Interview of the Technical and Strategic Director of BFF Mr. Paul Smalley

1.Thank you again for the Technical and Strategic Director of Bangladesh Football Federation . What is the reason for leaving the job in Brunei and choosing Bangladesh again?
Answer - My role in Brunei was National Coach and Head of Coach and Player Development. I thoroughly enjoyed my time, with some great experiences and memories. My departure came amidst the uncertainties brought on by the unprecedented impact of the Coronavirus pandemic which resulted in all Football activities nationwide coming to a standstill. I took a decision to return home to my family. (Reference: Borneo Bulletin May 28th, 2020). Bangladesh was always close to my heart and the opportunity to again make a sincere contribution in developing the game was presented to me. I was again excited by the vision portrayed to me by the President, Technical Committee and the Executive Members.

2. No doubt you have a good reputation in the international football arena. you have worked in Bangladesh football for three years. What do you see as your success in these three years or how do you evaluate yourself ?
Answer - My resume, experiences and expertise in the Football market are both comprehensive and eclectic with an embracing reputation in both Europe and Asia. So from this perceptive I am both pleased with what I accomplished in my first period in Bangladesh, but yet realistic in the knowledge there is much more to do and an opportunity to move the game further forward in both South Asia and beyond. Ultimately the President, Technical Committee and Executive members evaluate my performance. The Technical Director role in some ways is an impossible position, as you have to be everything to everyone, all of the time, but I make no excuses and certainly relish this responsibility.

3.The work that has been done on youth football in your time> but it has been seen also in the past before coming to you. So where is your personal success with youth football? Besides, you have no work in grassroots football. why ?
Answer - I have operated with a modern and dynamic approach as National Technical Director. Both visible, all-inclusive and systematic. My intentions have been sincere and genuine to try and influence all of the key technical areas which we know will develop the game in Bangladesh. It's important to remember that the forecasted budgets during this period were done in collaboration with AFC and FIFA. Unfortunately there is only a conservative allocation of funding available. Certainly in comparison to some of our neighbours in Asia. Whilst some empowering work was done in Grassroots, on reflection this wasn't consistent or comprehensive enough. This is an area as you know is important to grow the game, which we must pursue and concentrate on moving forward.

4. In 2016, you gave a four-year plan. It is seen that 25 percent of the plan has not been implemented. Whose failure is this plan?
Also your plan was to have a football league in the rainy season. Why?
Answer - An aligned and systematic competition strategic plan for domestic, professional and International competitions is critical in the development of the game in Bangladesh and in other countries. In 2016, I wanted to present this concept and had a responsible consultation, I felt a 4 year Competition plan could be embraced by the game. One of the advantages of this, amongst a repertoire of many others was to avoid the impacts of the climate in Bangladesh, clashing with other competition calendars outside Bangladesh, the game, the clubs could then spend time on their planning and it was an exciting commercial proposition. Unfortunately this never happened. We must revisit this concept in our thinking and planning for the future.

5. . A few days ago BFF formed a Technical department. Anonymous criticism of committee members. Did you choose to be a member of this department?
Answer - AFC with the support of FIFA have made resources available for MA's to structure their Technical Department's with specific key technical positions. I am not aware of the selection and recruitment process that the Federation has undertaken, but what is important is to align the strategic direction of the tasks and priorities necessary in these important technical areas to have a positive impact on the game.

6. We know you kept Parvez Babu and Polo away from Fortis Academy some month. because you did not like their activities.There is a lot of criticism about them. but Now they are in important responsibilities in the technical department. Besides, an employee of BFF named Hasan is a grassroots manager. what do you think? Have they qualified for this position?
Answer - In the Football community there are many capable and able practitioners. There are many proficient players, able coaches, capable referees and Football officials who are making a great contribution to the game. There are some good examples of this. As I have mentioned I am not aware of the selection and recruitment process that the Federation undertook. However, whilst these individuals you have mentioned may be young, they are sincere, hardworking, keen to learn and want to see the game flourish. From my perspective I am excited to be given the opportunity to join the department as National Technical Director.

7. Fortis Academy has not been active for a long time since the AFC U-19 Championship. Contracts with foreign coaches have not been renewed. There are also questions about the quality of these coaches. All in all, many feel that this academy has no future. What is your assessment?
Answer - The Fortis Academy and the relationship with the Fortis Group brought a real opportunity for the Federation to align all its youth development strategies and to establish a National Academy for the development of talented young players. As you are aware Youth Development is not a "quick fix" it takes time, investment and an unequivocal commitment to the development of young talented players over a sustained period of time. We must continue to explore opportunities to select, recruit and develop young talented players over a long term period on a daily basis. We should be applauded in trying to do this, but amongst the frustrations and disappointments, this shouldn't deter us. All of the foreign coaches who were appointed had immense experience, capabilities and expertise, whilst their tenure seemed to be short they all made a pronounced contribution and an understanding that Bangladesh has talented and gifted young players.

8. All the academies of the country are being brought under BFF. Do you think your technical department has the ability to guide the district academies well?
Answer- The Federation will be launching an Academy Accreditation Scheme. In Bangladesh there are numerous private academies and commercial operators out in the football marketplace. The Federation must have meaningful partnerships and relationships with all these Academies. A National Accreditation initiative will raise standards and assist to develop a greater connection between Grassroots, Academies and Elite Football. The Federation through the Accreditation Scheme will recognise, acknowledge and reward Academies, which contributes to quality football experiences for players, officials, volunteers and coaches. Through a professional two way process the Federation will award Academies with a one (1), two (2), or three (3) Star recognition for Academies who fulfill the BFF's recognised criteria. Commercial Academies in Bangladesh play a fundamental role in the development of football in Bangladesh. The Academy Accreditation Scheme will deliver a range of potential benefits for Football. To assist the District Football Association to better support BFF, clubs, by facilitating a process which encourages greater engagement and participation. Bringing together all elements of Football Development. Directly assist Academies to sustain and increase football participation and promote and raise the profile of quality Academies across Bangladesh.

9. You've been seen doing a lot of women's football in the past. Will you stay with women's football again this time?
Answer - My intentions have always been sincere and genuine in a way to try and influence all of the key technical areas which we know will develop the game in Bangladesh. Women's Football as you know is one of those key areas of the game. There are many opportunities here, certainly across International competition. This therefore has required much of my time and the success here has been commendable. I will continue to work in a determined, ambitious way and with a passion to make positive contributions in all of the key technical areas, I will humbly try my best to do so.

10. What are your new plans for Bangladesh football?
Answer - We must firstly review the 2016-2019 period with a reflective and critical eye. We must acknowledge the lessons we have learned, which will then allow us to be better equipped and informed in the future. We hope to develop a further 4 Year Football Development Strategic Plan, 2020-2024 in line with AFC and FIFA Programming. Some obvious critical objectives but certainly not the exhaustive list below:
- Continue to improve the National Team's FIFA Ranking.
- Improve the Women's National Team's FIFA Ranking.
- Develop Grassroots Initiatives nationwide to allow Football participation opportunities for all.
- Continue to select and develop both female and male emerging talent.
- Continue to be competitive across SAFF and AFC Age Group and Senior Competitions.
- Continue to develop the opportunities for all Coaches in Bangladesh to access courses, improve and be better with developing players.

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