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As 16-year-old Jamal Bhuyan woke from a coma, in his thoughts, it was nonetheless Friday, November 17, 2006. He had a sport on Saturday for FC Copenhagen’s youth crew and wanted to inform the coach that he wouldn’t be out there.

Somewhat than passing him the telephone, the nurse handed him a newspaper. It was now Sunday, and splashed throughout the pages of the paper was none aside from Bhuyan himself.

“She mentioned, ‘You bought shot two days in the past. Don’t fear, all people is aware of that you just’re right here,’” he recalled.

Bhuyan was shot 4 occasions, one bullet narrowly lacking his coronary heart, after he was caught within the crossfire of gang-related gunfire within the suburbs of the Danish capital. He was fortunate to nonetheless be alive.

Then a promising footballer within the youth facet of considered one of Denmark’s largest golf equipment and on the verge of breaking into the senior crew, that fateful Friday afternoon stopped his fledgling profession in its tracks.

He spent 4 lonely months in hospital throughout an arduous restoration course of.

“The medical doctors instructed me: ‘You’re not going to play soccer ever once more,’” the now 33-year-old instructed Al Jazeera in a web-based interview.

Regardless of present process 12 surgical procedures and nonetheless affected by the results of the capturing – he has restricted feeling and motion in his proper hand – being a footballer was his dream and he refused to stroll away.

Referred to as a troublesome defensive midfielder, earlier than transferring right into a extra attacking position extra just lately, Bhuyan has gone on to grow to be Bangladesh’s file appearance-maker, with greater than 75 caps since his worldwide debut in 2013, and have become captain in 2018.

Jamie Day, his former nationwide crew coach, instructed Al Jazeera that Bhuyan’s achievements are outstanding, particularly given his experiences and background.

“I believe that exhibits the character and the kind of particular person that he’s, he’s a fighter,” Day mentioned.

“He’s proven in life that it’s a must to battle. However for those who do this and also you’re absolutely targeted, and there’s dedication and drive that you would be able to obtain something you need.”

A brand new path

Bhuyan grew up in Brondby Nord, a tough neighbourhood within the outer suburbs of the Danish capital, together with his dad and mom, each migrants from Bangladesh, and two older brothers.

It was these roots that fashioned the foundations for his new profession, one primarily based in Dhaka moderately than Denmark.

Though he defied the percentages to return to the soccer pitch, he needed to begin over within the decrease ranges of Danish soccer, earlier than he acquired a suggestion to affix Abahani Restricted Dhaka, considered one of Bangladesh’s largest golf equipment, in 2012.

Quick ahead to 2023 and Bhuyan is now one of many nation’s most recognisable sports activities stars.

“Jamal is arguably the most well-liked [Bangladeshi] footballer of his technology,” Dhaka-based journalist Atique Anam mentioned.

“His presentability, upbringing, tales of his time in Denmark, his communication abilities and expertise make him the perfect marketable product in soccer, which in any other case suffers from a scarcity of curiosity from sponsors.

“Jamal was the primary footballer within the nationwide crew who grew up outdoors the nation. He had difficulties dealing with the tradition right here initially, however during the last 10 years, he bought settled and advanced because the chief.”

Bhuyan, fourth from left, takes half in a coaching session with teammates forward of their World Cup 2022 and 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualifying soccer match towards India in 2019 [File: Dibyangshu Sarkar/AFP]

Life in Dhaka, one of many world’s most densely populated cities, could be suffocating at the very best of occasions. While you’re one of many nation’s hottest athletes, that suffocation could be overwhelming.

“After I turned captain, the entire situation modified for me,” Bhuyan mentioned.

“What I used to be used to, to exit and be myself, I didn’t have that freedom any extra, particularly in Dhaka. Once I go outdoors in Dhaka folks knock on the automotive, they are going to do something. They are going to watch for me in entrance of the lodge.

“You understand, I got here from nothing, and all of a sudden I turned very, very well-known in my very own nation. So, for me, it was an enormous change.

