Football team off to KL

Lalitpur, October 13:

The Nepali national team today left for Malaysia to participate in the Merdeka Cup Football Tournament to be held in Kuala Lumpur from October 15-25.

A total of eight national teams including Nepal are taking part in the tournament. Nepal had last participated in the Merdeka Cup in 1983. Striker Nirajan Rayamajhi will lead the team in the absence of veteran defender Rakesh Shrestha.

The 20-member squad includes two goalkeepers, seven defenders, seven midfielders and four strikers. Apart from Rayamajhi, who will be leading the national side for the first time, other three strikers are Anil Gurung, Jumanu Rai and Yugal Kishor Rai.

Ritesh Thapa and Bikash Malla are the goalkeepers, while Sagar Thapa, Biraj Maharjan, Anjan KC, Chun Bahadur Thapa, Suman Subedi, Rabin Shrestha and Bikash Singh Chhetry are the defenders.

Sandeep Rai, Bishan Gauchan, Vijay Gurung, Ranjeet Shrestha, Raju Tamang, Nirajan Khadka and Bhola Silwal are the midfielders in the squad. Krishna Thapa is the coach and Raju Kaji Shakya his deputy. All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) Member Rajendra Man Singh is the manager of the team that also includes three officials and a journalist.

Announcing the name of the skipper in front of the reporters after the farewell ceremony, coach Krishna Thapa said the team would at least reach the semi-finals of the eight-nation tournament. “We are stronger than four other teams and we should at least enter the last four, though our aim is to lift the trophy,” said Thapa, who was a member of the Nepali national team that played in the 1983 Merdeka Cup.

Asked about the exclusion of Ananta Thapa and Parbat Pandey, both from Nepal Police Club, the coach said they were outplayed by the youngsters during the training. “There is no doubt that both Ananta and Parbat are good players, but I preferred young players who are physically stronger,” the coach said.

Thapa also said the team would miss the services of defender Rakesh Shrestha, also from Nepal Police Club, who is not in the squad due to injury. “We will definitely miss Rakesh as he has been playing the role of libero for a long time,” he said. “I will use defender Sagar Thapa in place of Rakesh,” he added.

Newly appointed skipper Rayamajhi was happy with the responsibility of captaincy.

“Representing the nation leading the national team is a big opportunity for me,” he said. Like coach Thapa, Rayamajhi also believed the team would make it to the last four. “It’s a young team and the players are fit. So I think we will not have any problem in advancing to the semi-finals,” he said.

ANFA President Ganesh Thapa bade farewell to the 27-member team. “We want to give maximum exposure to the national team players and we are sending the team despite the adverse economic condition of ANFA,” he said.

He also hoped the team would bring in good result. “As we are not getting results despite playing good football for so many years, I hope this team will bring in good news for us,” said Thapa.