a goal by Mohammed Rahman and eleven minutes later Sri Lanka makes the equalizer. In the next fifteen minutes, we made five goals in the 29th, 35th, 36th, 39th and 34th minute. We were 6-1 ahead and you would think that would basically the end of the match but it was not. Shortly after the start of the second half we even made the 7-1 but after that we got complacent and Sri Lanka fought back hard and came back to 7-4 in the 83rd minute but sadly for them it was too little too late and we won this crazy match 4-7.
India under 19 did it’s job and Nepal under 19 which meant that we were in the next round, the semi-final of the tournament. We had to play Pakistan Under 19s who won their group while India Under 19s had to play Maldives Under 19s who came second in group B which also contained Afghanistan under 19s and Bhutan under 19s.
So we played Pakistan in the Semi-final, so far we kinda passed through the eye of a needle, we were not very convincing as we showed the previous game where we went from 6-1 to 7-4 in the second half. We really had to do better if we wanted to reach the final and wanted a chance to win the tournament. In the first half of the game, both teams were pretty much equals, both sides got chances but neither side got the ball in the goal of the other side. A few minutes in the second half we finally made the goal, Mohammed Rahman scored the 1-0. We started to play better and became more dominant in the game. Near the end of the game, this really because obvious when we scored two goals in three minutes. Mohammed Khan scored the 0-2 for us and three minutes later Mohammed Rahman scored his second and our third in the game and we were 0-3 ahead. This was the final score and we were through to the final.
Before the final, the match for this third place was played between India and Pakistan which is somewhat awkward seeing the Bilateral relations between those two countries which are both have nuclear capability and who are often at odds with each other. India did against Pakistan by 1-0 and where 3rd in the South Asian Football Federation U-19 Championship.
In the final, we had to play the Maldives who surprisingly beat India in the semi-final thanks to two goals scored by Ahmed Rilwan in the first twenty-two minutes of that game. I stuck for the same eleven this game, they had gotten me so far and they deserved to play the final and hopefully win us the cup. We started very well, Mohammed Rahman scored twice in the first ten minutes and at halftime, we were 2-0 ahead. Many teams would thing smooth sailing ahead but I had seen this happening before and sadly the same thing that happened in our game against Sri Lanka happened before we squandered a lead. We went from 2-0 to 3-1 in the first five minutes and later to 4-2 with goals scored by Ahmed Rilwan for the Maldives and Shiblu Khan scoring 4-2 to keep the goal difference to two. The last thirteen minutes were disastrous, in the 77th minute Ahmed Rilwan scored the 4-3 and in 81th minute Fathullah Nihan scored the 4-4. Again in the last part of the game, we let our guard down and fell victim to our own complacency. In extra time they were the stronger team but lucky for us our goalkeeper did a good job so the game went to penalties.
The penalty where excruciating, our right winger Mohammed Rahman went up first and right away missed, By the third penalty it was 2-2, the Maldives had not missed but with the third penalty we were lucky, Mohammed Khan shot against the keeper and it deflected into the goal. The Maldives missed their 4th penalty when Haleel shot the ball through the middle right at the keeper. The fifth penalty S. Khan shot in the right corner and the keeper had it hands to win but it was still just over the line. The sixth round of penalty Shiyam went up and like before shoots right through the middle and the keeper stops the ball. We win the South Asian Football Federation U-19 Championship!!!!!
The team, me but more important the football association is happy with the results and us winning the South Asian Football Federation U-19 Championship so I can stay. I have three weeks off from international football before we two friendlies as preparation for the Asian Under 19 Championship Qualifying. We’re in a group with Australia, Turkmenistan, Qatar and (again) India. I do not see how we could qualify for the main tournament and if we do we’d be an easy target for the other teams in our group. For the meanwhile I can go back putting my time and effort back into my main job, being manager of HVV.