Apart from being a popular form of entertainment, sports have always been integral to Bangladesh’s culture and heritage. The country is home to several sports, from traditional ones like kabaddi, lathi khela, and kho kho to mainstream ones like cricket and football. Thanks to the nation’s ardor for athletic pursuits, the sports betting population in Bangladesh has soared in recent years, with tons of people visiting online sportsbooks like Parimatch to wager on their favorite teams and players.
Since its independence on March 26, 1971, after a long struggle with Pakistan, Bangladesh has recorded its fair share of achievements in the world of sports amidst several challenges. From its golden years of football to become a force to reckon with in cricket, this article explores the country’s athletic achievements after over 50 years of independence. Let’s dive right in!
Kabaddi is a traditional South Asian sport that became Bangladesh’s national sport in 1972, a year after its independence. Besides being one of the country’s most popular sports, it is also deeply rooted in its cultural heritage.
Established in 1973, the Bangladesh Kabaddi Federation (BKF) is the governing body for kabaddi and is charged with promoting and developing the sport in the country. The body is responsible for implementing initiatives to identify and nurture talent, organizing national championships, and supporting the national team’s training and participation in international events.
Since kabaddi is inherently a South Asian sport, the country doesn’t face major international competition. Even with this, Bangladesh’s successes in kabaddi are limited as the national team hasn’t won a gold medal in any major tournament, including the Asian Games, South Asian Games, and Kabaddi World Cup. Bangladesh’s most significant achievements include coming third in the 2004 and 2007 World Cup. The country has also won silver on multiple occasions in the Asian Games.
Football is the second-most popular sport in Bangladesh, after cricket. However, this has not always been the case, as football once dominated the entire sport’s sphere in the country — a period now referred to as the golden years. The origin of football in Bangladesh dates back to the pre-independence period. In fact, the sport was used to create awareness for the cause.
The 1980s and 1990s were golden moments for Bangladesh football. These years featured the rise of the Dhaka League, which garnered massive attention and viewership nationwide. The league also features top-quality teams like Mohammedan Sporting Club and Abahani Limited Dhaka, giving their die-hard fans quality football performances and top-notch entertainment. These teams also participated in major continental tournaments like Asian Club Championship.
Bangladesh’s most notable achievement in football was winning the 2003 South Asian Football Federation Gold Cup. Before this, the national team had won the 4-nation Tiger Trophy held in Myanmar in 1995 and the President’s Gold Cup in 1989. Additionally, the country has won the gold medal twice in the South Asian Games.
While Bangladesh men’s football has taken the back seat, the women’s team has achieved a number of successes in recent years. This includes winning a silver medal in the 2016 SAFF Women’s Championship. They also won bronze in the 2010 and 2016 South Asian Games.
Although kabaddi is Bangladesh’s national sport, no sport comes to cricket in terms of popularity in the country. After winning the 1997 ICC Trophy, its first major international success, cricket overshadowed football as the most popular sport in Bangladesh and has remained so since. This success qualified the national team for the ICC World Cup in 1999 and played a significant role in the country attaining Test status in 2000. From then till date, Bangladesh has made several other strides in the sport, becoming a force to reckon with among other major cricketing nations.
Below are some of the major successes of men’s cricket in Bangladesh:
- Reaching the quarter-finals of the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2015
- Making it to the semifinals of the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy
- Runner-up in the 2012, 2016, and 2018 Asia Cup
- Winning the 2020 Under-19 ICC World Cup
Additionally, Shakib Al Hasan, Bangladesh’s cricket legend, has been named the world’s best all-rounder on multiple occasions.
Combat sports are an integral part of Bangladesh’s culture. While the country’s indigenous combat sports like lathi khela, boli khela, and button have waned in popularity, mainstream sports like boxing, karate, MMA, etc., are gradually thriving in recent years. This is evident in the successes of Bangladesh athletes on the international scene and an increasing number of gyms and training facilities throughout the country.
Most of Bangladesh’s achievements in combat sports are from karate, with seven gold medals from the South Asian games. The country’s taekwondo team has also won two gold medals from Open International Taekwondo Championships hosted in Seoul in 2009, alongside a few from the Asian Games.
While it is not a mainstream sport, chess has recorded significant growth in popularity and recognition in Bangladesh, establishing itself as a major mind sport within the country. Over the years, the nation has recorded some achievements in the sport on the international level. This includes producing grandmasters like Niaz Murshed, Enamul Hossain, Reefat Bin-Sattar, Ziaur Rahman, and Abdullah Al Rakib.
Bangladesh has also produced female Grandmasters such as Rani Hamid and Shamima Akter Liza, who have thrice won the British Women’s Chess Championship.
Since independence, the rise of sports in Bangladesh has been remarkable. Although there is plenty of room for improvement, the nation has made some notable strides in various athletic disciplines. From cricket kabaddi and football to combat sports and chess, Bangladeshi athletes have showcased their talent, determination, and competitive spirit on the global stage.
With continued support and investment, Bangladesh is poised to make even more outstanding athletic achievements, solidifying its position as a rising force in the world of sports.