Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Shaikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa has praised the recent progress made by Bangladesh in age-level and women’s football while he hoped that the national team would come out of the bad phase that it has been going through in recent times. The AFC boss also assured that they would continue to extend their support to Bangladesh in regards to helping the game grow. “Bangladesh is improving in women’s football. We all saw how Bangladesh’s women played in the U-16 final round. You have a very good under-19 team as well,” the AFC president said while speaking at a press conference at the Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) House yesterday. “Countries like Bangladesh can do a lot better and for a country of 170 million, the only way is up,” he added. Salman’s visit to Bangladesh coincides with a time when the country’s football is going through a mixed bag. While the women’s team have far exceeded their expectations and the age-group teams have shown signs of real promise in recent times, the national team has hit rock-bottom, being out of running for the Asian Cup and placed 196th in FIFA rankings. The people who are running the show are being put on the dock, and rightly so, for the rather hapless situation of the national team. The AFC president apparently gave his vote of confidence to the BFF committee and its president Kazi Salahuddin, at the helm for the third consecutive term. And that is believed to be the purpose of his two-day visit to Bangladesh even though the official line is that it is part of his South Asia tour as he has come here after visiting Bhutan and India. “Your teams have been participating in all AFC competitions which showed your commitment to develop sports in the country. We are working with you and your administration to see what can be done,” the former Bahrain Football Association president, who was beaten to the top FIFA post by Gianni Infantino last year, said. Salman also hoped that the national team would get back on track after enduring a bad patch at the international scene. “When I was made the Bahrain FA president in 1996, we played our first friendly against Otto Pfister’s Bangladesh. We had to work hard to get a result that time. I am sure this can be repeated as there are talents here.” However, the ground reality does not quite paint a rosy picture for the future. While there are sporadic promises shown by the age-group sides that success is proving hard to be long-lasting as grassroots football is largely ignored. Two of the main blames against the current committee of the federation are its failure to open a functional academy and not forcing the formation of youth teams of professional league clubs. The AFC president, borrowing words from his host, said that it is more of a responsibility of the clubs to ensure these things where the federation can only play an enabling role. “The FA has responsibility and the clubs have also some responsibility to run the show. You can’t expect the association to run football academies. It has to come from the clubs because clubs can create leagues on their own for the youths. The success depends on the clubs’ base and club structure and development at the grassroots level because at the end of the day, they are the future of your team,” Salman said. The press conference was also attended by AFC general secretary Dato Windsor John Paul, other AFC officials and executive committee members of the BFF.