“And naturally once you’re the captain of the soccer crew, you’re just like the face of soccer in Bangladesh. So wherever I’m going, I get recognised and for me it’s optimistic and it’s good, however typically it could possibly additionally kill your freedom to go locations.”

Main by instance

Regardless of the eye, Day mentioned being the face and chief of Bangladesh comes simply to Bhuyan.

“He’s a superb chief, he clearly leads by instance,” Day, who coached Bangladesh between 2018 and 2022, mentioned. “However he’ll let different gamers know in the event that they’re not pulling their weight.

“He’s very approachable for the gamers. He’s simple to speak to and get on with, however he does anticipate excessive requirements from everybody on and off the pitch.”

Bangladesh are at the moment ranked 183rd within the official FIFA rankings, and whereas soccer is common, it’s a distant second to cricket.

Bhuyan believes Bangladeshi soccer is now focusing its improvement efforts in the precise areas – constructing extra services like stadiums and coaching pitches, and growing the grassroots sport.

“Nonetheless, we now have a protracted strategy to go, however we’re on a superb monitor proper now in comparison with 5 or 6 years in the past,” he mentioned.

Not content material with being simply the nationwide crew captain, Bhuyan is now one thing of an unofficial ambassador for his nation in Argentina due to his historic transfer to Membership Sol de Mayo within the third tier of Argentinian soccer in August, when he turned the primary Bangladeshi participant to signal for an Argentinian membership.

The Bangladeshi love affair with Argentinian soccer dates again to 1986, earlier than Bhuyan was even born, when the South Asian nation turned transfixed by Diego Maradona and his World Cup-winning performances for La Albiceleste.

Bangladesh’s fanatical help for Argentina got here to prominence once more throughout final yr’s World Cup in Qatar and led to Argentina reopening its embassy in Dhaka, which had been closed since 1978.

Bhuyan was current on the reopening ceremony, exchanging jerseys with Santiago Cafiero, Argentina’s overseas minister. After transferring to Argentina, he was additionally afforded a gathering with Chiqui Tapia, the president of the Argentina Soccer Affiliation.

“I bear in mind once I landed in Buenos Aires, there have been round 200 Bangladeshis on the airport with massive banners and flags,” he mentioned.

“I believe that the membership president was so shocked and overwhelmed about it as a result of I don’t assume he realised that he would be capable to get a lot consideration.

“Even to my first match, it was stuffed with Bengali folks. I believe 80 % of the group was from Bangladesh. So I used to be very honoured and really proud.

“I even know that the membership used to play in white and blue colored jerseys, however due to me, they modified the color to inexperienced. In order that’s loopy.”

Stress? What strain?

As a lot because it comes with challenges, don’t ask Bhuyan as as to whether his standing as a frontrunner comes with any additional strain.

“I don’t know concerning the phrase strain,” he mentioned.

“Those that have strain in life are these individuals who don’t have meals on the desk … there’s loads of poor folks in Bangladesh that I’ve seen with my very own eyes. They don’t have meals, they don’t have cash. So I believe these varieties of individuals have strain.

“I really feel a accountability to carry out effectively and a accountability to guide my crew and to do my finest for my crew.”

The accountability of main his nation continues this week as Bangladesh resume their twin qualification course of for the 2026 FIFA World Cup and 2027 AFC Asian Cup.

As considered one of Asia’s lowest-ranked groups, their journey began final month with a slim 3-2 combination victory over the Maldives.

Even with an expanded World Cup on the horizon, Bhuyan is aware of qualifying isn’t reasonable. Even qualifying for the Asian Cup could be a shocking achievement. As an alternative, their targets are considerably smaller.

“I believe the principle objective is to have the ability to compete with groups who’re a lot greater ranked than us and to offer good performances,” he mentioned from Melbourne the place the Bengal Tigers will face Australia on Thursday night within the opener for a troublesome qualifying group that additionally consists of Lebanon and Palestine.

“In fact, if we’re in a position to steal some factors and perhaps get a win or two, then for us, will probably be good.”


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