Sheikh Kamal: The architect of modern sports in Bangladesh

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Published on August 7, 2020
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Syed Samiul Basher Anik:

August 5 is the birthday of Sheikh Kamal, the eldest son of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Kamal – who was assassinated with the rest of his family on the fateful night of August 15, 1975, at the age of 26 – would have celebrated his 71st birthday on Wednesday.

On this day, Bangladesh recalls the memories and unparalleled contributions of Kamal behind the introduction of modern sports in Bangladesh.

Born on August 5, 1949, at Tungipara in Gopalganj, Sheikh Kamal is considered as the pioneer of modern sports in the country as he, during his lifetime, contributed to a number of sports such as, football, cricket, basketball, athletics, among others.

Apart from professionally playing first division cricket and basketball, Sheikh Kamal was always a step ahead than his peers due to his passion and ambition for the country’s sports arena.

He always thought of how he could develop Bangladesh’s sports scene and was always acknowledged as a shrewd and talented sports organizer and with that thought, he in 1972, introduced Abahani Krira Chakra, now known as Abahani Limited, which soon became one of the country’s top-tier sports institutions.

Remembering those days, the founding general secretary of Abahani Krira Chakra, Harunur Rashid, who shared a very close bond with Kamal, said: “Kamal was a multidimensional individual. He was involved with all the sports. He wanted to do everything just like in the developed countries.

"Kamal used to tell me that he would bring foreign coaches, foreign equipment for our players. 'I will bring everything that is necessary. I will bring bat and ball and teach them,'” Rashid quoted Kamal.

“As per his promise, Kamal made Bill Hart Abahani’s football team coach in 1974 and shocked everyone. He wanted Bangladesh’s sports scene to reach Asian standard in 10 years,” Rashid added.

"Kamal has given a lot to the country’s sports arena. We have come this far with whatever Kamal had provided us with,” he said.

Kamal completed his matriculation from Dhaka’s Shaheen School in 1967 and completed his higher secondary studies from Dhaka College in 1969.

Kamal used to play first division cricket and basketball for Azad Boys Club and Spurs Club respectively.

He was one of the best rising fast bowlers in undivided Pakistan but got little or no recognition because of being Bangabandhu’s son.

Meanwhile, when it came to politics, Kamal was the general secretary of the Dhaka College Chhatra League back then.

Kamal, apart from being a keen sportsperson in his short but impactful life, was also involved in diverse cultural activities and was actively involved in Bangladesh’s War of Independence.

He was the founder-member of Dhaka Theatre and founder of Spondon Shilpa Gosthi, a band that performed folk songs and he even practised the sitar at Chhayanaut.

In 1971, Kamal became an organizer of the Mukti Bahini guerrilla struggle. He was trained on war-course and received wartime commission in the army during the Liberation War.

He was also the aide-de-camp (ADC) to General Muhammad Ataul Gani Osmani, commander-in-chief of Bangladesh Armed Forces, during the Liberation War.

The conspirators might have successfully ended Sheikh Kamal’s life but his legacy, contribution, and sacrifices for the country and the country’s sports arena live on and can never be erased.

In order to comprehend his love for sports, one has to listen to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

“Before going to Germany on July 31, 1975, I asked Sheikh Kamal, ‘what do you need?’ In reply, he requested that I bring Adidas boots for his players at Abahani,” said an emotion-charged Hasina, on Sheikh Kamal’s 66th birthday in 2015.

Who would have thought Sheikh Kamal would never get to see the football boots?

Courtesy: Dhaka Tribune