2016 was a busy year for us internationally. We continued to develop our ongoing projects in Bangladesh as well as create new and exciting schemes and ideas.
Sylhet U16 Football and Pioneer League Trials
As mentioned previously, the London Tigers setup a Under 16’s Football team in 2010 which bears the London Tigers name and brand. The team (pictured below) compete in the Dhaka Pioneer League, a league that was created in 1987 to help develop grass roots football in Bangladesh. It is the largest under-16s football league in the world.
The team holds regular trials as a way of giving young Bangladeshi footballers a chance of achieving their dreams of becoming professional football players. While the term ‘professional footballer’ might mean sports cars and big mansions to most British people, a Bangladeshi footballer who gets paid as little £10 a game will earn enough to feed his family for a week and is vital to the development of the community. There is also a real shortage of skilled players and coaches in Bangladesh and a great demand from spectators for community level sports.
The 2016 trials for the Sylhet London Tigers attracted over 4000 young footballers from Greater Sylhet from some of the poorest households and communities . All the players were given a fair chance to display their ability before qualified coaches and scouts in their local area before the shortlisted trial list were called to AMA Muhith Sports Complex in Sylhet for final selection. Expenses and kit were provided for all participants to reduce barriers to participation for the poorest players.
Dhaka Street Cricket Project
Cricket is an extremely popular sport in Bangladesh – to play and as a spectator sport for men and women. London Tigers also have their own cricket team participating in a league based in Dhaka which began in 2014.
From establishing this team, we then focused on creating opportunities for children from the poorest villages to participate in this popular sport..We set up cricket centres in Mymensingh & Sylhet in 2011 which have been operating since then and benefiting thousands of kids. The cricket centres have produced several national under 18’s cricketers.
The objective of the adult teams was to provide street children in Dhaka the chance to get involved in competitive cricket. London Tigers were invited by Last Man Stands to their cricket tournament in Dhaka. There was a number of players on the London Tigers team who come from extremely poor households and it helped raised awareness of their potential and the need for more sports coaching for young people in the poorest communities
Disability Group at Athletics Event
London Tigers formed a team of athletes with disabilities to compete at an official athletics event in Sylhet. The event received a great deal of publicity and the winners were commended by sponsors and the DSA
Sylhet Bike Stunts Project
London Tigers understands that mainstream sports such as football and cricket might not appeal to everyone in Bangladesh, so we created a programme that involved teaching young people how to do bike stunts. This took place in Sylhet and young boys were given BMX’s in order to use their creativity and strength in a fun and productive way and reduce their vulnerability to extremism and other risks. Alternative events such as this appeal to a demographic who may not be interested in other sports and create a positive experience in local communities.
Mens Volleyball Competition
London Tigers also set up a volleyball competition in Sylhet that allowed newly formed teams to compete in front of friends and the wider community. Similar to other events, this is a great way of increasing community cohesion and just generally increase pride and confidence in the local area and builds bridges between generations.
It is worth noting that volleyball is an Olympic sport, so by trying to generate interest, this event gives Bangladeshi athletes a hope of competing in the biggest global sporting competition in the world. The event was open to all and attracted a great deal of interest from poor households.
MPs Cricket Match
In May, London Tigers arranged a cricket match to be played at Barclays Bank Sports Ground in Ealing between English and Bangladeshi MPs
This was a fun and exciting way to strengthen parliamentary relations between the two countries as well as a way of raising the profile of ‘sports for change’ and the need for more youth empowerment and sports development in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh Football tour
An FA Chartered Standard club and officially recognised as semi-professional, the London Tigers’ own football team went on a tour of Bangladesh in February. It was a profoundly life changing experience for the players who came home with a clear understanding of the challenges facing poor people living in urban slums and remote rural villages.
The tour began with a match against the London Tigers u16 team in Sylhet (pictured below). The two ‘prides’ clashed in front of a crowd of over 3000 cheering spectators on a testing pitch, seeing the touring side win 2-1 in a friendly yet toughly contested match. The camaraderie between the two teams sent a very positive message to the whole Sylhet District and demonstrated the power of sport to bring people together and create new opportunities and chances.
The London Tigers played three other matches on their tour of Bangladesh, and immersed themselves completely in life in the village – learning about fishing and agriculture, culture and food, and the challenges of ordinary people in making a living. They also donated football boots and strips to help young kids participate and generate excitement about London Tigers too. We are proud of all the players that took part and the UK players are now passionate ambassadors for poverty reduction and sports for change programmes in Bangladesh.