Sushil Thapa is an ardent follower of Nepali football. He is based in Fairfax, VA, USA. His articles on Nepali football team during SAFF Cup 2011 made huge impact among readers and were highly appreciated.
Nepal’s last moment entry in Nehru Cup, 2012
Nepal makes its maiden appearance in the 15th edition of the Nehru Cup football championship in New Delhi, India, starting from 23rd August at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. The other four teams in the tournament are India, Maldives, Syria and Cameroon. The competition will be played in a round-robin league, with each team playing against one another, and the winners and runners-up of the group will contest in the final.
For most teams, to be part of a tournament of Nehru Cup’s stature is a matter of pride. That is even truer for a struggling team like Nepal, lacking adequate international exposure and opportunities. However, had Kenya (first choice) or teams like Jordon or Philippines had confirmed their participation, Nepal would not have been in the mix.
I was taken aback that All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) accepted the last minute invitation at such short notice. ANFA should have thought twice before deciding to participate in the tournament. I fully understand that this tournament means so much to our players, and each competition is a learning experience for them. However, having said that, if we solely compete for the sake of participation, that makes no sense at all to me. At the very least, our objective should be to make sense of things. To achieve this, it is important to prepare the team appropriately for the challenge. Regrettably, that does not seem to be the case, and that is my biggest concern. Regardless of how enticing the invitation might be, when you know that your team is under-prepared and not up for the challenge then what is the rationale behind the decision to participate in the tournament? The team is up against formidable opponents in the likes of Syria, Cameroon and host India, but they fall well short of the mark when it comes to the level of preparedness.
Lack of preparations
ANFA’s decision to participate in the tournament took both the coaching staff and players by complete surprise. The competition comes at a time when a large majority of players are beginning to come out of their off season slumber. Under the circumstances, apparently, it has been quite a struggle for head coach Krishna Thapa to put together a team and train them. The ongoing training is a big joke, and I am wondering what does this means for the team!
A good quality preparation is a must and it does make a world of difference when it comes to the team’s overall performance at the end of the day. Nepal’s preparation for the 2011 SAFF Championship held in New Delhi was the best ever I can recall over a decade. It was made possible by Graham Roberts who was then head coach of the national football team of Nepal. I doubt we will ever again see that kind of preparation for a major tournament under home grown coaches who are totally dictated by the football body.
The team must perform at their very best to make some kind of impact in the championship. And even more importantly, they have to get off to a good start because it sets the tone for the competition. They need to come out firing on all cylinders and take care of business in the opener against Maldives. Otherwise, they will have a tough time containing India, Syria and Cameroon.
The selectors have named a twenty-one player squad for the Nehru Cup. The core of the team is almost unchanged from the 2011 SAFF Championship. Bikesh Kuthu and Rupesh KC have worked their way into the national squad for the first time. One prominent name missing from the team is energetic Robin Shrestha who is recovering from injury. The attack line comprising Jumuanu, Santosh and Anil is Team Nepal’s weakest link. Lately the trio has struggled to score goals, and unless they rediscover their scoring touch at the right time, it will hurt the team in the predictable manner. Undeniably, it is a youthful and talented outfit with plenty of experiences, but they are up against a big challenge, and I am afraid that the odds are heavily against them. Candidly speaking, my expectations are not high. There is quality depth at the midfield and defense, however, they have to perform exceptionally well to stand a chance of survival.
There is no end in sight to Nepal’s dismal run in international tournaments. It’s almost impossible to believe that in the last 18 years the national team has failed to achieve anything noteworthy as of yet. I can only hope that Team Nepal gives their best effort and are able to leave a lasting impression.
Kiran Chemzon, Ritesh Thapa, Bikesh Kuthu
Sagar Thapa, Sandip Rai, Rohit Chand, Biraj Maharjan, Sabindra Shresta, Bikash Singh Chhetri.
Raju Tamang, Nirajan Khadka, Bhola Silwal, Rupesh KC, Jagjeet Shrestha, Bijaya Gurung and Anil Ojha.
Jumuanu Rai, Santosh Sahukhala, Anil Gurung, Bharat Khawas, Sujal Shrestha.
Head Coach – Krishna Thapa.
Assistant Coach – Hari Khadka.
Goalkeeping Coach – Upendra Man Singh