Sazed Hossain is a network engineer by profession, but he is also an avid follower of football. He is not a mere spectator, having made football a significant part of his life. Sazed finds joy in watching the best players around the globe through television. His love for this game and the players has led him to invest in a wardrobe’s worth of football merchandise.
Sazed’s hobby is to collect the jerseys of top teams and players. He has purchased the jerseys of Arsenal, Barcelona and Real Madrid this year to enrich his repertoire that already comprised of over 70 jerseys from most European football clubs – Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint Germain etc.
Sazed is only one of many such fans across this nation. Over the years, the everlasting passion for football throughout the nation has been evident. The youth of this country are deprived of quality games at stadiums but they try to suffice by collecting football merchandise, the market for which amounts to a whopping Tk. 50 to 60 crore every year in Bangladesh.
DRIBBLING IN THE PROFITS
Apart from jerseys, other products such as wristbands, bags, backpacks, socks, and t-shirts are the popular items in this market. According to the shopkeepers, business has been expanding fast as the demand for these products is increasing with every passing season of European football.
Shamsuddin Ahmed, who has been involved in this market for the last five years in Gulistan’s stadium market, informed me that this spree of buying merchandise experienced a boom back in 2007 after the conclusion of World Cup 2006, held in Germany. It was not only the jerseys and kits of Italy, the winning team, but also the jerseys of France, especially of Zinedine Zidane, who lost his temper in a crucial moment of the final, were sold in numbers.
“Initially, these football related items were sold in the vicinity of the stadium market area at Gulistan but later with their growing demand, other markets of the city started to sell them as well,” said Shamsuddin.
Another businessman from the Gulistan area, Ali Ashraf told us about the 600 shops in Gulistan, 300 of which sell football related items. Besides the shops in Gulistan, other shops can be found in areas like Mirpur, Bashundhara City Shopping Mall, Jamuna Future Park and many more.
Inevitably, there are differences in the quality and pricing of the products. There is a huge demand for locally made jerseys, which are cheap, as most of the buyers are students. But there is also a significant demand for ‘original’ and ‘branded’ items despite their high prices as for many, these are tantamount to relics.
BOUNCING INTO BUSINESS
That is why the ‘elite’ shops in the posh markets of the city are becoming more interested in selling football items. To this day, the demand for these items and the supply amount in Bangladesh has maintained a consistent gap. Throughout the last few years, jerseys and other kits have been sold in some popular online shops and Facebook-based business platforms such as daraz.com, ajkerdeal, esho.com, shoppersbd.com, European sports shop etc.
After visiting the shops and surfing the online stores, we found that three types of jerseys are available in the market. The cheapest one can be found at Tk 200, which is locally made and printed. Meanwhile, the price of the second-grade products, which are normally imported from China, are sold for Tk. 500 to 1,000. The best ones, normally imported from Thailand, are sold for around Tk. 1,500 – 2,000 both in shops and online.
Besides those three types, there is also a demand for really good quality t-shirts from Europe, while football fans, who are devoted to the clubs they support, often are ready to pay a hefty sum for the products that have an attachment with their favorite clubs.
In Bangladesh, there are several Facebook based fan clubs. These fan clubs maintain a liaison with the mother club and help fans acquire the valuable memorabilia and become registered by paying sums of money. However, these activities are limited and sufficient data regarding the transaction throughout these processes are not available. When asked, one of the moderators of a fan club on Facebook informed that they have over a hundred thousand members and most of them are eager to collect the merchandise of their favorite clubs or players.
So, the likes of Lionel Messi, Christiano Ronaldo, Barcelona, and Liverpool are not only entertaining the passionate fans day in and day out but are also providing the opportunity of business worth millions even in a land where football is seemingly invisible on the field.