Just a few days ago, the second edition of the North South University Premier League concluded with the Social Services Club defeating Young Economists’ Forum 1-0 in the Final. Organized by North South University Games and Sports Club, the tournament spanned over a week and was highly anticipated by the NSUers.
University Football and the Underground Football Scene in Bangladesh create a unique blend for the daily non-professional footballers. And to speak just about that, we caught up with the Player of the Tournament, Sameen Ahsan from teamXIII (football club of Young Economists’ Forum).
Tell us a bit about your life as an underground footballer in Dhaka. How long have you been active in the scene?
My introduction to UG Football was through a 11-a side tournament in 2007 that took place at the Army COD field, where unfortunately we got thrashed pretty badly! Ever since then I have participated in a lot of underground tournaments, mostly for teams from Scholastica. I played for Seven Nation Army Juniors in a few tournaments in 2009 and even had the privilege to play for the 7NA senior team twice. After joining North South University, I started playing for Enforcers F.C and I still regularly participate in underground tournaments for them.
We know you played in the last NSUPL too. In what aspects did the tournament differ this time?
I represented NSU Young Economists’ Forum in the last NSUPL and overall the tournament was taken a step forward. For me personally, the major difference was in the quality of the field: last year we played in the Chairmanbari Field, Banani whereas this year we played in the Armed Police Battalion (APBn) field in Uttara which in all honesty is a significantly better ground. The clubs were also better prepared this year as they had adequate time to practice before the tournament which resulted in a better standard of football being played.
How is the football scene in general in NSU?
It’s great! To be honest I was surprised by the amount of football related activity in NSU when I first joined the university. This is the second year that NSU Premier League took place. There are also inter-batch tournaments every year where all of the matches tend to be really competitive and intense. We even have a 4-on-4 street tournament almost every semester inside our university campus which is dubbed the “Gallery Cup”.
Do you play quite often with the NSU clubs?
Well, we don’t play against other clubs that often. Usually it’s mostly friendly matches against them as preparation for the Premier League.
What about the inter-university tournaments? Have you represented NSU in any of those competitions?
I had the honor of representing North South University in an inter-private university tournament in 2011. The build-up to that tournament was simply amazing. We had daily 4-hour practice sessions for almost 2 months and there were 3-4 players vying for each spot in the team. One of the proudest moments of my life was when my name was announced in the player list and I received my jersey from the coach’s hand. The quality of football in that tournament was very high as all the best football-playing private universities of Bangladesh participated in that tournament. Unfortunately, the tournament had to be cancelled just after the group stage matches were completed due to some internal issues among the organizers.
Tell us a bit about YEF’s team in the tournament “teamXIII”. Do you think the final result of the tournament was a fair reflection of your team’s capabilities?
teamXIII was built focusing mainly on defense. Jawad and Sabab played alongside me and we had Abrar Faiyaz as our goalkeeper. We conceded only 1 goal in the whole tournament which is the least number of goals conceded by any team there. We had the midfield maestro, Saif Hossain to play with our defensive anchor, Tahzib. Even though we didn’t have an out-and-out striker, our wingers Omi, Irtifa, Nahian, Sakib and Shafayat more than made up for it. We were not considered one of the favorites but practicing diligently before the tournament imbued us with a belief that we can make it all the way to the final. My only regret is that we had a couple of injuries to our starting players Omi and Nahian coming in to the final match or else we could have given an even better fight. Other than that, I am really proud of what the team has accomplished over the duration of the tournament.
Who were the toughest opposition in the tournament?
Amongst the teams that we played our opponents in the final, NSU Social Service Club, were the toughest. The whole team was pretty balanced but the attacking trio of Siam, Shawgat and Meem played exceptionally well. The semifinal against NSUYES was also very close as it went down to penalties. In general the teams of Debate Club, Shangskritik Shangathan, Photography Club and Sports Club were also quite strong, but we didn’t have to face them in the tournament.
Be honest now, how much did it mean to win the player of the tournament?
It means a lot actually! I have never won any individual award for playing football so this being my first one is pretty special. I am really grateful to the organizers and the referees who recognized my contribution even though I was a defender and was on the losing team in the final.
Any fond memories to take away from the tournament?
The tournament had quite a lot of fond memories for me – Saif bhai’s goal in the quarters against NSU Alumni, our keeper Abrar saving the last penalty in the semifinal to take us through to the finals and the celebrations afterwards. The practice sessions and the hangouts afterwards were memorable too.
A few tips for the footballers coming through in NSU to play the NSUPL next year?
Work hard, listen to what the more experienced players have to say and remember to have fun while playing this beautiful game!
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