Kathmandu, October 29:

The battle for the Rs two million National League football championship is all set to begin here at the Dasharath Stadium from November 1.

All the 14 ‘A’ Division Clubs, especially the top guns, are busy preparing their teams for the Martyrs ‘ Memorial ‘A’ Division League Football-2007. It is obvious that the title race will be centred among the last year’s top five teams — defending champions Manang Marsyangdi Club (MMC), Nabil Three Star Club (NTSC), Tribhuvan Army Club (TAC), Mahendra Police Club (MPC), and Armed Police Force (APF) Officers’ Club — as these teams are richer than the other clubs not only in quality players but also in the financial and infrastructural aspects.

All Nepal Football Association (ANFA), the organisers, fuelled a new enthusiasm among the clubs when they doubled the prize money. The football governing body in the country, ANFA, which introduced double-leg system last year, not only raised the winners’ cheque to Rs one million from 500,000 but also gave away cash prizes to the top seven clubs apart from motorbikes to five best individuals and a car to the best player of the league.

This move invigorated the title contenders to sign quality players, which ultimately resulted into paying high sums to the players.

With Rs two million at stake this year, the top teams — especially MMC, Nabil Three Star and APF — were seen eager luring good players in the business.

MMC was ahead in terms of signing new players with heavy salaries. They brought in Sangeet Rajak and Raj Kumar Ghising from Sankata Club, Nirajan Khadka, Prabesh Katuwal and Anil Gurung from NTSC and Tilak Gurung from JYC this season.

Furthermore, MMC are boosted with the return of prolific striker Rajan Rayamajhi from the US. Rayamajhi will be a good replacement for Basanta Thapa, who left for Japan during the League last year. “We have already finalised the deal with him (Rayamajhi),” said MMC coach Chhiring Lopsang Gurung.

“It’s too early to speak but I am confident that our team has enough firepower to defend the title,” said Lopsang.

The NTSC, who lost few good players to MMC and APF, signed few new faces apart from Yugal Kishor Rai (NRT), Sanjeev Budathoki (NRT) and Rajendra Tamang (Machhindra).

Lalit Krishna Shrestha, the main architect behind the success of the Nabil Three Star in recent years, sounded less optimistic over their chances of winning the league. “We will play our game,” said the NTSC president Shrestha diplomatically.

Likewise, APF have proved their calibre by claiming the fifth place in the very first appearance last year. They could climb up the ladder this year if not win the title following the recruitment of some of the renowned players including Kumar Thapa (MMC), Sunil Subedi (NRT), Janak Singh (NTSC) and Santosh Sahukhala (NTSC).

Two other departmental teams MPC and TAC, however, will begin their campaign with almost the same squad. MPC, who fielded most of the young players last year, will be boosted by the return of their injured veterans Deepak Poudel, Dipendra Poudel and Narrottam Gautam.

MPC assistant coach Anil Adhikari their major concern would be the injury of the midfielders. “We have good midfielders but if anyone picks up injury we do not have proper replacement,” Adhikari added.

Tribhuvan Army Club have recruited star goalkeeper Bikash Malla (MMC) and much of their success will be depend on his performance.