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Hosts drawn with Philippines, Laos
Hosts Bangladesh were drawn in Group B along with Philippines and Laos for the fifth edition of the Bangabandhu Gold Cup football tournament, scheduled to start on October 1.
Group A was comprised of holders Nepal, Palestine and Tajikistan.
The 12-day long tournament will start just half-a-month after the completion of the seven-nation SAFF Championship.
In the last edition of the tournament, held in 2016, Nepal Under-23 team beat Bahrain Under-23 boys in the final to lift the cup.
Palestine (99) will be the top ranked side for this year’s competition followed by the Philippines who are in 115th place in current FIFA rankings.
Both Palestine and Philippines have qualified for next year’s 24-team Asia Cup.
Bangladesh (194) are the lowest ranked side in the tournament behind Tajikistan (120), Nepal (161) and Laos (178).
The tournament will be held in two cities — Dhaka and Sylhet — with six matches of group stage being held at the Sylhet District Stadium while the rest of the games will be held at the Bangabandhu National Stadium.
However, the organisers are mulling to include a third venue — either Rangpur or Nilphamri — to host both semi-final matches.
It was still unknown whether the participating teams would send their first team for the competition.
But the names of this year’s participating team’s seemed comparatively stronger than the team’s from the past two editions where Malaysia, Bahrain, Singapore, Thailand, Maldives, Nepal sent their Under-23 team’s while Cambodia, Sri Lanka only sent national squads.
‘We have already requested them [six teams] to send their senior teams and also trying to bring their stronger squads in the tournament,’ said Bangladesh Football Federation president Kazi Salahuddin after the draw.
‘All participating teams are stronger this time because we have brought each team from each of five zones of Asian Football Confederation.
‘There is nothing to be ashamed [to lose against stronger opponents] because Bangabandhu Gold Cup is a learning stage for Bangladesh,’ said the former national footballer.
K-Sports, who bought the rights of the Bangabandhu Gold Cup, were expected
to spend Tk 10 crore to make the tournament a success.
They also flew in Sheena Chohan, an Indian actress and TV sports programme anchor, to conduct the drawing ceremony.
State minister for youth and sports, Biren Shikdar, deputy state minister for youth and sports Arif Khan Joy, Palestine ambassador to Bangladesh Yousef SY Ramadan, deputy chief of mission in Bangladesh Dhan Bahadur and other BFF high-ups and K-Sports CEO Fahad Karim were also among present on the occasion.