Players are shaping up, says coach Aussems

Lalitpur, December 10

Nepal national football team coach Patrick Aussems said the footballers were shaping up for the eighth SAFF Championship slated for December 23 to January 3 in India.

The national team is hit by the suspension and injury to the host of senior players and the coach will have to heavily rely on inexperienced footballers for the regional championship to held in Trivandrum, Kerala. Nepal are in Group A along with hosts India and Sri Lanka.

The coach is more focused on team building and playing style of the players. Nepal used to play long air balls from midfield and wings in the past but Aussems is trying to change that and has been training the players to build the game with short passes. “Due to the height disadvantage, we cannot afford to play air balls. My philosophy is that we have to build our game from the ground with short passes,” said Aussems.

Aussems drafted in 39 players for the preliminary camp and he has trimmed the quad to 27. The team is already weakened with skipper Sagar Thapa and his deputy Sandip Rai suspended for match-fixing and forward Bharat Khawas and midfielder Shiva Shrestha ruled out of injury. But Aussems is excited with his youthful squad. “They are talented players and can score goals as well as create opportunities for others. They deserve to have a good tournament like SAFF Championship as we are looking to build a team for future,” he said.

Nepal have not scored a single goal in the last nine matches but Aussems was not concerned with that. “I have seen all those matches. We are ambitious but I don’t want to put pressure on the players to score goals. We are looking forward to have a competitive team,” he said. Aussems added, focusing on team building for future: “As we do not have any official tournament for the next two years after this championship, I want to see a real team for future.”

Aussems, who took over the national team in August, has been engaged in the SAFF Championship camp for the last six weeks. He is happy with the way players have been responding to his style of play. “We have played a couple of friendly matches with local ‘A’ division outfits and my boys have not been troubled until now,” said Aussems. “I wanted a tough team as an opponent to see the players toil hard so that I could correct them. I have asked the management to arrange a friendly match with strong team as we need to be well prepared to play against the likes of India and Sri Lanka in championship.”

The coach is also concerned with the playing surface. “We have been training on artificial turf and we need to play on grass in the championship. I have asked the management to arrange natural surface for training and also take the team to India a couple of days prior to the tournament,” he said.

Asked about the impact of off-field controversies in the team, Aussems said he had not experienced such scenario in his career. “I have asked the players to forget all the off-field activities and focus on training. I hope they have taken my words,” he added. Nepali football was shaken up in the last three months. It began with the disqualification of youth team from AFC U-16 Championship for fielding over-age player in qualifying, while five footballers were charged with subversion at Special Court for their involvement in match-fixing that resulted in life ban from the AFC. In between, the world football governing body handed a 10-year ban and fine of $21,000 to ANFA President Ganesh Thapa for corruption and series of misconduct.