UK Tour, 2000; Sapphire Sports
With a collection such as this, there will be a number of shirts that are very tricky to get hold of. Sometimes surprises come along and what should be difficult, is actually made quite simple. This shirt is a perfect example of that. And a combination of English tours by Indian-subcontinent national teams, and a company called Sapphire Sports, is the reason why. This loud Bangladesh number is one of three (India and Pakistan are the others, which will receive their own posts in due course) shirts made by the company in the early 00s, to kit out the respective teams of those countries as they toured England.
To that end, the Bengal Tigers (as they are nicknamed) wore this shirt during their 2000 tour, where the records show they played India (and lost 1-0). Sadly, it is only India’s tours which have been documented in any great detail. As well as the India game, it is likely that Bangladesh also played some club teams, as India did, and possibly Pakistan. Whatever else occurred, the picture below clearly shows Bangladesh wearing this shirt in 2000, teamed with black shorts and bright yellow socks (I’m no Gok Wan, but that combination might have been a mistake). Interestingly, Bangladesh’s home colours have traditionally been green with a red away (in line with the flag), so it is unclear how they came to wear such a garish orange number during this period.
This shirt isn't particularity comfortable to wear around the house, never mind during a game so I'm not sure what the players would have made of it. I do like that the crest is embroidered (albeit quite poorly) and there is a stronger woven material in the inner of the crest, though it looks from a distance like it is simply that same shiny material. The collar is the same collar that seems to appear on 90% of generic football shirts form the 90s and 00s. The main highlight of the shirt though is undoubtedly the numerous "Bangladesh" graphics sublimated into the material. As Joe points out over on his blog, it bares an uncanny resemblance to the band Megadeath's logo.
In Bangladesh, football faces strong competition from cricket for financial support. There is strong support for football in the general population, but money follows success, and recently that means it follows test cricket. Pre-independence, a representative team played games abroad in a bid to publicise the movement for a free state. Following independence from Pakistan in 1971, the BFF was founded a year later in ’72. The official national team played their first official game on July 26, 1973, a 2-2 draw against Thailand. During the period between July 26 and August 14 of that year, the national team played 13 friendly matches against Asian teams, all hosted in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, resulting in 3 draws and 10 defeats. Amazingly, it took until 2001 for Bangladesh to play a team outside of Asia, a loss to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The team managed to qualify for the 1980 Asian Cup, though finished bottom of their group with a goal difference of -15 after four games. They haven’t qualified since. They have found some success at regional level however, winning the 2003 South Asian championship as well as two other final appearances.