Kathmandu, November 22
Defending champions Nepal were drawn in Group A alongside Bangladesh and Bhutan in the men’s football tournament under the 13th South Asian Games.
According to the All Nepal Football Association, which conducted the draw ceremony today, three remaining teams India, Sri Lanka and Maldives were placed in Group B. Pakistan are not taking part in the event slated for December 1-10 at the Dasharath Stadium.
Nepal will play against Bangladesh on December 1, before the opening ceremony of the biennial regional sporting extravaganza.
Nepal will then face Bhutan on December 5. After the league round, top two sides will make it to the semi-finals.
Nepal had claimed the 12th edition title beating India 2-1 in Guwahati three years ago.
The Nepali team is under close camp training and ANFA has assigned former national team member Bal Gopal Maharjan as the coach. Maharjan has already announced the squad but that came under cloud after ANFA took disciplinary action on three of the team members on Saturday.
ANFA suspended four players — Bimal Gharti Magar, Anjan Bista, Santosh Tamang and Dinesh Rajbanshi — and stopped them from travelling to Bhutan for the FIFA World Cup and AFC Asian Cup qualifiers match against Kuwait for violating team regulations. Three of them, Bimal Gharti Magar, Anjan Bista and Dinesh Rajbanshi are in the U-23 team for the SA Games.
As per the tournament rule which allows three senior players, coach Maharjan has included goalkeeper Bikesh Kuthu, midfielder Sujal Shrestha and defender Bikram Lama in the squad. Other members of the team include goalkeepers Arpan Karki and Deep Karki along with four defender — Ananta Tamang, Suman Aryal, Bikash Khawas and Chhiring Gurung.
Likewise, national team skipper Sujal Shrestha, Sunil Bal, Hemanta Thapa Magar Nitin Thapa, Sesehang Angdembe, Tej Tamang and Mikchhen Tamang are the midfielders, while Abhishek Rijal and Rejin Subba remain two strikers in the absence of suspended duo Gharti Magar and Bista.
The women’s football tournament will be played under round robin league at the Pokhara Stadium from December 3-10. Four teams, Nepal, India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh will take part in the tournament.
Top two sides will qualify for final. India are the two-time defending champions and they beat Nepal on both occasions.
In the previous edition, Nepal had finished at the top after stopping India to a 0-0 draw in the league round but the hosts romped home 4-0 in the final match in Shillong.
Coach Hari Khadka is looking after the women’s team and he has announced the 20-member squad. Goalkeepers Anjila Thumbapo, Anjana Rana Magar and Usha Nath are in the team along with defenders Gita Rana, Punam Jharga Magar, Amrita Jaishi, Hira Kumari Bhujel, Kavita Dhimal, Mana Maya Limbu and Puja Rana.
Midfielders Renuka Nagarkote, Dipa Rai, Saru Limbu, Indira Rai, Anita Basnet, Manjali Kumari Yonjon and Bimal Chaudhary are joined by forwards Sabitra Bhandari, Niru Thapa and Anita KC in the team.