Bangladesh women’s football team created history in Kathmandu Monday, winning the Saff Championship for the first time, and they could not have asked for a better leader than Sabina Khatun to show them the way.

Bangladesh women had never defeated Nepal previously and that changed too as the Himalayan nation was overwhelmed 3-1 in front of their own crowd by Sabina and Co.

Scorer of 32 international goals, Sabina was in imperious form throughout the tournament and it rubbed off on her teammates who only conceded once and scored 23 en route to the title win.

The Bangladesh captain was in her element, scoring eight goals, including two hat-tricks, to not only finish as the highest scorer but also the competition’s Most Valuable Player. 

The 28-year-old bagged a brace against the Maldives in the opening game before scoring a hat-trick against Pakistan and repeating the feat against Bhutan in the semi-final.

These were her second and third hat-tricks in the Saff Championship after her first six years ago against Afghanistan.

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The hat-trick against Pakistan especially was a special one for Sabina who had said, “It’s definitely a great honor for me. I’ve always said experience matters a great deal. I believe my experience helped me a lot on the pitch. I tried to give my best and it worked.”

And although she didn’t find the net in the final, the Satkhira striker did assist Krishna Rani Sarkar’s first goal that gave Bangladesh a 2-0 lead and some breathing space. 

It would be an injustice to limit her contribution in the final to just one assist though as she ran relentlessly and often found her teammates with her passes.

Sabina, who scored three in the 2010 edition, three in 2014, seven in 2016, and one in 2019, might have been deployed by head coach Golam Rabbani Choton in a slightly withdrawn attacking role but she still hit the back of the net with regularity.

The champion striker, who often waged a lone battle for the Bangladesh women’s football team in all the past five Saff Championships finally has a winning team by her side and will be well within her rights to expect similar triumphs in the future.

And we can all rest assured knowing that the well-traveled Bashundhara Kings striker would bang in the goals, inspire her teammates and lead from the front.

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