January 18, 2023
DHAKA – Lionel Messi’s Argentina, the reigning world champions, have agreed in principle to come to Bangladesh for a friendly match in June this year, given all the conditions are met, informed Bangladesh Football Federation’s vice-president Ataur Rahman Bhuiyan Manik.
The BFF official informed that they were working on finalising the details, which could be completed by Tuesday night.
“Argentina are expected to come to Bangladesh to play a FIFA friendly in June. They have quite a few conditions that must be met and we are completing the final negotiations,” Manik told The Daily Star yesterday.
FIFA’s executive member Mahfuza Akter Kiron, also the women’s wing chairman of the BFF, informed that they were holding talks with teams such as Morocco and Japan to play against the world champions.
“We haven’t finalised their opponents. We are negotiating with a few teams like Japan and Morocco for the friendly,” Kiron told The Daily Star.
If the Albiceleste do come in June, this will be their second visit to Bangladesh, with their first taking place on September 6, 2011 when they beat Nigeria 3-1 in a friendly at the Bangabandhu National Stadium.
Messi set up two goals for Gonzalo Higuain and Angel di Maria on that occasion while the other was an own goal. Chinedu Obasi scored the only goal for Nigeria in that match, played out in front of a 25,000-strong crowd.
While negotiations with the Argentina team are at an advanced stage, the venue remains an issue.
The BNS, which is the only internationally-recognised venue for hosting FIFA Tier-1 matches in Bangladesh, has been undergoing renovations since September 2021 and there is still quite a lot of work remaining, including the planting of new grass on the pitch, revamping the galleries and the dressing rooms and installing LED-floodlights.
The initial deadline for the renovation was extended from December, 2022 to June, 2023 and the budged increased from Tk 98 crore to Tk 155 crore, informed an official of the National Sports Council who preferred not to be named.
The last time Argentina played in Bangladesh, the BFF had to splurge around three to $4m. It will also be another costly move for BFF as its president Kazi Salahuddin recently told media that the estimated cost for hosting the upcoming match would be around $10m or roughly around 100 crore taka.
The BFF will hold a press briefing to apprise the media on details of the negotiations today.