When a flight from Nepal landed in Dhaka, the Bangladesh football team captain Sabina Akter, who was on board, had no idea what was waiting for her and her team outside of the airport.
Sabina knew her team had all the capabilities to lift the title and win the crown of football excellence in South Asia. Still, she had no idea what was waiting for her and her team outside the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport.
When they completed immigration procedures and came out to the media corner, Sabina came to know- there were hundreds of media personnel waiting with camera flashes to snap their photos, and there were thousands of fans waiting with flowers to greet them for their victorious journey that had just ended with the ultimate prize.
Along with all of them, band parties were also waiting for them with the cadence of patriotic songs. They were ready with flutes, drums and other musical instruments on the trucks decorated with photos of Sabina and her team.
A press conference was scheduled at the airport. But that failed to take place due to the overcrowded presence of media personnel. The airport authority failed to manage the crowd. There were hundreds of police members to handle the situation, but they failed. There were hundreds of Ansar members too. They also failed to tackle the situation.
Being unable to host the press conference there, the authority was forced to call it off. It took them around an hour to disperse the crowd and restore order.
Sabina and all of her teammates became speechless watching the situation. Some of them might have been injured when the authority tried to host the press conference. One girl was seen crying while being trapped in the crowd.
It wasn't the first time when the Bangladesh women's team returned to Dhaka after playing a football event abroad. But Wednesday was different- it was the day when they returned home with the biggest trophy they won so far.
A short and super-crowded press briefing eventually took place at the airport where Sabina said they are grateful to the people of Bangladesh for supporting them enormously.
After another half an hour, Sabina and her team took on the open-deck bus- and became the first Bangladeshi team to be received in such grand fashion. Then again, nobody had been more deserving of it before Sabina and Sanhuda and Rituporna and Krishna Rani and the rest came along.
Police had to struggle a lot to make way for Sabina and her team to the open-deck bus pushing hundreds of media personnel and thousands of spectators away.
When the dream of an open-deck-bus-reception came true for them, they threw their garland of flowers to the cheering spectators. They looked happy and bewildered at the same time- they dreamt of a grand reception, but they couldn't imagine anything like this!
The open-deck bus carried them to the headquarters of the Bangladesh Football Federation - pretty much the entire length of the city, that took almost four hours. Along the way, they were greeted by tens of thousands of supporters-in scenes reminiscent of the return of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on January 10th, 1972.
It was a truly unprecedented day for the champion girls, and for Bangladeshis in general. Sabina and her team will surely win many more trophies in future. But the day of their return to Dhaka after winning the SAFF will remain unparalleled in their memory.
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