Bridge may not be a popular game in our country. This card game may not even be that well-known among the masses. But this game has recently earned a rare distinction for Bangladesh, something which has been achieved in very few other sports.
The Bangladesh national team qualified for the World Bridge Championship, finishing runners-up to India from the South Asia and Middle East zones, with the qualifying phase taking place in UAE in April this year. And by dint of that feat, the team will be playing for the Bermuda Bowl alongside 21 of the top teams from around the world in the global event, scheduled to be held from August 12 in Lyon, France.
A six-member team, spearheaded by veteran captain Sajid Ispahani, will feature Zia Huq, Kamruzzaman Sohag, Nayeem, Anisur Rahman Chowdhury and Moshiur Rahman. Bangladesh Bridge Federation's president Mushfiqur Rahman Mohon will also accompany them.
All of the six members of the team are established professionals in various fields and belong to various age groups, but they are bound by one passion, which is bridge.
Despite being a game on the decline, especially among younger generations, these individuals have kept their passion going and continued to up their game over the last few years, before eventually claiming a coveted spot in the World Championship this year.
Ispahani, with an experience of more than three decades and a passion still going strong, feels that qualification for the World Championships in itself is a big achievement for a country where it considered an amateur sport.
“In the last two qualifying tournaments, we lost in the semifinals. But this time we beat Pakistan and only finished second to India. Out of the 22 teams participating, only Bangladesh and Guadalupe are amateur teams, the rest are all professionals. So it is a big achievement for us,” Ispahani said during an interview with The Daily Star.
As a devoted bridge player and perhaps the game's biggest sponsor in Bangladesh, Ispahani is glad that he will be leading the side into their first ever world event. He said all this has been made possible by the players' devotion and the preparations they have taken.
“Due to the heavy traffic in Dhaka, it's not possible for us to get together most of the times. So we practice on our own. Now that the game is available on computers and there's a website where you can play the interactive game, we do our practice on our own,” he said.
However, there are few issues, misconceptions specifically, that hurts this veteran. “Firstly there is a taboo in our country associated with the game. People think it's gambling, but there is in fact no involvement of money here.
“In fact this is a very complicated game, which involves psychology, memory, logic and even numerology. You have to have the mental stamina as well as physical fitness to do well here.
“Unfortunately, though, this is a dying game because younger people are not coming up. Kids these days are more interested in iPads, Xbox and stuff. But there's not much interest about bridge,” he opined.
However, the Bangladesh captain is hopeful that the World Championships participation and a decent finish there would help the game's local governing body spread the sport more and therefore youngsters would be encouraged to take up the game like they do in cricket, football or even chess.