Jamal Bhuyan after scoring during a match with Sol de Mayo, on September 18.Sol de Mayo
Just as Argentina and England make up an atypical case of an extra-continental football classic, Argentina also has a long-distance love relationship with Bangladesh. It is a strange idyll that was born in the mid-80s, when Asians embraced Diego Maradona’s goals against the British in the World Cup in Mexico as a poetic revenge of the third world against its former colonizers – at a time when Television was beginning to become popular in Dhaka, and it became more popular during Qatar 2022, when millions of Bangladeshis celebrated the new Albiceleste Cup and the canonization of Lionel Messi in their country. The unexpected bond 17,000 kilometers away, with sport as the only common language, has just added a new chapter with the recent arrival of the captain of the Bangladesh soccer team, Jamal Bhuyan, to a remote club in Patagonia.
Bhuyan debuted at the end of August in Sol de Mayo, a team from the city of Viedma, the capital of the province of Río Negro, 950 kilometers south of Buenos Aires, which participates in the Federal A tournament, the third category of Argentine soccer. . Since then, he has played three games, two of them as a starter, and scored two goals, both from penalties. In between, he returned to his country to participate in two friendlies between Bangladesh and Afghanistan valid for the FIFA date, and returned to Argentina, where this weekend he will play his fourth match for Sol de Mayo. Football specializes in migrant stories, but none like that of Bhuyan, a bridge between the world champion country and the team that occupies position 189 out of 207 in the FIFA ranking.
A mythical and inhospitable region, known as the end of the world, Patagonia also tends to remain isolated from the football map. Except for occasional participation in past decades -almost always with goals scored against-, no team from the south of Argentina managed to infiltrate among the main actors in the national championships, especially concentrated in Buenos Aires but at the same time extended to the provinces of the north, the center and the west of the country. Nor do many soccer players who come from Patagonia usually succeed in big soccer.
But if Sol de Mayo is a club unknown to the general public in Argentina, in Bangladesh it became the center of the scene. “He is the captain of our team, every game he plays in Argentina generates a lot of expectations there, and even two television channels in Dhaka are in talks to broadcast the Sol de Mayo games,” says Rahman Mizanur, one of the 300 Bangladeshi migrants. installed in Buenos Aires. “The first days in Argentina were complicated for Jamal. It went from 40 degrees in Bangladesh to only 3 degrees in Viedma, very hard,” adds Rahman, in constant contact with the biggest soccer star in his country, who also had to adapt to a region of the world with a diet that was too carnivorous for his culture. –and, perhaps worse, with little spice, almost no flavor for your palate-.
A 32-year-old central midfielder, with 70 caps for his country and a professional career spent so far in Bangladesh, Bhuyan not only changed the heat and humidity of Dhaka for the cold and wind of Patagonia. He also must adapt to a different, more developed game. “He understood very quickly what Argentine football is. I watched his national team’s matches and there he has more space and time. Here we teach him to play faster and he is learning. Still, I place him a little further forward so that he does not have so much brand responsibility, but his presence goes beyond football, it is something cultural,” understands Juan Nicanor Alfonsín, Sol de Mayo coach.
Argentina fans in Dhaka celebrate a goal by the Albiceleste against Saudi Arabia in the World Cup in Qatar, on November 22, 2022. MOHAMMAD PONIR HOSSAIN (REUTERS)
Of course, sports is also mixed with economics and diplomacy – or is its excuse. The origin of the arrival of a Bangladeshi footballer in Patagonia dates back to the fact that, in the midst of the sudden closeness between the two countries after the 2022 World Cup, Argentina reopened its embassy in Dhaka last February after 45 years without a consular presence. Among the commercial exchange, football was filtered: one of the members of the official delegation was the Argentine businessman Juan Pablo Beacon, owner of Malte SRL, a player representation company that has contact with several Argentine Ascenso clubs, including Sol de May.
The vast majority of teams in Argentina are managed by the clubs themselves, but some of the Ascenso, such as Sol de Mayo, hide private management. Based on its link with Malte, the Patagonian club included many rarities in recent months, such as the incorporation of two Russian footballers -Aleksandr Luzin and Kuzmic Zeljko- and one Serbian -Lazar Jerovic-, all of them at mid-level, who left the club a few months later. Bhuyan’s bond will initially extend until the end of this tournament and it is not yet known if it will be extended in 2024: Sol de Mayo, which occupies the middle of the Federal A table, has five games left to try to reach the playoff zone to get a promotion to the second category.
The Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Argentina and Bangladesh, Santiago Cafiero and AK Abdul Momen, in Dhaka, on February 27.MONIRUL ALAM (EFE)
For Bhuyan’s debut, the company associated with Sol de Mayo that hired the distant star made a bus available for the Bangladeshi colony residing in Buenos Aires to travel to Viedma. After a 14-hour one-way trip, the flags of Bangladesh took over the small Patagonian stadium, where more than 800 spectators do not usually gather, but this time – and in every match played by the captain of his team – they caught the attention of the eighth most populated country in the world, with 170 million inhabitants.
In the mid-80s, President Raúl Alfonsín tried – without success – to move the Argentine capital from Buenos Aires to Viedma to decentralize the largest city in the country and populate Patagonia, the region with the lowest density of inhabitants in the national territory. Currently, with 60,000 inhabitants, Viedma – located on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean – has become the unusual capital of Bangladeshi football.
Subscribe here to the EL PAÍS América newsletter and receive all the key information on current events in the region
#Patagonian #adventure #captain #Bangladesh #football #team