Kazi Salahuddin: Bangladesh football’s first superstar

The legendary Bangladeshi footballer was known for his charismatic style and goalscoring prowess. He later became a successful coach and administrator.

  • Kazi Salahuddin scored 153 goals in club football and eight goals in 31 international matches

  • The 68-year-old became the first Bangladeshi footballer to play for a foreign club

  • Salahuddin scored in Bangladesh’s first official game against Thailand in 1973

Kazi Salahuddin was a footballer ahead of his time. With his shaggy hair and a bit of a flamboyant demeanour in the 1970s, he became the icon of Bangladesh’s new generation. However, he did not evolve into Bangladesh’s first superstar just because of his charisma, glamour, or style. Salahuddin developed a unique personality with his style of play. Salahuddin was a striker, and there was a certain beauty and brilliance to him when he ran with the ball. His ability to find the target was unquestionable, and he scored many goals in his life. In a 16-year-long career that spanned from 1968-84, Kazi Salahuddin scored 153 goals in 204 matches in club football and eight goals in 31 international matches. His charisma on the field was unmatched, and the spectators used to rush to the stadium to watch Salahuddin play. In fact, it has been recorded that even the fans of the opposing teams used to come to the ground to witness his magic on the field. Born on September 23, 1954, in Dhaka, Kazi Salahuddin grew up in an environment where playing cricket was a symbol of nobility. Salahuddin also started playing the game and was good enough as a batsman. However, he fell in love with football while studying at Shaheen school and didn’t look back since.

In 1968, he made his debut for Dilkusha Sporting Club in the Second Division league and helped the team win the championship that year by top scoring with 14 goals. Then in 1969, he played for Wari in the First Division League, scoring a hat trick against Rahmatganj in the first match. The following year, Salahuddin signed up for Mohammedan Sporting Club and played till 1972 before joining Abahani Krira Chakra. It was at Abahani that he became a superstar. Kazi Salahuddin emerged as the top scorer with 24 goals in the same season and repeated this achievement in 1977, 1979, and 1980 as well. The 68-year-old legendary Bangladeshi footballer’s journey to international recognition began in 1973 when he made his debut for the Bangladesh national football team in the prestigious Merdeka Cup held in Malaysia. On that fateful day, Salahuddin displayed exceptional skills, scoring in Bangladesh’s first official game against Thailand. His goal was also the country’s second-ever international goal. After a year without international football, Kazi Salahuddin and his team Bangladesh were invited to take part in the 1975 edition of the Merdeka Cup. It was during this tournament that he caught the eye of the world with his stunning solo goal against Hong Kong. The strike also earned interest from foreign clubs and he accepted the proposal to play for Caroline Hill FC in the Hong Kong First Division League in the 1975-76 season.

During that time, the Hong Kong First Division League was the only professional football league in Asia and Salahuddin played 18 league games for the club. It also made him the first-ever Bangladeshi footballer to have an appearance for a foreign club in a professional league set-up. Kazi Salahuddin would also later help Bangladesh make the cut for their maiden AFC Asian Cup in 1980, scoring crucial goals in their qualification campaign. Apart from these achievements, Salahuddin also scored some goals that are etched in the hearts of the fans. In 1972, while representing Dhaka XI, he scored a remarkable goal against India’s Mohun Bagan club, the first foreign team to visit Bangladesh.

Dhaka XI had won the friendly match with his strike. He was also the captain of the Bangladesh national team in the 1975 Merdeka Cup, and his goal from 40 yards against mighty Burma was thrilling. His winning goal against Rahmatganj in the 1977 title decider for Abahani was also memorable while his last-minute strike against the visiting Mohammedan Sporting club of India in 1979 was also spectacular. Salahuddin eventually retired from the Bangladesh national team after the 1983 President’s Gold Cup and played his last match in club football for Abahani in 1984 before becoming a successful coach. In 1985, Abahani won the Federation Cup and emerged as league champions under his coaching. He then managed various clubs and national teams and won numerous awards and accolades. Since 2008, Kazi Salahuddin became the Bangladesh Football Federation president on a number of occasions.

Credit: https://www.fifa.com/fifaplus/en/articles/kazi-salahuddin-bangladesh-footballs-first-superstar 

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