Winter is here. It's foggy everywhere at 6 am. Groups of young people arrive at a nearby playing field to play football or basketball while most people remain in the blanket's warmth.
Sports also happen at night. People arrange nets and petromax lights on rooftops to play badminton, and the game goes on till midnight.
In rural areas, sports are diverse. Apart from football and badminton, people here play kabaddi, volleyball, and many other local sports.
These are the common scenarios for sports in Bangladesh during the winter season.
Playing sports in the winter is still relevant, but they were much more frequent a few years ago. Salman Siddique Prottoy, a fourth-year student at the University of Dhaka, reminisces his winter memories.
"People used to have more scope to play in the winter season only 5–6 years ago. When I was a teenager, I used to play badminton with my neighbour friends at a nearby field every evening after final examinations. I still remember eating pithas and tea with my friends from roadside stalls after every game."
Nowadays, young people in his neighbourhood rarely play badminton and other sports as most fields are overtaken by apartment construction.
Although Dhaka is engulfed in mass urbanisation and there is less space to play, people still find ways to do so.
Shadman Ali, a freshman at Independent University, shares his experience, "People here started to play on rooftops. Every winter, we light up our rooftops and arrange badminton nets. We used to play in the afternoon in our school days, but nowadays, my friends and I start playing badminton right after the evening and play until midnight."
However, he mentions that his rooftop experience is different from what he experienced in open fields.
Badminton is a racquet-based game that involves a lot of footwork. Playing this game has lots of health benefits too. Badminton improves agility, lung health, flexibility, and bone health. It also lowers the risk of heart attack and prevents the development of diabetes. As it requires light equipment and is easy to learn, people of any age can play badminton in the winter.
Football is also a common sport during the winter. It requires a lot of endurance to play, so young people are quick to sweat a little on chilly winter mornings.
Mahter Ra'd Ankon, a third-year student at the University of Chittagong, shares his recent experience of playing football in the winter.
"Every winter, the seniormost students of my department organise inter-batch football tournaments. Like every other year, I played for my batch this year too. It's already cold in Chittagong, so I can play this intense sport with less sweat and be more energetic than at other times."
Cycling is also becoming a popular winter sport in urban areas. Cycling associations like BD Cyclists arrange the Bijoy Rally on December 16 every year in the winter.
Mohammad Nihal Hossain, a fourth-year student at the University of Dhaka, loves cycling during the winter, especially in the Hatirjheel area of the capital city.
"As Dhaka is already a pretty congested city, using a bicycle usually saves a lot of time. However, winter is my favourite time to go cycling."
Apart from fitness, cycling has many more health benefits. According to the Cleveland Clinic, cycling improves strength and flexibility, prevents orthopaedic conditions like arthritis and back pain, and acts as a multi-purpose workout. Cycling also reduces anxiety and depression and improves mental health, so this activity is recommended for the winter and the whole year.
In the rural areas of Bangladesh, young people get most of their leisure time during the winter. At other times, they have to work in family-owned croplands or shops during vacation. But in the winter, there is much less farming work, so they have a lot of time for sports.
Shadman Ali says, "I visit my ancestral home in Rangpur every year with my family during the winter. As young people here get this much free time only in the winter, they are crazy enough to be ready for some sports as early as 5 am. In the morning, the winter sports are mostly football and kabaddi. Children in my village also play water polo-like sports in nearby freezing ponds, which is a rare sight."
Shadman shares his memories of indoor games, too, "Indoor games are often more common in the winter than in summer, both in rural and urban areas. In December and January, elderly people regularly play chess in tea stalls. Middle-aged people usually play carrom, and they play till late at night. Back in Rangpur, I watched my elder relatives play cards, ludo, or chess early in the morning and late in the afternoon. I participate in these games too, and they are often a fun experience."
People in Bangladesh generally get much less scope for decent entertainment most of the year. But when it comes to the winter season, they don't lag in indulging themselves in some indoor and outdoor sports.
Sports in the winter are not only about being physically fit; they are also mediums for socialising. They are also part of the Bangladeshi culture, which has been integrated for several years.