SAFF Championship 2011: Chance for Nepal to break jinx


A Nepali fan’s perspective of Nepal’s Chances in SAFF Cup

By Sushil Thapa, Fairfax, VA


With   the biennial South Asian Federation Football   Championship   begins, there is a palpable excitement in the air. Football   goers   across   South Asia are   waiting   with baited   breath for start   of the region’s biggest football    spectacle.

Nepal football fans

 Come   2 Dec, 2011 the ninth edition of the championship kicks- off at the gigantic Jawaharal Nehru stadium in New Delhi, India. Vying for the honor are   Afghanistan,   Bhutan, Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

 The tournament that started in 1993   showcases   the cream of   South Asian football.   Over the years, we have witnessed    a   bevy of outstanding players emerge to become household names in the region, thanks to the championship.

 Host India often   referred   the   sleeping   giant of world football   has   totally dominated the show, winning   five times (1993, 1997, 1999, 2005 and 2009).  Predictably, they are the front runner this time as well.

 Should they   triumph again, I will not be surprised a little bit.  They   enjoy   an   edge over their opponents on all front of the game and   have   a   huge   home   advantage. It will not be easy to beat them in their own backyard. They are in group A consisting of Afghanistan, Bhutan and Sri Lanka.

 Sri Lanka (1995), Bangladesh (2003) and Maldives (2008) have   won once each. Speaking of Nepal, we are still looking forward to our   first   success. In retrospect,   the championship has not been a happy hunting   ground for us.

 Our best finish is third place   in the inaugural edition of the championship in 1993. Other than that we have failed to accomplish anything of significance. Here we are again with a chance to break the jinx. So, the million dollar question is, can we do it?

 British Coach Roberts and the boys   are a confident lot and seriously believe that   they   can strike it rich.  But the   recently   concluded three   nation tour undertaken  by  the  national team  paint a different story  in terms of performance that was   riddled  with inconsistency  and mediocrity.

 This is undoubtedly   a   big challenge but is doable.  We   stand a chance of winning unless we put in a vastly improved performance. Grouped    alongside Bangladesh, Maldives and Pakistan,   there   is literally no room for complacency on our part.

 We need   to   play at our best against every team, and it is very important that we get off to a good start. Against a well trained and prepared   Maldives and   Bangladesh   we have to play total   football.

 Both past winners   are   strong   contenders and have shown marked improvement in technique and approach. The   physically   tough   Pakistanis   are   a stubborn   side.  For any   outfit, which include us,   requires   a whole lot of effort to crack them.

Having   delved   into opponents’ strengths, I   am confident   that we can   still   prevail,   and   our success largely hinges on players’   ability to rise to the occasion and deliver the goods.

Our   opener against Maldives is crucial and obviously, the outcome will have a huge bearing on our chances in the tourney.

 As of November   2011 World FIFA Rankings Nepal is 143, second highest ranked team in the tournament.  Topping the rankings is Bangladesh (142), and followed by India (162), Maldives (166), Pakistan (174), Sri Lanka (176), Afghanistan (178) and Bhutan (198).

 Ranking   is merely   symbolic to me.  More relevant   is   the team’s performance and end result, a thought shared by many. Our desperation to succeed   is at its height and the stakes   are high for us. I repeat here again it is up to the boys   to make it happen.

 They have to be at their very best and slog it out to the very end. With   talented and experienced players in the likes of Anil, Sandip, Santosh, Rohit and Jumanu in the mix, I   strongly feel we can do it.

 I don’t know how much the team has benefitted from Coach Roberts or what Coach Roberts has accomplished.  Having said that, it would be unfair to pin high hopes on him, considering the fact that he has been around    for a relatively short period of time.

For now   we have to wait and see   whether   his presence has made a world of difference for the team.

 Interestingly, six of the eight teams in the fray have foreign coaches. They are as follows; Sri Lanka (S Korea), Bhutan (Japan), Bangladesh (Republic of Macedonia), Maldives (Hungary), Pakistan (Serbia) and Nepal (England).  India and   Afghanistan   have home grown coaches.

 The competition   might have lacked   mass appeal; however, it does provide aspiring, talented young booters a very important platform to show off their skills. Besides, every footballer dreams of playing for the country   at some point in his career, a huge accomplishment in itself.

 With football standards and development   lagging behind in South Asia   the importance   of the tournament   has risen in my opinion.

 The matter of truth is that  there remains  so much to be done to develop football  in the region , and  it can be achieved   only  through a  collective effort and earnest zeal ,coupled with  honesty  on  part of  respective football associations with the  support of their  government.

NOTE: This article was sent to us by Sushil Thapa via email. You can send your own article to [email protected]


  1. Such a nice game by Nepali team. Didn’t win against Maldives but Nepal technically looked stronger than Maldives. 
    And very impressive goal that u rarely see,,,the timing, the skill.Must say!!


Leave a Reply