Bangladesh PM seeks Argentina's help in developing football

Bangladesh is known for its football craze, with the nation largely divided in taking sides with two Latin American teams Argentina and Brazil

March 01, 2023 02:45 am | Updated March 02, 2023 12:04 pm IST - Dhaka

Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina. File

Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina. File | Photo Credit: AP

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Tuesday sought Argentina's cooperation in developing Bangladesh football as the Latin American country reopened its embassy in Dhaka 45 years after Buenos Aires closed it down, with officials calling the development a manifestation of Soccer diplomacy.

Ms. Hasina told visiting Argentinian Foreign Minister Andres Cafiero that Bangladeshis were big fans of Latin America’s football while Argentina's Lionel Messi was a household name in the South Asian country despite the two countries' locations on the opposite sides of the globe.

"Help develop our football,” a PMO spokesman quoted Ms. Hasina as saying when Mr. Cafiero paid a courtesy call to the premier at her official Ganabhaban residence.

Mr. Cafiero called on Ms. Hasina a day after the Argentine minister along with Bangladesh’s junior minister for foreign affairs Shahriar Alam opened his country’s embassy in Dhaka amidst the presence of a large crowd, mostly Argentine fans.

Ms. Hasina told Mr. Cafiero that Dhaka was very keen to strengthen communication and ties with Argentina and expected that the two nations could change the fate of their peoples by advancing their socio-economic conditions through enhanced cooperation.

She said Argentina could buy RMG products, high-quality pharmaceuticals, jute and jute goods, leather, and footwear items from Bangladesh while Buenos Aires could export animal and vegetable fats, oil and oil seeds, fruits, dairy products, and natural honey to the South Asian country.

Bangladesh is known for its football craze, with the nation largely divided in taking sides with two Latin American teams Argentina and Brazil, while opinion polls suggested the majority of Bangladeshis were Argentine supporters during the last World Cup Football.

The Argentine minister expressed his hope that the economic, trade, and business collaboration between the two countries would be scaled up with the reopening of the embassy.

PMO officials or the premier’s aides could not confirm which team Ms. Hasina supported despite her enthusiasm for sports, but the general secretary of her ruling Awami League and Road Transport Minister Obaidul Quader reportedly supported both Argentina and Brazil.

Argentina first opened its embassy in Dhaka in 1974 but it was closed in 1978 by the military junta that ruled the country at that time.

“The love that Bangladesh expressed for Argentina [during the World Cup] shows that in these times of uncertainty for the world, the global South has to strengthen its relations,” Mr. Cafiero said during the opening of the embassy at Dhaka’s up-market Banani.

“And, in international forums, countries like ours have to raise their voices because we are generally unheard, that’s why we need to cooperate and act together.”

Mr. Cafiero’s visit was the first by a South American foreign minister since the dictatorship closed the Argentine embassy in 1978.

Bangladesh came into the spotlight for many Argentines during the World Cup, thanks to viral social media videos showing Bangladeshi fans’ massive outpouring of support for the team.

Several Argentines in return waved Bangladeshi flags during their victory celebrations in Buenos Aires.

According to a media commentary, so far Bangladesh-Argentina relations were “fans to fans” interactions which now expanded beyond citizens to include “government to government” interactions.

According to Argentina’s Foreign Relations Ministry, bilateral trade is currently around $900 million, mostly in Argentine exports to Bangladesh.

“[But] there is still great potential for commercial expansion, considering Argentina is positioned as a strategic and reliable provider of food and energy”, Argentina’s foreign office statement said.

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