The curtain of the ninth edition of the Bangladesh Premier League rises today at the MA Aziz Stadium in Chittagong with defending champions Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club taking on promoted Arambagh Krira Sangha in the first match. In the second match of the day, last season’s runners-up Sheikh Russell Krira Chakra will lock horns with another promoted side Uttar Baridhara.
In the last eight edition of the BPL, Abahani Limited have been the most successful club with four titles while Jamal have won three including the last two editions and Sheikh Russell lifted the title once.
This is for the first time in history that the top-tier professional football league will get underway outside the capital.
The first three rounds of the first-leg will take place in Chittagong while the new-format league, where none of the clubs has a home venue, will be held in four different venues across the country.
BFF officials expressed their hope of organising a successful event after getting a huge financial backing from Saif Global Sports Limited who bought the marketing rights of the league, worth of Tk 4 crore.
After the end of first three rounds in Chittagong, the next two rounds will be held at a new venue in Mymensingh from August 12 while Dhaka and Sylhet will host the last six rounds of the first-leg.
Sheikh Jamal, who have failed to form a strong side for the new season and struggled to sparkle in the Independence Cup and Federation Cup start their campaign without any recognised coach after they sacked Shafiqul Islam Manik recently.
Their new coach Nigerian Josheph Afusi is likely to arrive here on July 30.
Jamal are also in doubt over the return of their in-form captain Wedson Anselme, who refused to continue with the club.
Though the club claimed that they convinced the Haitian forward to return, Wedson said he lost his interest to play with a weakened squad.
However, in the absence of head coach, former footballer Sheikh Ashraf was given the charge until Afusi’s arrival.
Ashraf said they were ready for the challenge of Arambagh, who defied all the odds by reaching the Federation Cup final by upsetting Sheikh Jamal in the quarter-finals. They also beat Abahani Limited in the group stage.
‘We have two in-form foreigners Emeka Darlington and Landing Darboe and some promising young players, so we are ready for Arambagh,’ said Ashraf.
Arambagh coach Saiful Bari Titu, however, asked his charges to forget their previous win against Jamal.
‘It’s a new start, new stage, so I prefer to forget what we did in the Federation Cup,’ said the experienced coach.
‘Like the previous tournament we will continue our counter-attacking based style in the league and the absence of Wedson will be a huge advantage for us.’
Meanwhile, in the second match of the day, Russell believe they would make a winning start against Bangladesh Championship league winners Uttar Baridhara despite having some injury problems.
‘We have some injury problems that put us in some trouble,’ said coach Maruful Haque.
‘We are going to miss the services of three forwards Ameli [Zahid Hasan], Komol [Abdul Baten Mazumder] and Rony [Shakhwat Hossain] and also the service of Fikru [Ethiopian forward Fikru Teferra] due to some internal issue.
‘However, I have full faith on my other players who have all abilities to give us a winning start.’
-With New Age input