Football team leaving for Philippines today

Lalitpur, March 24

Nepal national football team is on Saturday leaving for Manila to play the first match of the AFC Asian Cup 2019 Qualifiers against the Philippines.

Nepal, who have been pitted in Group F along with the Philippines, Yemen and Tajikistan, will play the first away match on March 28 at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila. A total of 24 teams are taking part in the qualifiers and they are divided into six groups. Top two teams from all groups will make it to the finals of the competition to be held in the United Arab Emirates in 2019.

Nepali squad comprises of 20 players, three coaches, manager and a physio. After regular skipper Anil Gurung was axed from the squad, Biraj Maharjan will lead the team. Bikesh Kuthu, Kiran Kumar Limbu and Bishal Shrestha are three goalkeepers, while Rabin Shrestha, Ananta Tamang, Aditya Chaudhary, Kamal Shrestha, Ranjit Dhimal and Jitendra Karki are defenders. Likewise, Bishal Rai, Rohit Chand, Heman Gurung, Bikram Lama, Anjan Bista and Sujal Shrestha are midfielders, while Bimal Gharti Magar, Ranjan Bista, Bharat Khawas and Karna Limbu are forwards.

Gyotuku Koji is head coach, while Raju Kaji Shakya is assistant coach and Ujwal Manadhar is goalkeeping coach. All Nepal Football Association Treasurer Birat Jung Shahi is team manager and Dr Raju Dangol is team physiotherapist.

Meanwhile, ANFA President Narendra Shrestha accepted the team’s preparation was not sufficient. “It would have been better had the team got the opportunity of playing a couple of friendly matches before travelling to the Philippines. As ANFA is not financially strong to arrange friendly matches, we need government’s support,” he said. “We will try to arrange practice matches before other matches,” said Shrestha. The ANFA president also asked the players to perform with high spirit.

Minister for Youth and Sports Daljit Sripaili said he was optimistic of victory in the match. “The event is one of the best opportunities for the Nepali team and we all are hoping that the players will make it to the Asian Cup finals,” said Sripaili.

Head coach Koji said the highly competitive matches of the qualifiers would provide the Nepali team with learning experiences. “We will go for a win as we had a sound preparation for the match,” said Koji. Skipper Maharjan was also confident of putting up a good show against the Philippines.