After league success, Katuwal eyes national team job

Kathmandu, February 20

The Qatar Airways Martyrs Memorial A Division League winning coach Prabesh Katuwal believes he deserves an opportunity to look after national teams, albeit with the youth sides to begin with.

Katuwal led San Miguel Machhindra Club to the historic league title in his first assignment as a top flight coach recently after the White Lions defeated Tribhuvan Army Club in the last match of the competition. Machhindra, who were a point behind TAC going into the final match, recorded a 1-0 victory to claim the maiden league title.

And the best coach of the league, Katuwal — who hails from Birtamode in Jhapa district — has already started of dreaming the national team job. “I am not asking for the national team but I believe the All Nepal Football Association should identify quality manpower to look after the youth sides,” says the former national team member Katuwal, who began his A division career with New Road Team and also played for Machhindra before winning the league title for Three Star Club in 2004. “I have got the proper weapon, A-License which I got in 2017, and I am ready to fire. But coaches like me are not getting opportunities from the governing body,” he says.

Katuwal, who coached Sainik Youth Club to Province-1 Chief Minister League before joining Machhindra for the top flight league, feels the clubs are running in reverse gear.

“We have a tradition of hiring the coach only after signing all the players. You cannot expect results under such circumstances,” says Katuwal. “Clubs need to sign a coach in the beginning and sit with him to finalise the target first. After that the coach and the club management should sign the players to meet the goal,” he says.

Despite winning the title, Katuwal describes his maiden league journey as a tough one. “I got offers from a couple of clubs before the league but I decided to go with Machhindra as they wanted to form a strong team with the target of winning the title,” he says. “I think the senior players in the club must have recommended my name as they had worked with me in knock out tournaments earlier. I am grateful to the club management for believing in me.”

Katuwal says the previous experience with the club helped him in the journey as a coach in the top flight. “Overall, it was a tough journey as we were under pressure to win every match. The club had brought in star players with the target of winning the title and it’s never easy to remain at the top all the time,” Katuwal says.

Katuwal remembers the incident after the match against defending champions Manang Marshyangdi Club as one of the most difficult times in his journey. “We were already missing the services of Heman Gurung and Abhishek Rijal as they had left the club for careers abroad in initial stage of the league and three of our players were suspended due to the scuffle with MMC,” he says.

“We were running out of players in the bench and I had to motivate the remaining players to stay strong at difficult times.”

Machhindra had signed 11 players of the national team from MMC and Three Star in their bid to win the league but Katuwal believes bringing in star players alone is not enough to excel. “We did have star players in the team but that was not enough for a club to win the title,” says Katuwal. “Army and MMC were strong contenders and we had to give our 100 per cent in every match. Achieving the target was always the first priority and I am thankful to the club, officials, management, sponsors and supporters for their relentless support that helped us in winning the title.”

The former national team midfielder is worried about the deteriorating quality of football. “The standard of football has dropped down drastically and the league has lost the charm these days. It was a different ball game when we used to play and the competition among clubs was at different level,” says Katuwal. “League is the backbone of football and it should be treated accordingly. The ANFA needs to be serious in this matter as the non-relegation league last year and charmless tournament this year are not good symptoms.”

He thinks it’s not very hard to get football back on track. “The league finished in a blink. It’s not the right way. The ANFA needs to organise the league for six to seven months with proper planning and manage the knock out tournaments in mofussil if they want to bring back the charm and develop the sport in real,” he says. “The clubs will be compelled to give quality if the league is organised for a longer period. I think fans stayed away from football due to the non-relegation league last year and the clubs did not take it seriously this year too as the league had the provision of only one-team relegation.”