NPC confident despite injury worries

KATHMANDU: Nepal Police Club (NPC) coach Birat Krishna Shrestha was confident of making it to the finals of the AFC President’s Cup despite injury woes.

The NPC are drawn in Group A along with Regar TadAz of Tajikistan, Taiwan Power Company of Chinese Tiepei and Pakistan WAPDA in the AFC President’s Cup qualifier scheduled here a the Dasharath Stadium on May 14-18. “I am confident of my players and hope they can bring in the desired results despite so many injury worries,” said coach Shrestha at a press meet organised by the All Nepal Football Association (ANFA). “Seven of the regular players are either injured or undergoing fitness trials but the players in the bench are also equally capable and I think we can take advantage of home conditions,” said Shrestha, who has been at the helm of the NPC since the last four years.

Defenders Rakesh Shrestha, Rabin Shrestha and Tikaram Karki, midfielders Ananta Thapa and Dipen Shrestha along with strikers Chetan Ghimire and Ju Manu Rai are the players who are injured or recovering from injuries. “I have players who can shift their roles and play at any position. Midfiender Yogesh Shrestha can play as centre forward and I can give another midfielder Roshan Karki the role of a defender,” said Shrestha. “I cannot take the risk of starting injured players like Rakesh, Rabin and Dipen at a time as I will be out of sorts if they need to be substituted early,” he added.

The NPC will face Taiwan Power Company on May 14, the same day Regar TadAz take on Pakistan’s WAPDA. The policemen, who won the Martyrs Memorial ‘A’ Division League three years ago, have been participating in the AFC tournament as the default winners after the ANFA failed to hold league due to the internal conflict.

The departmental team will take on Pakistan WAPDA, while Taiwan Power Company are up against Regar TadAz on May 16. The qualifying tournament will end on May 18 with two more matches — Nepal Police Club vs Regar TadAz and Taiwan Power Company vs Pakistan WAPDA.

The winners of the three groups along with the overall best runner up team will make it to the semi-finals of the fifth edition of the tournament. Nabil Three Star Club made it to the semi-finals in the inaugural edition held in Kathmanu in 2005, while Manang Marsyangdi Club crashed out from the qualifiers in Malaysia 2006.

After the first two league-cum-knockout editions, the AFC changed the format of the tournament and introduced the qualifiers. The NPC made it to the final in 2007. In the qualifying round, the the Policeman played a 0-0 draw against Chinese Teipei before registering a 6-4 win over Cambodia. They qualified for the semi-finals despite 3-0 loss to Dordoi Dynamo. The Nepali club defeated Regar TadAz 2-1 in the semi-finals but lost 2-1 against Dordoi in final.

In 2008, the NPC qualified for the semi-finals after their 4-0 win over Abhani League of Bangladesh, 1-1 draw against WAPDA and 2-2 draw against Regar TadAz in the qualifying tournament in Malaysia. The Policemen’s march was cut short in the semi-finals, going down 3-1 againt the same opponent Dordoi Dynamo in Bishkek.

The ANFA has formed nine sub-committees to organise the tournament successfully. The ANFA has estimated the budget of the six-day tournament at Rs 3.8 million. The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) will provide $15,000 and the local organisers will have to manage the rest of the amount, said ANFA joint secretary Dhirendra Pradhan.

Taiwan Power Company are scheduled to arrive here on Tuesday, while other two teams will arrive on Wednesday. The visiting teams will practice at Nepal Army Headquarters, APF and Nepal Police Academy grounds.

SQUAD: Goalkeepers — Ritesh Thapa, Bishal Shrestha, Raj Kumar Chaudhary; Defenders — Rakesh Shrestha, Deepak Poudel, Dipendra Poudel, Ganesh Budhathoki, Rabin Shrestha, Suman Subedi, Suraj Bishwokarma, Tika Ram Karki, Lil Bahadur Rai, Jitendra Singh Bista; Midfielders — Ananta Thapa (captain), Parbat Pandey, Bhola Silwal, Anup Karki, Yogesh Shrestha, Dipen Shrestha, Ramesh Katuwal, Ramesh Rai, Roshan Karki; Strikers — Chetan Ghimire, Ju Manu Rai, Pankaj Shahi.