Sabina Khatun's dream run in the Hero Indian Women League came to an abrupt end when her side Sethu FC suffered a 0-2 semi-final defeat against holders Eastern Sporting Club in Shillong yesterday.
The game was settled in the 30-mintue extra time, where Eastern scored twice in the first half with Premi Devi and Mandakani scoring in the space of six minutes. Sabina was not on the pitch at that time. She was substituted in the second half and watched her side's departure from the dugout.
The Bangladesh captain took Sethu to the last four with six goals in four straight wins. But she was allowed little space yesterday by a team that also neutralized her in their last group league game, which ended in a 1-1 draw last Sunday.
The 24-year-old striker from Satkhira might have come unstuck in a crucial hurdle, but she has already won a lot of praise for her scoring prowess. She scored six of her side's 11 goals in an impressive campaign -- a strong statement from a genuine markswomen. Besides, it was her influence that took the team from Mizoram all that way to the semifinals.
The Indian League was also Sabina's first major test in a big competition outside Bangladesh after her participation in the Maldives Futsal tournament. Her fluid runs, precise passing and cool finishing has already made her one of the starters in the Indian Women's League this year.
“Relentless on the field, entertaining to watch and delivering goals so often, Sabina Khatun has indeed proven to be Bangladesh's gift to the Indian Women's League,” Goal.com writer Manasi Pathak Manasi wrote in an article.
Interestingly, Sabina's participation in India along with Krishran Rani, who made a brief appearance as a substitute for Sabina in the semifinal, was almost stalled when both were initially denied visas. However, they finally got the visa after much deliberation and the rest looked inspiring as far as the future of Bangladesh's women footballers, who get little opportunity to showcase their skills due to the absence of regular domestic leagues coupled with a poor structure for women's football, is concerned.
For Sabina, the Indian experience must be great. Sabina is one of the few women players who continued to train with the Under-15 team round the year in an attempt to keep herself match-fit. She also hoped that the Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) would revive the domestic League, which was last played in 2013.
''In Bangladesh, the league has been shut for the last three or four years. I am hopeful and look forward to our girls playing the league in our homeland. Last time around, there were 8 teams. Hopefully, more teams will attend this year,” said Sabina in a recent interview with Goal.com.