Bangladesh evokes fond memories for Mongolia captain
Bangladesh hold a special place in the heart of Mongolian national football team captain Tsend-Ayuush Khurelbaatar, as it was against the men in red and green that the landlocked East Asian nation got its first point in international football.
It was 2001, as Mongolia began to prepare for international football, after four decades of self-imposed international isolation.
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Khurelbaatar was an 11-year-old child at the time, but not yet fully caught up in the passion for football in a country where wrestling remains by far the most popular sport.
Mongolia were taking part in a World Cup qualifying campaign for the first time and were in the same group as Bangladesh, Vietnam and Saudi Arabia.
Bangladesh had won the first leg of the doubles round robin format 3-0 before the two teams met again in the final game of the campaign. And Bangladesh led 2-1, thanks to a brace from Mohammad Sujan. But Mongolia snatched an unlikely draw, Boldyn Buman-Uchral scoring with a spectacular volley in the fourth minute of added time.
The whole Mongolian nation was swept up in euphoria and Khurelbaatar was no exception. Watching this game on TV, the youngster immediately realized that football was his destiny.
“I heard cricket is the most popular sport in Bangladesh, but in Mongolia it’s wrestling,” Khurelbaatar said fondly recalling the glorious day at a press conference in Sylhet on Monday. , ahead of their FIFA friendly match against Bangladesh.
“For me, however, football is the number one sport. We started playing international football in 1999 and I was only 11 in 2001 when we won the historic first international point against Bangladesh,” said the 32-year-old midfielder. .
“When our football superstar, Boldyn Buman-Uchral, now the team’s technical director, scored in the 94th minute of the game, we all went crazy with joy. Since then, my dream was to become a footballer” , said the Mongolian captain, who has made 32 international appearances since his debut in 2007, said.
The Mongolian captain said he also wanted to make tomorrow’s game a memorable one as the two countries meet for the first time since that fateful encounter in Dammam 21 years ago.