Nepal football tackling post-earthquake blues

"The invitation from the AIFF for an international friendly in Mumbai was like divine intervention. Facing India, ranked 100 in the FIFA rankings is a rare opportunity," said Biraj Mahajan, the Nepal captain.

Nepal chief coach, Koji Gyotoku from Japan, is looking ahead to his young squad making the most of the opportunity.   -  AIFF MEDIA

For Biraj Mahajan, catching up with Indian football is far down in his list of priorities. For the Nepal national team captain, training for an international friendly in a proper football stadium tops the list. Following the devastating earthquake in 2015, which wrecked havoc around the countryside including the Dashrath stadium in Katmandu, India’s eastern neighbour do not have a stadium for the national team footballers to train in.

The skipper and defender said: “The Dashrath stadium is being renovated. We train on astro-turf at the All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) headquarters. Hosting an international match is tough till the structure is ready. The invitation from All India Football Federation (AIFF) for an international friendly in Mumbai, as replacement team following Lebanon’s pullout, was like divine intervention. Facing India, ranked 100 by FIFA, is a rare opportunity."

Nepal chief coach, Koji Gyotoku from Japan, is looking ahead to his young squad making the most of the opportunity. “We need friends to help us gain competitive experience. Indian football has gained in knowledge and under a foreign coach (Stephen Constantine), the players have developed. The gap in rankings (100th ranked team against 169th) makes it difficult to play them, we will give a tough fight.” Koji is a former J-League manager with Shimizu S-Pulse.

Nepal is using Tuesday’s friendly at Mumbai Football Arena to prepare for next week’s Asian Cup Qualifier against Yemen. “We are preparing for a better tomorrow,” explained Mahajan, appreciative of the rapid strides taken by Indian football. With the federation back home still coming to grips with the situation in the post-earthquake phase, players like Rohit Chand accumulated experience in Indonesia (Persija Jakarta) and the U-19 captain Bimal Magar, trained with Marbella FC in Spain. Chand is likely to be in the squad against Constantine’s side.
 

Indian club talent scouts may be closely watching the game from the stands.

  Dugout videos