As the SAFF Championship approaches, Goal profiles the 8 contenders who vie for glory in the South Asian International tournament. In this edition, we focus on Nepal, the hosts.
COUNTRY NAME: Nepal
GROUP : A (along with India, Bangladesh and Pakistan)
ADMINISTRATIVE BODY: All Nepal Football Association (ANFA)
FIFA RANKING: 170
NICKNAME: The Gorkhalis
Last Official Match Played: Nepal 0-0 Palestine (6th March 2013)
|History And Team Highlights
The Nepalese National Football Team or the Gorkhalis as they are called is controlled by the All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) which was founded in 1951 and received its affiliation to FIFA in 1970. It is now affiliated to both the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and FIFA.
However football in Nepal started with the training of youth players during the Narayan Narshingh Rana regime in 1921. Another man who was considered to play the pioneering role in setting up football in Nepal was Chandrajung Thapa. Funnily in the mid 90s local matches in Nepal used to be played with the winning team bagging an award of 100 or 200 goats!! Yes, you heard that right!
Although Nepal had been playing football with their neighbours pretty regularly, the need for competitive matches to be played by the national team led to the advent of the ANFA Cup where foreign countries were to be invited to Nepal to play matches.
Nepal organized its first international tournament on its own soil in 1982 where it played host to countries like India, Oman, Iran, Iraq and the likes for the Asian Youth Football Tournament.
In the recent past, Nepal do not have a good record in major tournaments. They had a clutch of high profile coaches though, with the likes of Rudi Gutendorf and Joe Kinnear coaching Nepal. Currently they are under the tutelage of Polish born 38 year old American coach Jack Stefanowski.
Even in the SAFF Championship, which is played among South Asian nations, Nepal have been mediocre at best, finishing third in 1993 and semi-finalists in 1995 and 2011.
However the Men's football team were Gold medalists in the 1984 South Asian Games in Kathmandu and also the 1993 Dhaka South Asian Games.
|History In The SAFF Championship
The Gorkhalis have been a part of the SAFF Championship, since the tournament was started in 1993 as the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation Gold Cup, and finished third in the four nation competition.
Since then, Nepal has reached the semi-final thrice, in 1995, where they lost to eventual champions Sri Lanka in extra-time, in 1999, they lost to Bangladesh, before losing the third place game to Maldives.
They had to wait 12 years for their next last four appearance, as in 2011 they finished second in their group, to make the semis. In yet another closely contested tie, they lost to Afghanistan in extra-time, with Balal Arezou scoring the all-important goal in the 101st minute.
Their worst showing was in 1997, where they failed to register a single point from their group encounters against Sri Lanka and Pakistan, finishing rock bottom.
|2013 SAFF Championship Preliminary Squad
Goalkeepers: Kiran Chemjong, Ritesh Thapa, Bishal Shrestha,
Defenders: Sagar thapa, Sandip Rai, Rohit Chand, Biraj Maharjan, Rabin Shrestha, Sabindra Shrestha, Bijaya Dhimal, Ananta Tamang
Midfielders: Jagjeet Shrestha, Raju Tamang, Bholanath Silwal, Bijaya Gurung, Bikram Lama, Nirajan Khadka, Prakash Budhathoki, Tanka Basnet, Tek Bahadur Budhathoki,
Forwards: Jumanu Rai, Bharat Khawas, Santosh Sahukhala, Anil Gurung, Bimal Gharti Magar.
|Players To Watch Out For
Anil Gurung: Another player who has played on Indian shores with Shillong Lajong, Gurung is the creative force of the Gorkhalis, generally playing as a support striker, and can even double up as a playmaker, with his good close control and short passing abilities, making him Nepal’s biggest dangerman.
The forward, who had trials with the Chelsea reserves squad and Woking F.C in England, has scored 7 goals in 19 international appearances, and is widely regarded as the best Nepalese forward of his generation.
If Nepal are to break their duck in the competition, the striker shall definitely have to be at his ruthless and creative best.
Rohit Chand: The defender is a well known quantity for Indian fans, having turned out for HAL SC, during their time in the I-League.
Though just 21 years old, Chand has already clocked up 27 caps for the national team, being one of the more consistent players in the Gorkhalis squad.
Capable of playing either at centre-back or left back, the player, who currently plies his trade in Indonesia Super League with Persija Jakarta, is the only one in the 25 man roster, who is involved in club football outside Nepal.
Bimal Gharti Magar: If the forward gets to appear in-front of his home crowd, the fifteen year old would be adding another feather in his cap, having being catapulted to fame as Nepal’s youngest ever international player, when he was capped against Bangladesh at the age of 15 years and 2 days, beating Rohit Chand’s record, who was 17 years old at the time of his debut.
Scoring goals has always been a big issue for the Gorkhalis, with the national team having not scored a single goal in their four official FIFA fixtures this season, and many observers in his homeland, expect the 5 feet 10 inches tall striker to take on that responsibility in the future.
Bimal has already started impressing with the senior squad, scoring a hat-trick in an unofficial friendly versus Kuwaiti club Al-Arabi on 18th August. Strong in the air and capable of using both his feet affectively, Magar is earmarked as a future superstar of South Asian football.
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