It was 18 December 2006. When I reached Saiful’s house at Itahata in Gazipur, near Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka, it was already afternoon.
A big poster of the French national football team from that year’s World Cup Finals was stuck on the wall of Saiful’s shanty house. Saiful was standing beside the poster and was smiling in a way that suggested that he was dreaming of bringing the World Cup trophy to Bangladesh. Filtered through the leaves of nearby trees, the golden sunlight playing on his face made his smile even more glorious.
Saiful’s hero was French football star Zinedine Zidane. On 7 November 2006, while on a visit to Bangladesh, Zidane took part in a friendly match with 21 students from Mazlishpur School. Saiful, who was just 12 at the time, scored a goal against his hero’s team. Originally he hadn’t been selected to play because he was considered too thin. But his skills in the practice matches won him a place, and the number 10 shirt – worn by Zidane for France. After the match, Zidane greeted Saiful and presented him with a football – which is now his prize possession.
The sun was setting. Time for me to return home. Saiful followed me up to the end of his village. As I walked along the village path I wondered: will Saiful’s dream be fulfilled or will he be lost, like so many other promising children of Bangladesh?
Shahadat Parvez is the senior photojournalist at the Daily Prothom Alo in Dhaka, Bangladesh.